Hunter Kaiser Will Disrupt Your NeoCon Experience

Whether it’s at a restaurant, retail store, or pop-up space, Hunter Kaiser, IIDA, designs unique and immersive experiences from start to finish. The founder of Chicago-based creative agency, hk+c, Hunter and his team are using the same approach to create the IIDA space at NeoCon 2017.

Interior design wasn’t the original plan for Hunter. He was on a path to medical school when he took an interior design course in college and found his calling. After working in various roles at both design firms and manufacturers, he started his own firm in 2011, which he relaunched in January as a holistic design agency focused on how every detail in a space affects a customer’s experience. According to Hunter, “Design has the power to make an impact on the human experience”—and that’s exactly what he and his team are planning to do for NeoCon attendees.

The IIDA space at NeoCon, aptly titled Design|Disrupt|Shape|Shift, will challenge designers to envision the future of the Interior Design industry, to push the boundaries of the practice, and to disrupt the status quo. We talked with Hunter about his inspiration, how he is using a high-touch strategy to grab the attention of passers-by during NeoCon, and the Association’s evolving thought leadership role.

NeoCon is packed with exhibitors and showrooms vying for attention. How will Design|Disrupt|Shape|Shift stand out?

We only have a few seconds to capture people’s attention with an installation like this one, so we set out to be a disruption, ask provocative questions, and thus engage the passerby. We asked ourselves, “How can we engage someone to be a part of this important discussion about the future of commercial interior design?” This space is about external awareness of IIDA and positioning ourselves as the authoritative voice in the industry.

The theme of the booth is Design|Disrupt|Shape|Shift and the intent is to ask designers to think about how they use design to shape the world. How will you accomplish that within the confines of a booth space?

We’re asking, “How do you design, disrupt, shape, and shift?” and we’re doing that in literally a black and white manner in order for the space to differentiate itself from the surrounding environment. As we look to the future of design, we’re moving forward. The IIDA space at NeoCon includes that movement. With a guiding line, we move people through the space, and pedestals with reflective tops will ask designers questions along the way. The pedestals allow people to reflect on themselves and their answers as they move on a path to the final engagement point where attendees will post their reactions to the experience.

What do you hope people will take away from the space?           

Our first priority is to make sure that people attending NeoCon and going through the Merchandise Mart know that IIDA is connected to the business of commercial interior design. The next takeaway is having people realize that IIDA is the authority in commercial interior design thought leadership—we’re asking provocative questions and making people think differently.


Experience Design|Disrupt|Shape|Shift at NeoCon, located across from Starbucks on the first floor of the Merchandise Mart.

Up Close with the Puget Sound Campus Center

IIDA Campus Center: Puget Sound

IIDA Chapter: IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter

Where: Greater Puget Sound Region, Washington

Number of Student Members: 126 

IIDA Campus Centers are the first point of contact interior design students have to IIDA. Each one is unique in design, programming, and initiatives, which makes for a varied student experience across chapters. We want to highlight the diversity of IIDA Student Member experiences by introducing you to a handful of campus centers. From how they run their group to what activities garner the most student interest, here is what we learned after sitting down with the IIDA Puget Sound Campus Center.

IIDA HQ: Give us a snapshot of your Campus Center.

IIDA Puget Sound Campus Center: The Puget Sound Campus Center (PSCC) is unusual because it consists of students from multiple schools, including Bellevue College, Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle Pacific University, The Art Institute of Seattle, and Sanford-Brown College. The PSCC Council, the Campus Center’s governing board, is made up of three professionals and 12 students. The professionals on the council are there to assist the students with planning the events. The rest of the council is comprised of students from all levels of study. The student president oversees the entire council, which is made up of chairs for events, membership, social media, and community outreach, plus a treasurer, secretary, and a liaison for each school. Each chair has a coordinator to help with the division of work. We choose student board members first by merit and then by seniority.

PSCC-Event-1

IIDA HQ: What kind of events and activities do you host as a Campus Center?

PSCC: Our Campus Center has seven events throughout the year. The Portfolio Workshop is where students have their portfolios critiqued and Marked Up gives students the opportunity to have a single project critiqued by a panel of judges for a chance to win an academic award. Both of these events are hosted by the professionals on our council.

Students plan and host all other events from a built environment tour to professional/student mixers. Part of the requirement for being on the PSCC Council is that each student must help plan at least one event. This year, our programming includes a built environment tour of a trio of Tom Douglas Restaurants; speed mentoring; and our End of Year Party to celebrate the accomplishments of the group and announce the upcoming council. New this year is the Product Showcase, a small tradeshow, to introduce students to local representatives and educate them about different products and materials. We try to have a wide range of programming so students can see as many aspects of the profession as possible. We also have mentorship moments at each event to give students insight about certain aspects of the profession.

IIDA HQ: How do you collaborate with your local chapter?

PSCC: This year, our community outreach project is in collaboration with the IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter Advocacy Committee. We work together to design and furnish a space for a deserving charity. Students are invited to volunteer or attend certain chapter events to help them engage with the local design community.

PSCC-Working-2

IIDA HQ: How do you get people engaged with your Campus Center and local chapter?

PSCC: We have monthly council meetings open to any student. This way our council can check in with each other on a regular basis, and interested students can come see what we’re all about. We also have liaisons for each school to engage with peers in classrooms and hand out materials. We have one person dedicated to social media to attract attention to our events.

IIDA HQ: What is the biggest benefit of having an active Campus Center?

PSCC: The biggest benefit of an active Campus Center is that it allows for students to create meaningful events, give back to the community, and network among peers and professionals. It helps students start their career with a support system in their designer toolbox.


Follow the IIDA Puget Sound Campus Center on Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about IIDA Campus Centers, visit iida.org

Iowa Interior Designers Defeat Deregulation: Here’s What Happened

Iowa’s Interior Design Title Act passed the Iowa legislature in 2005, after a five-year effort to create the title “registered interior designer” for individuals with the appropriate education, experience, and examination. Beginning in 2013, the importance of professional regulation in Iowa, including “registered interior designer,” was questioned in multiple editorials in the Des Moines Register. One editorial emphasized the importance of licensing boards relative to the profession of public health and safety as being unrelated to interiors—we strongly disagree.

Another editorial by the newspaper’s editorial staff in January 2017 called for comprehensive job licensing review. It specifically says the state “should not house an examining board for interior designers or keep tabs on manicurists.” Due to the specific nature of the article, Caitlin Sheeder, IIDA, IIDA Great Plains Chapter president, and Jennifer Voorhees, Great Plains Chapter vice president of advocacy, responded with a letter to the editor to explain why interior design registration should matter to Iowans. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced that would have limited how the state could regulate professions. The Great Plains Chapter, led by Voorhees, hired the lobbyist firm Carney & Appleby PLC to represent the interior designers in Iowa. The lobbyists worked behind the scenes to ensure that legislators knew the importance of interior design registration for Iowans.

The same day that the rebuttal editorial was published, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann introduced a House Study Bill that would have eliminated interior design registration as well as registration for barbers, hearing aid specialists, and massage therapists. In addition, it would’ve altered the registration and regulation of several other professions. The representative received over 3,600 emails, including from interior designers, and could not escape people wanting to talk to him about the bill. On February 28, Rep. Kaufmann, subcommittee chair of the subcommittee where the bill was being heard, ripped up the cover page for the bill to show his updated opinion on professional regulation reform.

The Great Plains Chapter has had the same epiphany many of us have had this year: We cannot let advocacy be a secondary concern. As such, the chapter participated in AIA Iowa’s Design Professionals Day on the Hill to ensure legislators were educated about the Interior Design profession and its economic impact on the state of Iowa. Furthermore, they’re working to include advocacy in chapter meetings and events. Diligence and education are necessary to ensure that interior design stays a recognized profession.


Learn more about interior design advocacy and how to be an advocate at advocacy.iida.org.

Design for the Future of Healthcare: Keeping the Conversation Going

This post was contributed by DLR Group.

In November 2016, IIDA hosted a “Power Lunch” at the Healthcare Design Conference. The 90-minute event, sponsored by Herman Miller Healthcare, featured small group discussions facilitated by healthcare design experts who covered the latest and greatest trends influencing healthcare design. Virtual visits, bed-less hospitals, mindfulness, the patient experience, and safe workplaces were among the topics of conversation at this well-attended event for design professionals.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Design Philosophies and Approaches

Edwin Beltran, IIDA, Associate AIA, Design Principal of NBBJ, Vice President of IIDA

Over the last two decades, a well-documented body of knowledge has begun to propel the discussion of design within healthcare environments as an influential factor aiding the healing process. The philosophies discussed covered a wide spectrum from lean design as a design-thinking approach to inform and influence organizational and operational models, to approaches that seek to enhance the patient experience and the humanization of what would otherwise be an institutional environment.

Alternative medicine and healthy eating programs were also discussed as influential elements that can inform design thinking in more holistic, comprehensive, and inclusive ways, particularly in an era where healthcare is trying to tip the scale from a heightened focus on diagnostic medicine to a more rebalanced emphasis on both preventive and diagnostic care.

The lessons from alternative design paradigms such as hospitality and retail were also addressed, especially because of their keen understanding of and adaptable responsiveness to the markets’ shifting demographic forces. “In an environment where experience is highly valued, understanding the needs, wants, and priorities of those consumers will allow healthcare systems and their environments to remain relevant and attract a loyal customer base,” said Beltran.

Sustainability, Mindfulness and Wellness

Amy Corneliussen Sickeler, IIDA, CHID, LEED AP BD+C, Design Principal, Perkins + Will

We can’t talk about designing what’s next in healthcare without covering sustainability, mindfulness, and wellness. “Our discussion centered on designers improving mindfulness within project environments,” said Sickeler. Listening to understand and empathizing with clients and patients puts designers in the right frame of mind to deliver solutions that elevate the environments. Incorporating wellness into spaces instead of designing them outside of a project includes lighting, acoustics, visibility, air quality, and views to nature.

A Safe and Humanizing Workplace

Aneetha McLellan, IIDA, NCIDA, LEED AP BD+C, Healthcare Leader, Principal, DLR Group

The opportunities for design solutions to impact both lean operational processes and the patients’, caregivers’, and families’ experiences must be a priority. “The human aspect of healthcare has to remain at the forefront of design that responds to the rapidly changing healthcare model we are facing today,” said McLellan. The small group reached consensus that collaboration from the top down and the bottom up is the key to producing innovative solutions that offer the adaptability and flexibility to ensure all users have safe, efficient, and inspiring environments for healthcare.

The Experience Equation

Phyllis Goetz, EDAC, National Director, A&D Healthcare, Herman Miller Healthcare

What is the primary source of design impact? Is it technology? Personalized medicine? Or, is it an organization’s culture that stands out? “We all felt strongly that technology upgrades, operational adjustments, and organizational culture changes are three ways to leap frog the patient experience and build trust,” explained Goetz. “Technology has changed the nature of healthcare interactions and now the space needs to adapt to accommodate new and changing technologies.”

Planning and Care Models

Tatiana Guimaraes, Assoc. AIA, Senior Associate, Perkins+Will

With a better understanding of population health, owners are relocating healthcare environments to serve patients conveniently. Dealing with serious medical cases in an outpatient setting was at the heart of this discussion about micro-hospitals, bed-less hospitals, and free-standing emergency departments. This group was in agreement about one thing: The model for healthcare is changing – and it is changing rapidly. “Do designers have a role in helping healthcare providers educate their customers about the levels of acuity for emergency departments or the appropriate care for the ever-growing behavioral health needs?” asked Guimaraes. It is crucial to provide clarity of what level of care these new centers are providing. Designers have an important role in this discussion as trusted advisors who can help balance the operational needs of efficiency with patient and staff experience.

Designing for Performance and Resilience

Jocelyn Stroupe, IIDA, ASID, CHID, EDAC, Principal, Cannon Design

Whose responsibility is it to know the science behind the cleaning products and their effect on the furniture and finishes throughout the building? “More importantly, how can the design community help owners with this costly problem?” asked Stroupe. Solutions shared in this lively discussion included the importance of understanding and sharing the science behind cleaning products’ effects on materials; knowledge of the specific cleaning products used by a facility; using mock-ups for maintenance testing, training and procedures; and using modular products that provide flexibility and lower replacement cost.


DLR Group is an integrated design firm delivering architecture, engineering, interiors, planning, and building optimization for new construction, renovation, and adaptive reuse. Their promise is to elevate the human experience through design. This promise inspires sustainable design for a diverse group of public and private sector clients; local communities; and our planet.

Featured image: 2016 Healthcare Interior Design Competition winner in Ambulatory Care Centers – Medical Office Building Public Spaces Swedish Edmonds Ambulatory Care Center, Edmonds, Washington, by the firm NBBJ, Seattle, Washington.

The Changing Face of Retail

Each day, millions of consumers and employees filter through countless retail stores, making design paramount to the shopping experience. But while interior design often takes center stage, the products that go into a retail space also play a key role in creating an experience that connects shoppers to the culture of a brand. With the rapid pace of change in the retail industry, how are product designers innovating to keep consumers coming back? Two past winners of the annual GlobalShop Product Design Competition shared their insights with IIDA.

Recognizing the Value of Product Design
It’s no secret that sales in traditional retail stores have been sluggish in recent years, and e-commerce growth is outpacing in-store growth by nearly five to one. But the new dynamic is creating opportunities for product designers.

“The visual impact and presentation of a space is an important part of what brings people into the store in the first place,” said David Naranjo, vice president of creative at Greneker, which was honored as the Best of Competition winner in the 2016 GlobalShop Product Design Competition for RUN Mannequins. “Brands now understand that they need to spend time, money, and talent on their retail locations.”

Ultimately, the bottom line for companies that invest in product design speaks volumes. “Smaller retailers have been hesitant to purchase mannequins due to the expense, but are now beginning to realize the importance of visual display,” Naranjo noted. “They see sales increase and can’t believe the difference remerchandising or redesigning can make.”

Playing a Role in Retail Theater
For retailers, one size does not fit all. Karen Andersen, marketing manager at Sedia Systems, maker of JumpSeat Collection, a fixed-seating solution for retailers as well as other industries, sees customization as the key. “Every store is looking for new and innovative solutions that grab people’s attention,” she said.

Naranjo agreed that retailers now understand that they need to make their spaces a destination. “People need to be wowed and have an experience that they can’t get elsewhere,” he explained. “Creating retail theater has become more important with the rise of online shopping.”

Naranjo knows that when a mannequin embodies a brand (think of a mannequin mid-stride or in the warrior one yoga pose at an athletic store) it creates a sense of excitement and realism.

Participating in the Design Process
The process of a store redesign has become more collaborative as retail companies realize that all aspects of a store—from branding to materials, technology to merchandising, and point of sale to furniture—must be integrated for a cohesive brand experience. “It’s about creating a harmonious environment,” Naranjo added. “We can help designers create the right opportunities for merchandising. Sharing our thoughts about what is needed, expressing that to them, and working together to figure it out is important.”

Having recently entered the retail market with the JumpSeat Collection, which was also recognized as a winner of the 2016 GlobalShop Product Design Competition, Andersen sees the design process as just that—a process. “We have to work together to create a customizable product,” she said. “We want the retail space that the designer has in their head to come to life, so we consult with them.”

Join IIDA at Globalshop 2017
This month, IIDA heads to GlobalShop 2017, the world’s largest annual show for retail design and shopper marketing. There, winners of the GlobalShop Product Design Competition, presented by IIDA in conjunction with Emerald Expositions, will be on display. IIDA will also host a panel of experts for the program “What Clients Want: Emerging Trends in Retail Design,” a thought-provoking discussion about the influence of retail design. The panel will highlight cutting-edge retail design case studies from the recently released “What Clients Want: Essential Conversations about Retail Design.” The latest volume in the renowned “What Clients Want” book series features 16 international retail design projects. For more information, visit iida.org.


This post was originally published in Interiors & Sources. Featured image: 2016 IIDA GlobalShop Product Design Competition category winner in flooring, Shaw Hospitality Group for their product, Noble Materials Custom. 

The Power of Mentorship: 3 IIDA Student Members Share Their Experiences

Research shows that mentoring can help ensure the academic and professional success of students and protégés. Mentorship is especially crucial now as employers recognize the need to engage and retain millennials. Every year, IIDA pairs thousands of students and mentors for a day of job shadowing through the annual IIDA Student Mentoring Program. Networking opportunities and career insights are expected, but bridging the gap between generations has become an added and significant benefit of the program. After last year’s Student Mentoring Program, we caught up with three students to get their take on how the program impacted them and what lessons they’ll be taking as they embark on their professional design careers.

Mentoring Motivated Me to Build My Professional Network

Student: Krista Neerdaels, interior architecture student, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mentor: Jamie Carley, Flad Architects, Madison, Wisconsin

There were three of us who attended the mentoring day together. [Our mentor Jamie] spent time showing us the types of projects she was working on, walked us through the programs they use, and gave us insight on what a typical day is like for her.  We then went out for lunch, and afterwards she set up a few meetings with people who work in different departments at Flad. Later, we discussed specifics on how to move into the professional world—advice on resumes, interview etiquette, and portfolios.

An important aspect about Flad that I appreciated was that the designers, architects, and engineers all work in the same space, so all departments are involved when a project begins. I believe it is very important to have integration of design and architecture as soon as possible for the benefit of the final product. The mentorship experience also motivated me to continue building my professional network to gain even more confidence about my future. It was an inspiring day that encouraged me to find a company that is the perfect fit for me.

Mentoring Intensified My Passion for Design

Student: Heba Toulan Pennington, interior design student, Houston Community College

Mentor: Catrina Wyrick, Abel Design Group, Houston, Texas

I signed up for the [Student Mentoring Program] to gather a full understanding of how interior design/architecture functions on a daily basis. My mentor and I spent time discussing what a typical work day is. Then, we went to a construction site to see how the contractor works with the architect. My favorite part of the day was the session where we covered building codes in elevations and plans.

The program intensified my passion for design. I came away inspired and intrigued by the process of designing.

Mentoring Solidified My Career Path as a Designer

Student: Jonathan Butler-Knutson, interior design student, University of Minnesota

Mentor: Maren Idso, NELSON Upper Midwest, Minneapolis, Minnesota

My favorite part of the [Student Mentoring Program] was being able to see what it is like to visit a site and let the space help inform design solutions. After receiving a quick overview of her project work, Maren and I, along with her coworker Matt, walked to Gaviidae, a five-story geometric art deco style structure that is part of the Minneapolis downtown skyways system. Upon arrival, we noted that there was very little foot traffic on the first floor. The second floor, bustling with traffic, drew its occupants from the skyway system to the retail and restaurants that are present in the space. There was a complete lack of business presence on the third and fourth floor, and only about 25 percent occupancy on the fifth floor.

After recognizing some of the issues that had been amplifying the issue of low tenant occupancy, the three of us sat down and worked through a plan of a potential tenant space. The best part of the experience was how willing Maren was to let me assist her. After arriving back at the office, she let me sit down and rework the plan in Revit based on my suggestions.

My mentorship experience solidified my belief that design is the field for me and sparked excitement about the work I will get to do.


The 2017 IIDA Student Mentoring Program is currently underway. If you are a student participating in this year’s program, apply for the Wilsonart Essay Competition for a chance to $1,000 and a trip to Chicago during NeoCon 2017. Search #IIDAsmp on Facebook and Instagram to see the Student Mentoring Program in action.