Women Lead Design: Gina Berndt, Tara Headley, Nila Leiserowitz

In this ongoing series, IIDA features women leading the design industry in a time of unprecedented change. Hear what they have to say on the importance of diversity in design, mentorship, inspiration, and the future of the profession. 

In case you are still monitoring the passage of time, March was Women’s History Month. Though many celebrations, big and small, were overshadowed by the turmoil of a global pandemic, we are reminded that even in the most uncertain times, creating space to honor and celebrate others remains just as important. The significance of design during this unprecedented moment cannot be overstated; it endows us with much-needed clarity, beauty, accessibility, and problem-solving that are necessary for a rapidly changing world. The women who are making design happen at at varying stages in their careers, are leaders of a better tomorrow, and so we extend this focus beyond March. 

IIDA (virtually) connected with Gina Berndt, FIIDA, ASID, principal and managing director at Perkins and Will; Tara Headley, Assoc. IIDA, intermediate designer at Hendrick; and Nila Leiserowitz, FIIDA, FASID, business consultant and former regional managing principal at Gensler, to discuss the urgency of this current moment, what’s next for design, and how a diversity of design thought is more crucial than ever.

Gina Berndt, FIIDA, ASID, Principal and Managing Director, Perkins and Will, Chicago

IIDA: Who has been an important mentor to you over the course of your career and how/why?

Gina Berndt: I’ve had many mentors in my career, but if I had to name one it would be my father. Though he died when I was just 24, I learned a great deal from observing him in his work and life. He was generous and related well to humanity in the broadest sense. I am very grateful for his influence on me.

IIDA: Have you had the opportunity to mentor others? Has that been rewarding and how?

GB: I hope I have been a mentor to others. It is most rewarding to see individuals blossom in their careers as leaders, whether at Perkins and Will or at other firms. I am proud of their inherent talent, but also their compassion, business acumen, engagement in the community, and success. I dream of having a lovely dinner with all of them to express my gratitude one day.

IIDA: What do you see as the role of women in design in light of our current crisis?

GB: Women often lead with honesty, patience, empathy, and compassion. These are always valuable attributes, but this crisis demands that we all lead with these gifts.  

IIDA: What or who inspires you?

GB: Many things, but at my core, my family. I am inspired to be a role model for my daughter, nieces and nephews, a good life partner to my husband, and a trusted friend to my sisters. I am also inspired by beauty overall which is why I have always been drawn to design.

Tara Headley, Assoc. IIDA, Intermediate Designer, Hendrick, Atlanta

IIDA: Have you mentored others? Has that been rewarding and how?

Tara Headley: I have always viewed mentorship as a vital part of our industry. I believe there is true value in helping the next generation of designers overcome challenges by offering insight from the perspective of someone who has faced similar situations. I have been able to be a mentor through my position on the IIDA Georgia Chapter Board as a campus center leader, and I am hoping to step into the Vice President of Student Affairs role in the near future.

In addition, this academic year I have the privilege of being the alumni mentor for the SCAD Atlanta interior design department. Visting the campus, sitting in on classes, giving feedback on presentations and theses, and now shifting to virtual lectures—those interactions with students have been extremely rewarding. Several students have since reached out for one on one career advice and I’m humbled to be seen as a valued mentor. Knowing that the path I’ve taken inspires others is motivation for me to continue giving back.

IIDA: What or who inspires you?

TH: I am inspired by women of color in leadership positions. They are the ones that have blazed a trail to success and set the example for design professionals like myself to follow. Knowing the obstacles they have had to overcome to make it to a position of power inspires me to fight to achieve that as well. Seeing them makes me believe in myself even more.

Nila Leiserowitz, FIIDA, FASID, Business Consultant and Former Regional Managing Principal, Gensler, North Central

IIDA: Who have you considered to be your mentor and how have they influenced you?

Nila Leiserowitz: I am a strong believer that mentorship is vital to a career in design. A mentor can remain the same throughout your career or you may have different mentors at different points in your life. If I had to identify an important mentor throughout my career, it would be women leaders at all levels—my peers, bright emerging women, and women in other industries that are risk-takers. Right now, my most important mentors are women from the International Women’s Forum.

IIDA: What do you think is the role of women in today’s crisis?

NL: Women have an innate quality to see minutia and at the same time understand big strategies or moves that need to be made. We know how to pull the problem apart and look at all the components of the problem in order to have a thoughtful approach to moving forward. Looking at all the parts, we can celebrate the good within the problem, which is very important right now. We then also have a clearer picture of the core issues that need to be solved. We can then define a strategy and team to accomplish the right results. I am always so amazed by how women think. We are blessed!

IIDA: Who or what inspires your practice?

NL: his is not a simple question to answer. I do try to live in the moment as much as I can, so inspiration shows up in my life in unexpected ways at different times. Sometimes, small and simple things inspire me; other times, inspiration can be as big as being on top of a mountain and seeing the world like so few people see it. If I had to narrow down to two overarching inspirations, it would be people and nature. In the best situation for me, it is when nature and people collide. That is an amazing thing.

Collective D(esign): Healthcare Designers at the Forefront

In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the second webinar in the series now. 

As we all adjust to a challenging moment in time and prepare for a “new normal,” the design industry has begun to grapple with the changing world and what it could mean for the future of healthcare environments.

How is the expertise of healthcare design professionals coming into play at this time? Are firms involved with immediate projects to adapt existing facilities or repurpose for surge capacity? In the webinar “Healthcare Designers at the Forefront,” hear moderator John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA, and a panel of design experts discuss what is needed in the near-term, and what the impact on healthcare design will be in the coming years.

This webinar is registered for 1 IDCEC HSW CEU. To learn how to earn your CEU credit, visit IIDA.org for more information.

Watch all the webinars in the series here.

Moderator

John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA
Deputy Director and Senior Vice President
IIDA

Panelists

Donald Cremers, IIDA
Principal and Senior Project Interior Designer
HOK, San Francisco

Tama Duffy Day, FIIDA
Principal and Firmwide Health & Wellness Practice Area Leader
Gensler, Washington, D.C.

Manuel Hernandez, MD
Principal, Strategic Innovation and Health Care Practice Leader
Kahler Slater, Milwaukee

Amy Mays, IIDA
Interior Design Director
HDR, New York

The next webinar in the series, Students and Education: Design Online will take place on April 9, 2020, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Central. Register today.

Join IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA alongside Ryan Ben, student engagement and advancement manager at IIDA, and group of design educators and students for a discussion on the emergency pivot to digital teaching and learning. We will discuss what’s working and what isn’t, adjustments must be made, how expectations are shifting, and what platforms are being used and why.

Collective D(esign): Watch the First Webinar

In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the first webinar in the series now. 

As we all adjust to a strange new “normal” and prepare for our inevitable “what next,” the design industry has begun to grapple with the changing world and what it means for the future of the built environment. On March 26, a panel of design experts joined IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, and a virtual audience of nearly 1000 design industry professionals, for an important community discussion on how their firms are adapting technology, adjusting expectations, supporting their employees, and overcoming unprecedented challenges. 

Watch the first webinar in the series: 

Moderator: 

Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA
Executive Vice President and CEO
IIDA, Chicago 

Panelists: 

Gina Berndt, FIIDA ASID
Principal, Managing Director
Perkins+Will, Chicago 

Susan Chang, AIA
Partner
Shimoda Design, Los Angeles

Jordan Goldstein, IIDA, AIA
Principal & Global Director of Design
Gensler, Washington, D.C.

Tara Headley, Assoc. IIDA
Interior Designer
Hendrick, Atlanta

The next webinar in the series, Healthcare Designers at the Forefront, will take place on April 2, 2020, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Central. Register today. 

Join John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA, and a group of design leaders in a discussion on the critical importance of adapting healthcare design in this historic global moment. 

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and Safety Information

As safety concerns surrounding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to grow, IIDA is closely monitoring updates from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organization) to provide new information to our members. Employers, event planners, and organizations are emphasizing preparedness, prevention, and minimizing panic—particularly if their cities have seen an uptick in cases.

The health and safety of IIDA members is our priority, and we have gathered together some essential tips and important information for keeping you, your family, and your community safe. 

Important information regarding IIDA and IIDA chapter events:

  • If you are an IIDA chapter leader or event organizer and have an upcoming IIDA event scheduled, please implement all necessary cautionary procedures. 
  • Consult with your venue to ensure increased availability of hand sanitizing stations or ample supplies of hand sanitizer.  
  • Determine the venue’s current practice for increased facility-wide cleaning and disinfecting. Ask if they are cleaning all surfaces and how often. 
  • Have a plan of action and communication in place in the event of a postponement or cancellation
  • If someone becomes ill at your event, particularly with onset fever, cough, or shortness of breath, have an immediate plan to have them relocated to the nearest healthcare facility. 
  • Carefully review your venue/catering/AV contracts for any clauses that might penalize you for short-notice cancellation. Consider a flexible refund policy should your event be postponed or canceled on short notice

Personal Safety:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. Work from home if possible.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. A medical mask is not required if you are not sick, as there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask—of any type—protects non-sick persons. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after riding public transportation; or after being in a crowded space. 
  • If you feel sick with symptoms of COVID-19, separate yourself from other people and animals in your home, contact your healthcare provider, and monitor your symptoms. 

Household Safety: 

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects in your home regularly (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).
  • Cleaning products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses.
  • Avoid sharing household items such as drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items, with members of your household who are sick (with any illnesses). 

Community Safety: 

  • Organizers of meetings, events, and other professional gatherings should consider the potential risk from COVID-19. Develop a preparedness plan to prevent infection at your meeting or event, and consider canceling or postponing your event if absolutely necessary.
  • Create plans to communicate accurate and timely information to your work community. Include strategies for sharing information with your staff without increasing fear and stigma.
  • Emphasize to your employees staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene.
  • Get to know your neighbors and gather local contact information in the event of an emergency.
  • Check-in on vulnerable members of your community, including elderly, disabled, homebound, or chronically ill friends and neighbors. Offer assistance when and if you are able. 

As the situation develops, we will continue to update and provide necessary information to IIDA members. Please do not hesitate to contact IIDA Headquarters at iidahq@iida.org with questions. 

Resources:

Learn more about the outbreak

Frequently asked questions

Preventative care

What to do if someone in your household is sick

What to do if you feel sick

International travel recommendations

Coping with stress and anxiety

COVID-19-fighting products

Temporary school closings

Checklist for community leaders

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.

NDI_Fleck_04

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. 

NDI_Fleck_11

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+, coupling interior design 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.” 

From Concept to Reality: How One IIDA Student’s Booth Design Made it to Orgatec

In October 2018, more than 63,000 visitors from 142 countries descended upon Cologne, Germany, for five days to attend Orgatec, the biennial commercial interior design trade show dedicated to the modern office.  The show offers a broad international scope of work that some of us stateside very rarely see and a wider platform to share one’s design vision. It seemed only fitting that we use our presence at the future-facing trade show to showcase the skills and talent of IIDA student members.

We were proud to have IIDA Member Sana Khan, former student of the New York School of Interior Design now design professional at HOK, design the IIDA booth at Orgatec. Her concept was chosen as the winning submission of the IIDA Student Booth Design Competition at Orgatec by a jury of design experts including Todd Heiser, IIDA, creative director and principal at Gensler, Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, principal and global practice leader at Perkins+Will, and IIDA International Board President James Kerrigan, IIDA, design principal of interiors at Jacobs.

Using product from Vitra, the competition sponsor, Sana’s booth offered a fresh and modern interpretation of the space with opportunities to provide an engaging experience for Orgatec visitors.  We spoke with her about the project – the inspiration, challenges, and lessons learned.

Sana's Booth Concept

Sana’s concept for The IIDA Cloud. “Seeing something that only existed in my head in real life is a pretty incredible thing, and I was overwhelmed with joy looking at the booth I designed. My father owns a construction firm and since my childhood I wanted to become like him. It was my first design that became a reality and it was no less than a dream come true.”

A Hub for Design Ideas

“The inspiration was really IIDA itself,” said Sana. “The idea of connectedness, standing out and creating a network struck me as a great concept for the booth that would represent IIDA and its ideology to a layman in the best possible way.”

To reflect that network, Sana found inspiration in clouds, even titling her project The IIDA Cloud. “Just like how a real cloud plays an important part in atmospheric circulation, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub of circulating design ideas around the world,” she explained. Sana also unpacked the meaning of the digital cloud. “Today’s fast paced generation exchanges information through a storage cloud. Similarly, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub for exchanging design thoughts and talk about designing for the future.”

booth ceiling

Look up. “The idea of the cube is to reflect the purpose of IIDA, to make designers come together under one cloud – or roof – and extol design.”

Understanding the Client

Designers typically communicate with the client throughout all phases of the design project, but for this competition, students had to be resourceful when gathering information. Sana approached this by trying to understand IIDA as a brand before designing the booth itself. “I felt it was important for me as a designer to understand what the client profile was,” said Sana. “The biggest challenge was creating a design that represents IIDA as an organization and to do justice to its brand.”

orgatec group shot

Sana (far left) with select members of the IIDA International Board of Directors, IIDA staff, and her mentor inside the finished booth.

Balancing Aesthetics and Meaning 

For the competition, students were given a design brief that outlined what products needed to be in the booth and what features should be accommodated to allow for collaboration, engagement, and recharging throughout the show. What students didn’t get was a budget. As a result, value engineering the winning design concept was inevitable. Where some would see this as a setback, Sana saw it as lesson in the booth’s essential purpose: to connect. “During the competition, I learned how to design something that is practically and economically feasible to construct. The design should not only have an aesthetic value, but it should have a concept that people connect with.”


Follow Sana’s journey to Orgatec by checking out the Orgatec 2018 highlights on the IIDA HQ Instagram account.