HOW CHANGING BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NEEDS AND AWARENESS IMPACT INTERIOR DESIGN

Our understanding of how patients with mental illness should be treated has changed dramatically over the past several decades—and so has the design of mental health treatment facilities. The design of hospitals and facilities can be critical to a patient’s recovery outlook and meaningful interior design, along with a better understanding of diagnostics and care, can have positive effects on mental and behavioral healthcare within communities. 

This year’s IIDA Power Lunch at the Healthcare Design Expo and Conference in New Orleans on November 4, 2019, revolved around the many complex ins and outs of designing for behavioral health needs, from the changing stigma landscape to taking into consideration care, recovery, and compassion. The event, hosted by IIDA and sponsored by Construction Specialties, featured an industry roundtable, which explored the intersections of design, patient outcomes, and community experiences.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Recovery and Healing

Best practices for treating and housing patients with mental illness have shifted from custodial care to person-centered recovery. This means that modern behavioral health spaces are “challenged to meet safety and security obligations while providing humane and healing patient spaces,” says Walter B. Jones, Jr., AIA, senior vice president of Campus Transformation. 

In order to create patient-centric environments, these facilities are making design choices that promote recovery, encourage well-being, and improve treatment outcomes. This can include everything from utilizing calming color palettes and adding elements of Biophilia to creating community and family gathering places that provide both patients and families with a welcoming and transparent treatment process. Staying in an inpatient facility is often stressful, but design can serve as a catalyst for enabling patients to take control of their own healing and recovery.

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New Focus on Amenities

Healing and treatment in behavioral health settings are often enhanced when a healthcare environment “helps to promote a sense of community and self-care and aids in motivating patients,” says Tim Lucas, IIDA, senior interior designer at Gresham Smith. This approach to healthcare means that giving patients their choice of various amenity offerings becomes a critical component of behavioral health facility design. 

Exercise rooms, art and creativity studios, and access to healthy food choices, the outdoors, walking trails, and group and individual activities allow patients a sense of empowerment and autonomy. These options can also foster family involvement in the wellness process, and allow patients to create lasting bonds with fellow patients and their providers.

Safety Aesthetics

Within behavioral health environments, lighting, acoustic, material, and furnishing choices are strategically made in order to incorporate the safety of patients and staff into the design and functionality. 

“Successfully reaching this goal is a balance between evoking positive emotions through aesthetics, while achieving individual safety,” says Lucas. Designers can use the latest research on the state of mental health needs to help them make informed and successful design decisions. These decisions may encompass: 

    • Patterning: Flooring patterns, for example, should be kept to a minimum as high-contrast and glare can be disorienting to some patients.
    • Wayfinding: Wayfinding throughout a behavioral health space should be clear and consistent to reduce potential confusion and agitation. 
    • Acoustics: Providing access to a quiet environment is important. Certain sound absorption materials can be used to address acoustic concerns. 
    • Lighting: The use of fluorescent lighting should be limited and replaced with warmer-toned LED lighting in order to create a softer, more comforting environment. 
    • Furnishings: Furniture should be selected based on the level of a patient’s condition.  In certain cases, furniture should be weighted and immovable; in other cases, lighter weight furniture that can be moved is beneficial. 

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Compassion and Destigmatization

Design has the power to humanize and dignify, and in order to help combat the mental health stigma landscape, behavioral health spaces today need to convey a sense of trust. “When a patient feels stripped of their personal dignity—which often happens upon entering an inpatient unit—we find, as designers, that the small details we incorporate can empower the patient and lead to a sense of satisfaction,” says Kimberly N. McMurray, AIA, principal at Behavioral Health Facility Consulting, LLC. 

Gone are the days of facilities with sterile, impersonal rooms with anxiety-inducing austere architecture. Instead, patients and their families are offered modern design features and welcoming, soothing environments. Incorporating compassionate design aids in the destigmatization of seeking and receiving mental healthcare, and the humanization of patients. According to Sara K. Wengert, AIA, principal at architecture+, interior design, coupled with activism and changes in public policy, “can have a profound effect on the avoidance of stigma associated with mental and behavioral healthcare for members of our communities, as well as for the people receiving care.” 

Member Spotlight: IIDA Members Elected to City Council

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Julie Sayers (L) and Bonnie Limbird (R). Photos by: (L-R) d. marie imagery and Heather Edwards

This past November, folks around the country voted in various local and state elections, deciding on the seats that will affect their lives most, including their City Council members. Our IIDA Mid-America Chapter had the honor of watching two of their members and past presidents be elected to their local City Councils. Bonnie Limbird, IIDA, and Julie Sayers, IIDA, will be serving Prairie Village, Kansas, and Lenexa, Kansas, respectively, bringing the skills and knowledge to the table that only an interior designer can. Limbird and Sayers both have multi-faceted experiences in the design industry, and in serving their communities in a volunteer capacity.

Limbird’s career includes designing low-income and independent housing, project management and business development, and she currently practices as an interior designer at Kansas City’s SFS Architecture.

Julie Sayers has specialized in the design and execution of collegiate and professional sports facilities including administration, large-scale project management, and multi-disciplinary coordination, and currently works as a senior project manager and associate at encompas where she specializes in design and execution of commercial office design.

What made you decide to run for city council? 

Bonnie Limbird: No one single reason made me decide, but reasons just kept coming up until I couldn’t not run any longer. The reasons were issues that are important to me, my family, and neighbors in Prairie Village, and that the Council had trouble passing, or couldn’t get passed at all, Issues such as a Non-Discrimination Ordinance, loosening of alternative energy regulations for homeowners, enacting neighborhood design standards, and repeal of breed-specific legislation, are just a few.

Julie Sayers: I got involved in local politics during the 2018 midterm election when I was introduced to a congressional candidate through the owner of my gym. As I spent months going door to door campaigning on behalf of someone else, I found that conversations often shifted to the issues that affect people most closely here in Lenexa: creating a sense of place and providing a safe, connected community that is accessible to everyone. Volunteering for that campaign opened my eyes to the fact that we need more diversity and women’s voices at every level of our government.

Can you tell us about the issues you are most passionate about working on for your community?  

JS: Like most suburban areas in the United States, Lenexa is experiencing explosive growth, which is creating an imbalance between new development and existing infrastructure. Our citizens are concerned that the older parts of our city are being left vacant and falling into disrepair, and I believe it is our responsibility as a municipality to provide cohesion between new development and revitalization to ensure that all parts of our community remain affordable and vibrant for all residents. I believe my background in design and commercial construction provides me with the skills to be a valuable voice in that process.

BL: As a designer, improving the neighborhood design standards, which were enacted to regulate the massive teardown/rebuilds, are important to me and important to our community to maintain the diversity and welcoming nature of our neighborhoods. However, a larger issue has arisen as an additional symptom of the rebuild problem: skyrocketing property values that are pushing our long-time residents and senior citizens out of their homes.

As a community, we need diversity of age, income, race, ethnicity, experience, and more in our neighborhoods and the rebuild trend right now is pushing out our seniors and fixed- and low-income residents, and keeping out most first-time homebuyers, young families under a certain income, and most folks with jobs that are foundational to our community’s well being: nurses, police officers, firefighters, and educators. Additionally, all of the homes being rebuilt are multi-story homes and are inherently inaccessible for the differently-abled and elderly with mobility issues, and they’re being built without any guidelines for sustainability or energy efficiency.

So altogether, this is a massive problem that can’t be resolved at the city level alone. However, with my experience in accessible, universal, and sustainable design, on top of my concern for our aging population and other residents, I am uniquely qualified to work with our county commissioners and local state legislators to identify the biggest concerns and write policy and create programs to resolve them.

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Julie Sayers’ campaign kick-off event. Photo courtesy of Julie Sayers.

Is there a particular project that you are especially excited to start working on?  

JS: The Metro Kansas City region is one of the recent recipients of grant funding from the Global Covenant of Mayors to support a newly-formed organization called Climate Action KC (CAKC). The purpose is to develop policies and solutions that can be implemented regionally to address the problem of global climate change. Over 70 elected officials from across the region signed on as leaders of this organization, and with my election I’m excited to be the first from Lenexa. I have been working for CAKC in a volunteer capacity since its inception, and am excited to use my elected position to educate and empower our community and to help implement solutions at the city level.

BL: See previous answer. 

How did serving your professional community as IIDA Chapter President prepare you for the campaign, and how will that experience help you to serve your community as a City Council member?  

JS: Serving as a chapter president teaches the skill of long-term leadership when it comes to visioning, goal setting, financial planning, and succession. Like an IIDA chapter, many of the initiatives and financial plans for my city have been decided prior to my election, and it is my job to ensure the successful implementation of that vision.

BL: Serving the IIDA Mid-America Chapter was my first true board experience, which led me to other non-profit and board roles, and now to a city council role. All of these organizations have had the same foundational structure of serving a mission on a budget, with care for those served. Listening skills, volunteer management, delegation, follow-through, and accountability are some of the leadership qualities I learned and refined the more I served. As an IIDA chapter president, I began the practices of listening, researching, and learning about all of the aspects of our local organization to prioritize and execute the most needed changes. To me, listening is the first and most important action to practice in leadership and will remain so in my service on the city council.

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Bonnie Limbird and supporters. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Limbird

What aspects of working in the interior design field will be most transferable to the decision making and policymaking that you will be doing for your community going forward?  

BL: Being able to see the forest and the trees while understanding how they each work to serve one another is important both in designing spaces for clients and governing a municipality. Being a good listener and practicing problem-solving skills are necessary to help teams formulate solutions and have buy-in from the very beginning. Change is hard, and working in the design field has taught me that there is always room for improvement from within and that proactive communication and involvement from the very beginning always makes for smooth and successful change management.

JS: From my perspective, there is no one better suited for public service than a designer.  It is central to our core as professionals to listen to our clients, help them understand their own goals, build consensus among often complex groups, communicate effectively, and responsibly manage a budget. Designers are also acutely aware that implementing a concept can often be a very long and complicated arc, and that periodic re-evaluation is necessary for ensuring success. I hope to be an engaged and transparent representative to whom my residents feel comfortable providing meaningful feedback, just as clients do during the design process. 

You have extensive volunteer and community-service experiences, what would you say to IIDA members and other creatives that ask why being involved in your community as a volunteer is important to both personal and professional growth?

JS: It often isn’t clear until later what skills and connections are afforded to you each time you volunteer. Every time you say yes to an opportunity, you are generating new threads that over time weave a tapestry that makes you a uniquely valuable voice within your professional organization and your community.

BL: I can’t say enough about how important volunteering is in your community for so many reasons, but relative to personal and professional growth: it will make you a better designer.

Learning about, meeting, and knowing people and organizations in your city that you wouldn’t necessarily interact with normally gives you an extended breadth of knowledge about:

  • How facilities really function when the designers leave the building, or
  • Types of organizations that don’t have the luxury of hiring designers
  • How debilitating bad design can be for organizations that need to run as efficiently and cheaply as possible
  • How you can give back with your time and talents even when you don’t have money to give 
  • How to prioritize what’s really the most important expenditure for an organization
  • How hard it is to raise money for capital improvements
  • Hands-on experience working with the community being served by the organization

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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IIDA Student of the Year Sydney Peña: From Graduation to Junior Interior Designer

Sydney Peña, Associate IIDA, the 2019 IIDA Student of the Year, and interior designer at Axis Architecture + Interiors recalls her first month on the job and shares her journey from graduation to the professional world. 

I recently completed three enormous life moments in a matter of a few months—receiving my college diploma, marrying my best friend, and starting my first full-time job—things have been very exciting for me! So exciting, that I wanted to share with future designers a little bit about my journey from graduation, finding my first job, and my first month as a professional designer.

Know what you want, and build a community that can help you get there

I had participated in the IIDA Student Mentoring Program during my last semester at school, and my mentor helped guide me through the different phases of my job search. I decided to look at smaller to mid-sized firms in hopes that a boutique firm would provide different experiences and opportunities than the larger companies I had interned with. I wanted to work on many different kinds of projects and to feel more connected to my community and coworkers. Also very important to me was finding a firm with a culture that felt familial and collaborative and would provide opportunities to grow as a designer.

I found my job through a mutual connection in the industry. Although I didn’t know anyone at the time who worked at Axis Architecture + Interiors, my current firm, a designer I knew in the community did and introduced us. It’s crazy how your network really can open up opportunities.

Today, I am an interior designer at Axis Architecture + Interiors, located in downtown Indianapolis. Axis is a mid-sized commercial architectural design firm that serves civic, corporate, healthcare, housing, industrial, and retail clients.

Stepping into professional life is all about learning and goal-setting

I am on a team of four designers, three of whom are architects. I report to my mentor, who is a senior interior designer, daily, and every week I report to my project manager who is an architect. Since my firm is made up of a few dozen employees, the studio is organized into two large teams made up of different roles, that then break out into different smaller teams based on the needs of a project. Getting to work with people who have different backgrounds than me has been a wonderful learning opportunity.

My first week was all about feeling out the company, the structure, the people, and its leadership. I spent time getting acquainted with the way the firm operates and started familiarizing myself with the scope of the work. I was pulled on a couple of projects, met a ton of people, and had my first client meeting. I attended quite a few lunch-and-learns and set up a time with my manager to go over my short-term and long-term career goals.

During my second week, I dove a bit deeper into everything. With the first two projects I worked on, I got to work directly with the partners of the firm. Getting to collaborate frequently with leadership is a unique opportunity to have as a young designer and makes you feel more comfortable with collaborating, talking, and presenting in front of others—especially with people who are in senior roles.

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Peña accepting her 2019 IIDA Student of the Year Award Photo by: Jordan Fuller

Detail, specify, notate, and repeat

In my third week, I dove even deeper into the projects I was assigned, utilizing Revit quite a bit. I attended an on-site Revit training session and learned new tricks from my mentor to “work smarter, not harder,” which I enjoyed. For the most part, I felt like school had prepared me for the “real world,” but of course real-world projects are more comprehensive than school projects. I realized that school projects left room for things to get swept under the rug, but especially working for an architecture firm, I’ve learned you can’t leave things up for interpretation. Detail, specify, notate, and repeat!

By my fourth week, I felt that I was getting the hang of things, even though I still felt very new. I began to understand what my role was, and what everybody else’s was too. During this first month, I used a lot of trash paper; sketched concepts; took on a lot of “redlines”; pulled finishes; called on reps; created many renderings utilizing Revit, Enscape, and Photoshop; and created presentations to help communicate my design to clients.

IIDA student programs provide growth opportunities during and after school

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “drinking out of a fire hydrant,” that’s essentially what my first month was like. My advice to future designers is to spend your first month absorbing all that you can—be a sponge. Ask a lot of questions, listen, be patient with yourself, and find a person you can confide in as you navigate this new terrain whether it’s a friend, co-worker, or mentor. Write down your goals and keep them visible so you can refer to them as a reminder of where you want to be, and what steps you are taking to get there.

Involve yourself with IIDA while in school (and after!), because it provides you with community and opportunity once you’re out of school. Join this year’s IIDA Student Mentoring Program! You could gain a mentor that can help guide you through landing your first job and act as a valuable connection to the professional design community.

 

 

 

 

IIDA Mentor Spotlight: Onisha Walker

Onisha Walker, Assoc. IIDA, shares her experiences as both a mentee and a mentor with the IIDA Student Mentoring program. 

I participated in the IIDA Student Mentoring Program as both a mentor and a mentee. I was a mentee during my undergraduate and graduate student years, and I’ve been a mentor for the past two years. Being a mentee in the program really helped to inform my education, and I saw it as a valuable part of my overall curriculum. I mentored under a few designers as an undergraduate and with an industry rep during my graduate program. It was an opportunity to get out of the classroom and get experience interacting with real-world professionals and being involved in their day-to-day.

I feel that both designers and design professionals across many different roles can benefit from mentorship. Networking is a huge part of our industry, and mentoring is an easy way to meet up-and-coming designers—and potentially, the people you’re going to work with someday. It can be just as important to connect with students as it is with principals at major design firms.

“It’s very important for me to be a mentor because design students need to see designers of color with varying backgrounds in the industry—representation is important!”

As a mentor, I love learning about the new classes that design students are taking, and what their goals are for when they graduate. It’s a great way to start a dialogue about the realities of life after college, and the “what now” scenarios that almost everyone goes through at some point. I also believe it’s important for me to be a mentor because design students need to see designers of color with varying backgrounds in the industry—representation is important!

I have worked in multiple sectors in New York and North Carolina at A&D firms, and I am now at a furniture dealer and have completed graduate school on top of all of that, which is not something you hear very often when learning about the industry. When I was a student, I did not know of or see any designers that looked like me or took that path that I wanted to take. I decided to use all of my experiences to encourage students as much as I can to make their own path, especially because this industry thrives on new, fresh, and innovative perspectives and ideas.

On a typical day of mentorship, I like to start the day by introducing my students to my colleagues and helping to make them feel welcome. I then usually sit down them down for an informal chat to get to know the students and give them a chance to ask me questions related to design, my job, or anything else they are curious about.

Then I will bring them in on a project that I am working on and talk them through my process. At this point, the questions start to flow and we get a great dialogue going. Input is important, and it matters to make the mentee feel like they are truly living a “day in the life of a designer.”

One of my last mentees was a student that was an IIDA Campus Center President and a part of our local IIDA chapter. We really got to know each other and had some great discussions. She remained a part of the chapter, serving on the board of directors, and is now part of the Communications team of which I currently serve as VP. We work together all the time! It came around full circle, which was really nice to see and reinforced to me just how important nurturing students is to our industry.

Registration for the IIDA Student Mentoring Program is open through January 31, 2020. Learn more about participating. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready for the 2019 IIDA Advocacy Symposium

See what’s in store at this year’s annual symposium of interior design advocates from across the country. 


This year’s IIDA Advocacy Symposium is jam-packed with sessions that will not only help you develop your advocacy skills but will give you the tools you need to make your chapter better at advocating.

Attendees will enjoy programs, lunches, and networking receptions, and get to meet fellow interior design advocates to discuss advocacy issues, successes, and questions.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

We are excited to be hosting Symposium participants at the Massachusetts State House, where we will focus on legislators, legislative strategies, and the importance of civic engagement.

The day will begin with a tour of the State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, a National Historic Landmark considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture. Keynote speaker Arline Isaacson will then discuss the importance of civic engagement across all interests and groups.

IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, will then have a fireside chat with local Massachusetts legislators to give us a unique perspective on who legislators are, what they do, and what they want to hear from us.

We’ll follow that up with an informative session and Q&A with several IIDA lobbyists from across the United States about what they’ve seen work and how we can improve as an industry. After a full day of information, we’re thrilled that IdeaPaint will be hosting an opening reception at Boston’s District Hall from 5:30-7 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

We are elated that Allsteel will be hosting us at their beautiful Boston showroom where we’ll learn about strategies and best practices for implementing advocacy of all kinds at the chapter level.

In the morning, several chapters and states will be giving us updates on their advocacy activities over the past year and their plans for the future. Tracey Thomas, IIDA’s Director of Strategic Sales, will then teach us strategies to better communicate our ideas to the right audience through a comprehensive presentation. IIDA Headquarters will debut and give updates to our collateral and CIDQ will update us on what’s new in their world. Headquarters will also provide updates on the opposition landscape and how to fund and afford advocacy in your chapter.

We’ll end our day with panels featuring interior design advocates on how to communicate effectively and how to talk advocacy at firms. Allsteel has graciously agreed to then host a short closing reception, allowing us the opportunity to decompress and discuss all we’ve learned.

We can’t wait to see you all at this year’s Symposium!


Registration to the 2019 IIDA Advocacy Symposium is open until September 6. Learn more about this year’s program and reserve your spot at www.iida.org/advocacy-symposium

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Oregon: Surveying Advocacy

This post was contributed by Whitney Dooley, Assoc. IIDA, Vice President of Advocacy, IIDA Oregon Chapter. 


In order to correctly represent and advocate for the interests of commercial interior designers, the IIDA Oregon Chapter conducted a comprehensive advocacy survey last spring. 

At the end of 2017, Oregon’s Interior Design Coalition, IDC-Oregon, dissolved and the IIDA Oregon Chapter took on the immense responsibility of leading future advocacy efforts in the state. As we embarked on this journey, we realized that there wasn’t an empirical understanding of the needs and desires of commercial interior designers in Oregon as it pertains to registration and regulation.

We decided that to properly represent our members’ interests, it was imperative to collect data about local attitudes towards governmental regulation, accepted benchmarking, and, above all, definition of the profession.

In February 2019, as part of the chapter’s annual keynote speaker event, NEXT, the advocacy team conducted a short Advocacy Survey. The goal was to determine how our members and other members of the design community feel about commercial interior design advocacy. The survey also contained questions that shed light on what our members already knew about advocacy, and where there were gaps that we could address with education.

In developing the survey, the advocacy team knew our questions had to be succinct and relevant, while still measuring meaningful data that would help us plan future advocacy efforts. We started with a brainstorming session and then edited the final survey down to six questions. We also determined that this would be a great avenue to recruit potential advocates and measure support from industry partners. See the final survey here.

The advocacy team distributed hard copies of the surveys to all event attendees at the door of the NEXT Breakfast. NEXT attracts a diversely affiliated crowd, giving us access to the feedback we may not otherwise see. We incentivized completion of the survey by entering all completed surveys into a drawing for a ticket to 2020 NEXT. The surveys were collected before the speakers began, and a collection box was placed at the exit.

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Image Credit: Emily Wright, IIDA, Director of Advocacy, Oregon Chapter.

Our response rate was 47% of all event attendees. 44% of respondents were currently employed as a commercial interior designer. In analyzing the results, we broke out some responses by IIDA members vs. non-members. Emily Wright, director of advocacy, used Piktochart to create a comprehensive graphic that summarized our results and contained more information about getting involved. We published the results on the IIDA Oregon Chapter website in April 2019.

Looking towards future survey efforts, we found success in tying the survey to an event. We plan to roll out these surveys at other chapter events, making sure that the event format allows for thoughtful responses. Incentivizing the survey completion seemed to have an impact on respondents, and we’d like to explore other methods of doing this. These surveys also complement our State of the Industry Report, which focuses on Oregon project types, revenue, and salaries.

In conclusion, the chapter and the profession benefit from bringing advocacy issues to the forefront wherever possible, and we look forward to continuing this survey effort. We hope to eventually pursue a data-driven approach to legislative efforts, proving to elected officials that voters care about the regulation of the commercial interior design profession in the Oregon State.


Stay up to date on all advocacy issues and alerts. Text “interior design” to 52886.