Envisioning the Future of the Interior Design Industry

What were you doing 20 years ago? IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, opened Industry Roundtable 20, held January 6-8, 2017, with that simple question.

“Twenty years ago, commercial interior design was experiencing a transformative shift,” said Durst, who moderated the annual roundtable. “We began asking, ‘How do people work?’ instead of, ‘Where do people sit?’ We started to think beyond the job title and consider how people relate to one another in the workplace. We saw that work and life were overlapping in new ways. And, we recognized that good design is the solution for optimizing work and productivity in this new era.”

It was a fitting question to kick off the event: For two decades, Industry Roundtable has welcomed distinguished design leaders for a two-day, thought-provoking discussion about topics relevant to the Interior Design industry. This year’s topic, “Design Then, Design Now, Design Next: A 20-year Retrospective,” offered participants the rare opportunity to reflect on the history of the profession and assess the emerging economic, cultural, and social trends that are shaping the next generation of commercial interior design.

Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, LEED AP, principal and global practice leader, Perkins+Will, opened the event with her keynote presentation, “A 20-year Retrospective of the Commercial Interior Design Industry,” which provided an overview of how technology, sustainability, and the evolving purview of design have shaped the profession.

Her message was forward-looking, setting the tone for the remainder of the event. “Standing here at the end of the Information Age, we are in a unique position to figure out what is next and how we can change the world with design,” said Jones.

The group of 30 interior designers, manufacturer representatives, and thought leaders then participated in sessions focused on the future of people, place, and work, featuring speakers Julie B. Cummings, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, director of human resources, BKD, LLP; Jim Young, co-founder, Realcomm Conference Group; and Jim Ware, Ph.D., founder and executive director, Future of Work….unlimited. Much of the conversation focused on the multi-generational workforce and how to transition design leadership to younger generations.

“When I first started, I never would have imagined that human resources would be sitting at the table with design teams to talk about space,” mused Cummings who presented on The Future of People, “We need designers to guide us, consult with us on how space can meet the needs as the Boomers transition out and Millennials become even more of a force in the workplace. This is something all of my peers are wrestling with.”

Young and Ware, who spoke on the Future of Place and the Future of Work, respectively, echoed this sentiment during their presentations: Designing for the future will mean accommodating five generations, a growing population, and rising life expectancies while reckoning with a decrease in available space, a critical need for sustainable building practices, and ever-evolving technology.

“Design has the unique ability to bring together allied professions, solve problems from multiple points of view, and put society’s well-being at the forefront. This notion of the convergence of people, place, and work, and how we think about design in the context of these things is critical to what’s next for our industry,” said Durst.

An executive report, to be released in March 2017, will provide a summary of key insights from IIDA Industry Roundtable 20.


Read past Industry Roundtable executive reports online at iida.org.

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