Everybody is Included

The following is an excerpt from IIDA’s annual Industry Roundtable report, Industry Roundtable 23: The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife. The roundtable took place at BMW Designworks in California. Read the full report here.

My prediction for 2050? That women leaders in the design world will triple.

Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, Perkins and Will

While the design industry still struggles with diversity, progress has been made in recent years, and leading practitioners and manufacturers are deeply committed to the goal of inclusivity—both within their own organizations and with respect to the end-user for whom they are designing. Current efforts to diversify the talent pipeline ensure a more equitable future.

The profession will look very different in the coming decades, more reflective of the world at large. The design ecosystem will encompass a greater diversity of practitioners, collaborators, and partners and a wider range of ages and gender identities, as well as a broader cultural and racial makeup. (This will make for an intriguing Industry Roundtable: “In 2050, the age range around this table will span 80 years; some will attend via hologram; everyone will speak in their native language and the audience will hear it in theirs, whether attending remotely or in-person,” Ryan Menke, Ind. IIDA, senior vice president of sales and marketing at OFS presages.) The industry will become more inclusive by default, but also by intention, as designers advocate and agitate for systemic shifts. “For instance, space and local/international codes can work together to support a growing community of gender nonbinary individuals,” explains Mavis Wiggins, Assoc. IIDA, managing executive of TPG Architecture.

Multidisciplinary design professionals and firms with expertise and backgrounds in other fields are likely to disrupt our industry, which will be even better equipped to solve the complex, multimodal problems of tomorrow. “In thirty years,” James Kerrigan, FIIDA, design principal of interiors at Jacobs predicts, “BMW will be here speaking about how they got into the design space by applying their production and supply chain know-how to overturn traditional construction approaches, delivering high-tech, sustainable, and beautiful design solutions for interior and exterior applications.”

For now, inclusivity looks different at every firm, and so do the specific impediments to achieving it. As an example, Landscape Forms is currently endeavoring to make two very different populaces feel equally included under one roof. “Our production staff and our office teams are antitheses of each other, and here we are asking them to work together,” Kirt Martin, vice president of Capitol One says.

Design, particularly of office amenities, has played a role in bridging that gap, he explains. So has giving employees as much choice as possible about when, how, and where they work. For Netflix, an impetus for addressing inclusion is the network’s penetration into previously unexplored external markets—“countries that haven’t yet experienced content the way we do, and from whom we’re learning a lot,” says Elizabeth Christopher, design manager at Netflix.

Design leaders are seizing opportunities to better narrate the stories of those who are oft-overlooked or excluded in our spaces and our culture. “In order to design a better world, we need to unpack the missing data: the missing stories of the people we purportedly design for,” says Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA, partner and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative. Being inclusive also means considering vulnerable and under-resourced populaces, and being proactive about designing solutions for them, whether or not we’re hired by clients to do so. “What matters now is designing for social equity and affordable living,” says Martin. The industry will be challenged and emboldened to address pressing issues like urban density, overpopulation, and the housing crisis, and to help climate refugees. “Equality and justice for women and minorities will positively change our built environment,” concludes Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, Assoc. AIA, principal and co-managing director of Gensler’s Miami office.

IIDA Virtual Advocacy Symposium: State of Affairs

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, IIDA Headquarters made the decision to host our annual Advocacy Symposium—which took place last week—virtually over Zoom.

With around 300 registered attendees (our largest numbers ever!), we held six webinars covering topics including the basics of and an introduction to advocacy, conversations with designers who serve in public office, an update from the Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, International Board President of IIDA, and an entire day dedicated to legislative and advocacy updates from our lobbyists and chapter leaders on the front lines. 

The “State of Affairs” panel provided a great overview of best practices to use when communicating to legislators, gave updates on how IIDA and ASID have joined forces to streamline our advocacy goals and collateral, and discussed why coalition building is so important when passing legislation. Buddy Julius, an IIDA/ASID Wisconsin lobbyist, gave an interesting perspective on how COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate with legislators—and how it has ironically made them more accessible and easier to reach.  

“Legislators are at home more just like the rest of us and typically more available over Zoom or the phone to talk than in person, especially to constituents, so now is a great time to reach out to educate them about interior design,” says Julius.  If you do agree to meet with a legislator in person, remember, it’s always acceptable to bring a friend!  Bringing an advocacy veteran along can help ease your nerves, and it’s helpful to show strength in numbers.  

Legislators like to know what their constituents need and for that to happen, you have to educate them. Bryan Soukup, vice president of government and public affairs for ASID, shared details about his role at the organization and provided examples of how IIDA and ASID have teamed up to create new advocacy collateral for the industry. 

The associations partnered with CIDQ to create a series of three videos that help explain what interior designers do, what the NCIDQ is, and how designers affect the health, safety, and welfare of the public in code-impacted spaces. The associations have also authored advocacy action plans for chapters who may not know where to start when it comes to advocacy and to make sure we are speaking from one voice as an industry. Finally, this last year IIDA and ASID have hosted six webinars together every other month covering best practices for educating legislators, how to build coalitions, and the legislative process.  You can find the joint explainer videos on the IIDA YouTube channel.

Building coalitions in legislative efforts consist of educating and attempting to expand support from other organizations or groups that might be interested in the issue at hand. According to Abigail Wilson, the public policy and grassroots advocacy manager at IIDA, “Coalition building is so important to our efforts, especially because our issues are very specific to one profession because legislators like to see that the legislation they pass has a positive impact on as many people and groups as possible.” In Ohio, where Wilson has led and overseen the regulation efforts for the past three years, IIDA was able to solicit a letter of support from the Ohio Restaurant Association and numerous public universities including The Ohio State University, which has a strong interior design undergraduate program. Including other institutions or groups in your legislative strategy is a sure-fire way to show that the issue of interior design regulation touches many different people, not just interior designers. 

IIDA Headquarters is grateful for the support of all the designers and industry professionals who attended the Symposium and hope to see you all again at upcoming events! Any additional questions that weren’t covered last week can be sent to Emily Kelly or Abigail Wilson.

Watch Advocacy 101: Just the Basics

The 2020 IIDA Virtual Advocacy Symposium was kicked off with an introductory session focused on ways to get involved in interior design advocacy and harnessing your voice for change. The talk featured Emily Kelly, director of advocacy for IIDA, Abby Wilson, public policy manager at IIDA, Thom Banks, CEO of CIDQ, and Rebekah Matheny, IIDA, professor at The Ohio State University.  

The 2020 Advocacy Symposium opening session Advocacy 101: Just the Basics highlighted ways that the IIDA advocacy department can assist members and students in their advocacy efforts and debunked common advocacy misconceptions. For example, many folks think advocacy is only for trained lobbyists; in reality, legislators and elected officials want to hear from citizens like you! 

There are many ways that you can get involved in advocacy that don’t require a great deal of time: register to vote, exercise your right to vote, know the laws in your state, take the NCIDQ exam, get state registered, stay involved with your local IIDA chapter’s advocacy efforts, educate others, or meet your legislators virtually! 

Thom Banks, CEO of CIDQ, gave attendees an update on the exam, including that the 2021 spring administration will include the new exam blueprints, Rebekah Matheny, IIDA, associate professor of interior design at The Ohio State University, was also able to provide several important insights on the value of seeing the legislative process in-person, the importance of using your voice through voting, and how interior designers have the power to change the future for the better. 

Behr Color Trends 2021: ‘Elevated Comfort’

The following is a contributed post from Behr.

This year, our relationship to the built environment was redefined. Our homes have become temporary classrooms, offices, gyms, and restaurants, and we are now starting to imagine safe and comfortable ways to re-engage with public spaces. It is a time of much change and also an opportunity for innovation.

Caring for our space can take on many different meanings­. In 2020 into 2021, it is important to make the environments we inhabit as personalized and comfortable as possible. When it comes to interiors, color is playing an ever more important role in setting the mood, creating a peaceful atmosphere and providing a sense of well-being. Behr Paint Company understands the needs of these new times and has thoughtfully curated new color lines to energize and inspire these environments.

Enter the BEHR® Color Trends 2021 Palette: a spectrum of 21 shades spanning from essential neutrals to lavish bolds, enabling both do-it-yourselfers and designers alike to create a much-needed sense of “Elevated Comfort.” Energizing, comforting, engaging and versatile, the Behr Color Trends 2021 Palette is organized into four color themes:

  • Mindful Escape – A quiet play of soft neutral tones like Almond Wisp PPU5-12, Smoky White BWC-13 and Canyon Dusk S210-4, influenced by clean modern lines, casual textiles and traditional Japanese design motifs. 
  • Curated Clarity – Pastels are reinvented in subtle yellow, blue and green tones like Cellini Gold HDC-CL-18, Seaside Villa S190-1 and Dayflower MQ3-54, providing a calm and balanced backdrop for any type of space calling for a serene environment. 
  • Optimistic Glam – Energize the interior of workplace or retail settings with an eclectic vibe borrowed from rich Mediterranean colors and retro 70s glam including Euphoric Magenta M110-7, Saffron Strands PPU6-02, Caribe PPU13-1 and Kalahari Sunset MQ1-25. 
  • Dramatic Revival – A “new-stalgic” mix of vintage and modern elements make a bold statement in any commercial space by using deep, opulent colors like Royal Orchard PPU11-1, Broadway PPU18-20 and Nocturne Blue HDC-CL-28, along with lavish materials and shapes. 

Each theme evokes positivity in a variety of design styles, and each color was chosen for how it complements other colors—you can mix and match colors from each of the themes to suit any design aesthetic. Whether it’s for returning students in a classroom, welcoming colleagues back into the office, inviting guests into an updated retail or hotel experience or offering residents a safe retreat in a multifamily community, these colors can help create environments that offer sophisticated design that reflects optimism and clarity.

The entire Behr Color Trends 2021 Palette is available exclusively at The Home Depot® stores nationwide. To learn more about the palette, visit behrpro.com/2021trends. For more project inspiration, follow #BEHRTrends2021 and #21DaysOfColor on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Brand, Culture, and Community Goals

The 2020 Community as Strategy event series, presented by KI and IIDA, continued virtually in “Chicago,” bringing together local designers and professionals to discuss the important roles that brand and culture play in the creation of meaningful corporate community. 

What does community mean when being together physically is challenged, and what is the significance of brand and culture in the built environment if we’re not there? These were the questions posed by moderator Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, executive vice president and CEO of IIDA, during the most recent Community as Strategy virtual webinar. Durst spoke with four women working in design and strategy with their employees, customers, and clients on the continued importance of maintaining brand and ensuring that corporate communities remain strong and healthy enough to help and uplift others. 

We often explore brand and culture in tandem when discussing the communities found within organizations and the external communities those organizations come into contact with. For Anne Gibson, principal at Gensler, “brand and culture are things that [designers] have been talking to their clients about for decades. They are how [organizations] differentiate themselves in the market but also in the physical space.” 

Simply put, brand and culture are synonymous with mission and purpose. Corporate branding can shape and define a company’s overall culture, not only within workplace structures, but in its relationship to customers, consumers, and other external groups. So what will brand and culture mean to us in the upcoming months and years now that we are looking at community roles differently? 

How to Capture Workplace Behavior

The following is an excerpt from IIDA’s annual Industry Roundtable report, Industry Roundtable 23: The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife. The roundtable took place at BMW Designworks in California. Read the full report here.

Open plan versus closed door; solo versus collaborative; heads up versus heads down; “me” space versus “we” space. How can clients describe exactly what form (or forms) “work” takes in their workplace? And, on the flip side, how can designers wrap their heads around the minutiae, mechanics, and methodologies that undergird productivity in their clients’ physical environments?

Despite that many of today’s workplaces are embedded with sensors that capture abundant information about spatial use, Big Data is no panacea when it comes to assessment and evaluation. “We are capable of developing AI and machine learning, but we haven’t been able to provide any of our data [for those efforts],” says Kyle Hamblin, vice president of Capital One. “There are still privacy hurdles to jump over.” So, they mostly use their eyes and ears. “We do observations, surveys, interviews, and videos. That’s not scalable or efficient, but we get a lot of good information that way.”

Clients look to designers as experts in human behavior to provide deep insights and analysis—not only about what they observe happening in the client’s own organization, but also what they notice and observe in other workspaces. Speaker Julia Feldmeier, journalist and brand anthropologist, draws on her dual background in journalism and consumer research, and suggests ways designers and manufacturers can approach information- gathering during the programming stage and beyond to uncover a deeper truth about what end-users want and need. In our quest to gain the clearest picture of human behaviors in spatial environments, we need to challenge our assumptions, check our biases, and open our minds to all possibilities, no matter how seemingly counterintuitive or irrational.

During interviews, ask people about only what they know. 

Get specific with behaviors and values and ask the right questions. A query like “what do you do at your desk?” is too vague. Try: What is making you happy right now? Where are you most comfortable? Would you rather have things arranged for you or do you prefer having the agency to arrange them yourself? “Let them tell their own story, let it breathe, and really listen to it,” Feldmeier advises.

Don’t always trust what they say! 

Human interview subjects are notoriously unreliable narrators, so take everything with a grain of salt. Interviewees lie all the time, for all kinds of reasons: because they are embarrassed (an effect called social desirability bias) because their actual behaviors don’t align with how they perceive them, or because they’re not in the right mindset or context.

A neutral, flat-faced affect will elicit the most truthful answers. 

Being nonreactive creates an interview environment in which the subject feels that all answers are equally acceptable. Avoid responding with prompts like, “That’s so interesting; tell me more.” Any positive reaction on your part will subconsciously encourage the interviewee

to give you more of that same information rather than the complete picture.

Get out and observe the real world—the one in which your customers work. 

Don’t rely on self- reporting or questionnaires alone, or grilling end- users while they’re sitting around the boardroom table. “Focus groups are artificial situations rife with bias,” Feldmeier explains. “You get peer pressure, subjects wanting to elicit approval, and moderator bias.” Instead, scrutinize firsthand how subjects behave—in the real world, versus a lab or focus group setting, ideally in the same context as the one in which they’ll actually be using the product

or performing the work. Things to make note of during observations:

  • What is common behavior?
  • What is different and interesting?
  • What are a lot of people doing?
  • What are just a few people doing?

Ditch your bias. 

“Assumptions are confining,” says Feldmeier, “and will make you overlook a lot of truths.” As an example, she cites the Mars Company’s decision to start selling Mars bars in the Russian market after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Turns out that ice cream sold like hotcakes during the wintertime…but not at all during the summer months. Execs scratched their heads until they eventually realized that refrigeration was not yet ubiquitous in Russia, and items that needed to be kept cold were only viable in chillier months. Had market researches actually observed how Russians lived at the time, versus making uninformed assumptions based on their own Western lifestyles, they would have discovered this truism much earlier.

Embrace the irrational. 

Don’t lock in on just one data point; instead, “get all your data in a room and see what it tells you,” Feldmeier says. “Let the data points quibble with each other and see what happens: Do they line up? If there’s an outlier, what is that tension?” Those outliers tend to lead to the most innovative ideas and solutions.

Context doesn’t just matter—it’s everything

There is a tendency for research results to become “sanitized” by the time they’re collated and presented to clients or higher-ups in a deck. “The context is stripped away, and the information comes out like bland chicken wings,” says Feldmeier. Better is to approach the complete information like a mosaic: “You can roll up close to see all the vignettes, and then back out to see the big idea without losing sight of what makes it real,” says Feldmeier. “Those vignettes are the things that will make you think about change.”

Follow up. 

Things are always changing; the story is never complete! 

The percentage of time that people are not at their desk is so surprising. The more we provide other types of spaces, that’s where people gravitate.

Kyle Hamblin, Capitol One