Verda Alexander Wants You to See Into Your Design Future

A former fine artist and landscape architect turned co-founder and principal of her own design firm, Verda Alexander, IIDA, started Studio O+A with her partner and big dreams. Twenty-five years later, she and Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, count Facebook, Uber, AOL, Yelp, and Samsung to name a few, among their clients. The powerhouse duo and their San Francisco-based design firm, which was named a 2016 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award winner for interior design, are innovators in the field of workplace design, known for their signature open-office plans that have now become de rigueur.

We’re honored – and proud – to announce that Studio O+A has taken on the task of designing the IIDA space at this year’s NeoCon tradeshow. Called “IIDA Effect/Affect,” the booth explores how a designed space evolves as people move through it and make their mark on the built environment by leaving and taking business cards and fortunes about their design future. We spoke with Verda about the space – from the project’s inspiration and challenges, to what IIDA means to her.

Made You Look

“When Cheryl [Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, Executive Vice President and CEO of IIDA] approached me with it, I was like, ‘Yes, this is awesome!’” said Verda. For Verda, designing showrooms and pop-ups allow her to tap into her artistic background, experiment, and get creative. “What I love about designing showrooms is that they’re up for three or four weeks and you’re really trying to tell a manufacturer’s story. You have a lot of leeway in how you do that because it’s temporary and it’s short term.”

During Studio O+A’s meeting with IIDA, Cheryl knew that the booth would have to tie back to the idea of “the IIDA effect,” the impact that IIDA members have through the spaces they design and the people around them.

“Cheryl kept mentioning this made-you-look moment,” said Verda. “That made us think of an Instagrammable moment.”

 

IIDA Booth

Sketch of the 2016 IIDA booth at NeoCon (courtesy of Studio O+A).

The Frenzy That is NeoCon

Anyone who’s been to NeoCon knows that there’s never a calm moment. The line to get on the elevators that take you to four floors of exhibitors and showrooms is already a force to be reckoned with. Studio O+A knew that they’re biggest challenge was creating a space people would actually want to spend time in… especially one that is a hallway.

“We definitely looked at this project as an art installation. It’s a hallway space with an escalator and elevator and small nook,” said Verda. The Studio O+A team decided to create something that stood out visually from a distance but also would work close up using multiple levels of interaction. They thought about what IIDA meant to them and the industry, and the concept of give and take was born. “We have the organization that supports us, but we are also members of this organization. It’s a mutual beneficial umbrella that we’re all under. Giving something back, but also an opportunity to give.”

Celebrating IIDA

Typically at tradeshows such as NeoCon, in order to brand your space, a sign with the company logo at the front of the booth suffices. But that wasn’t the strategy Verda and her team had in mind when faced with this project. Instead, several thousand cards will be displayed in the booth to view or take away. The IIDA logo will be printed on these cards 2,000 times making the logo visible, but not so blatantly obvious. Other cards will have a special IIDA lapel pin or a variation on a mantra or design fortune. The intent is that the cards are memorable enough that visitors will want to stick one in their pockets.

“For me, IIDA is our community – it’s our network. It’s our organization and it’s what brings everybody together. Let’s celebrate IIDA, but let’s be confident enough in our message or our corporate image that we can be playful with it,” said Verda. “Somebody might not look that close or might not see the IIDA logo, but then they’re going to wonder who did that, what is that? This idea of investigating and discovering in a different way is what we’re going to push.”


Experience IIDA Effect/Affect at NeoCon. Located by Starbucks on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart, the space is guaranteed to make you pause and find your design fortune. See you in Chicago!

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