Connecting the Dots in Experience Design and Community Engagement

This year’s IIDA Power Lunch at the Healthcare Design Conference revolved around the idea of “community” and the design of healthcare settings. 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.

Healthcare environments are evolving to keep up with shifting paradigms of comfort, wellness, and corporate humanity. This means that healthcare systems are reconsidering how their spaces look and feel and what they offer the communities they serve.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Healthcare Design and Community

Organizations are fast becoming more community-driven, and healthcare facilities can be designed as community hubs. “Through intentional engagement with a broader audience of community representatives and stakeholders during the design process, as well as enhanced program offerings, healthcare facilities can become destinations for health, wellness, culture, and education,” said Edwin Beltran, IIDA, Associate AIA, IIDA International Board vice president and design principal at NBBJ.

To ensure the complementary nature of the different programs and their successful viability as destination hubs, healthcare spaces need a balanced combination of civic, sports, cultural, and health offerings. Programmatic amenities could include locally-focused retail outlets, meeting rooms for community groups and civic organizations, wellness centers, healthy-eating demonstration kitchens, food outlets, and farmers markets.

Integration can also take on the form of “blurred boundaries” between patient communities and host town communities. Environments that are developed to embody the unique cultural identity of a community are those that provide true belonging and a sense of place. An example of this could be a healthcare facility with playgrounds and parks as part of its campus design. This helps present the paradigm of healthcare spaces as favoring socialization instead of isolation.

Wayfinding and Messaging
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In order for a community to feel comfortable inside of a healthcare space and become truly integrated into its built environment, designers should consider how wayfinding and messaging affect visitor experiences. Sensory elements can be utilized to make a healthcare space feel inviting and welcoming: Pictures and symbols to assist with language barriers, calming colors that take into considering visual impairment, sounds that consider the hearing impaired, and words that are easy to understand and visually accessible.

Clinical spaces should also be committed to reducing the fear and anxiety that can often accompany a healthcare visit. “Community events and use of the facilities when the community is not in need of medical assistance is one way to make members of the community feel more comfortable in the space,” said Richelle Cellini, visualization specialist at Construction Specialties. “Retail spaces, yoga classes, or coffee shops within the medical space can also help reduce fear and disorientation.”

Humanizing Space

Healthcare architects and designers must walk in the shoes of patients, families, and caregivers with empathy, though this can be challenging in a world where schedules and budgets rule our frame of thinking. To create more humane, civilized healthcare spaces, designers should remember that a clinical environment does not have to look clinical. “Designing for the senses is one of the first steps to humanizing a healthcare space,” explained Suzen L. Heeley, IIDA, executive director of design and construction at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Through the integration of sound domes, holistic fragrances, tactile materials, and specific colors, clinical environments can become more comfortable and healing-driven.”

Integrating Community

Embracing community means taking on new approaches to delivering services, such as working directly with members of the wider community. “Creating partnerships between health service organizations and health professionals, clinicians, patients, families, caregivers, and consumers is viewed as a fundamental precondition for effective delivery of healthcare,” said Amy Sickeler, IIDA, design principal at Perkins+Will. “Studies have demonstrated significant benefits from such partnerships in clinical quality and outcomes, the experience of care, and the business and operations of delivering care,” Sickeler explained.

The clinical benefits that have been associated with better patient experience and patient-centered care can include decreased mortality and readmission rates, and improved adherence to treatment regimes. Partnerships could look like free public health screenings, public health forums, free literature and written information, and health and wellness programs.

Facility Resources

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Rethinking the standards of a healthcare facility and the kinds of resources it can provide is important in understanding how medical spaces can better serve their communities. Healthcare facilities should be designed to provide top-notch security and function while maintaining external approachability, comfort, and visual appeal.

Healthcare designers should ask themselves: How is a healthcare facility equipped to deal with unforeseen emergencies like natural disasters? Does the facility have communal, family spaces? Does it have multiple accessible entrances? Do places that allow for relaxation and breathing room beyond the waiting room exist? “Facility resources should be closer to the point of care for the patient and not just in the lobby,” said Stasia Czech Suleiman, IIDA, principal/senior project interior designer at HOK.

Orgatec Highlights the Flexible, Adaptable Nature of Today’s Office

With the fall season of trade shows and industry events well underway, I was pleased to be among a contingent of IIDA headquarters leadership and select international board members last week at Orgatec in Cologne, Germany.

Below, I offer Orgatec highlights, as well as a few images from the nearby independent exhibition Design Post. For American designers that are accustomed to NeoCon and other U.S. trade shows, the distinction at Orgatec is the broad international scope, including many companies that we rarely see stateside. With a theme of New Visions of Work, the biennial European trade show attracted more than 63,000 visitors from 142 countries for a week dedicated to commercial interior design. In total, Orgatec reports that 753 companies from 39 countries exhibited, three quarters of which were from outside of Germany.

While difficult to summarize the range of furnishings shown at Orgatec, we did see an attention to materiality and tactile qualities. One could describe it as a “softening” of the hard edges and surfaces associated with office interiors. While this was a trade show focused on workplace design, the number of desks and desking solutions were far outnumbered by soft seating, whether it is a lounge chair, bench, or sofa.

Designers are more aware of the need for privacy options in workplace interiors, and Orgatec exhibitors showcased a range of privacy solutions—some more savvy, elegant, and cognizant of scale than others. Privacy alternatives included fully enclosed booths, high-backed seating, and the integration of soft materials, such as fabrics and felt, as an acoustical buffer.

The desire for a more relaxed, flexible, adaptable, and hospitable workplace was evident throughout Orgatec. Here’s a glimpse of the show:

01Camira

With a lattice of its own fabric forming enclosures, Camira has a distinctive stand.

02AnatoleKoleksiyon

The Turkish company Koleksiyon displayed the Anatole Desk by Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

03Andreu

The Spanish company Andreu World featured its latest furnishings at its stand, including Dado for Work by Alfredo Häberli. Dado is a collection of modular sofas and chairs.

04CovePoltronaFrauFoster

Poltrona Frau introduced the Cove chair. Designed by Foster + Partners, the Cove chair provides privacy as well as a built-in desk surface.

05Halle

The Danish company +Halle introduced Easy Nest Sofa designed by the firm Form Us With Love.

06Hallechairs

The Easy Nest chair, designed by Form Us With Love, was displayed by +Halle.

07Haworth

A variety of options for well-designed workplace privacy were exhibited by Haworth.

08Infiniti

The Italian company Infiniti showcased its furnishings at its stand.

09Kvadrat

Beautiful Kvadrat fabrics were displayed at Orgatec.

10MDD

The design of the stand for the Polish company MDD had a Postmodern influence.

11Ophelis

With a whimsical design, the stand for the German company Ophelis stood out.

12VitraAC5

The AC 5 Group chair by Antonio Citterio was displayed by Vitra.

13VitraSoftWorkTwo

Soft Work, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, was introduced by Vitra.

14VitraSoftWorkOne

A closer detail of Soft Work, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby for Vitra.

15VitraArtek

Artek chairs were displayed within the Vitra hall at Orgatec.

16zDesignPost

Near Orgatec, the independent show Design Post included a number of exhibiting companies.

17zMagis

At Design Post, Magis exhibited a wall of its chairs.

18zMorosoChairs

Armada, a sculptural seating collection by Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien, was displayed at the Moroso stand at Design Post.

19zMorosoLounge

Inspired by Scandinavian design, the Lilo chaise lounge by Patricia Urquiola was prominently exhibited at the Moroso stand at Design Post.


John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, is the deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA. He is the former editor in chief of Contract magazine.

A Visit to the Dynamic New Gensler San Francisco Workplace

For interior designers and architects, designing a firm’s own workspace is a heady task. And when it is the flagship office for the largest firm in the country, with a practice in a city of limited commercial real estate inventory and increasing leasing costs, the assignment is even more arduous. But the Gensler design team in San Francisco took on the complicated challenge, and essentially reinvented its own office with a move to a new workplace. Earlier this month, I enjoyed a tour of the new Gensler San Francisco office with two of the firm’s design leaders, Collin Burry, FIIDA, and Kelly Dubisar, IIDA. An internal team of Gensler management, operations, and design leaders had input on the relocation process and the interior design, which was overseen by Dubisar.

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Seating areas, defined by shelves and a red lattice structure overhead, allow for casual conversations. The furniture can be easily moved or swapped out to essentially give new seating a test run in a real setting. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

For 15 years, Gensler was located at 2 Harrison Street, with views of San Francisco Bay. But as the city’s real estate market and demand for tech office space evolved—in particular, Google’s footprint increased within that address—Gensler needed to find a new San Francisco home. After an extensive search in a city where the amount of available large-scale office space has decreased, Gensler selected three floors within the 34-floor 45 Fremont Street tower downtown. Burry points out that this office is a short-term solution, likely no more than a few years, and the firm will then select a more permanent home.

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With a variety of places to sit, designers have options for individual work or conversations without the need for booking more formal meeting rooms. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

With that in mind, the interior design is agile and adaptable, enabling the Gensler architects and designers to have a workplace that also reflects the changing nature of office design. In San Francisco specifically, where startups and established tech companies alike are flourishing, this workplace demonstrates how a large creative company with a half-century history can be nimble and dynamic. After all, Gensler is designing many of the tech company offices, so the firm orchestrated its own space to echo the way work is accomplished today across both tech and creative industries.

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The firm implemented a system of display boards hung on pegs, allowing for presentations to easily be moved around the office. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

The majority of employees work on the upper and lower of the three floors. The workplace floors are conceived as design labs—workshop-like environments in which teams are seated at a variety of desks adjacent to meeting rooms. With a mix of programming on the middle floor, Dubisar aptly draws an analogy to an Oreo cookie when describing the office. Amenities on the middle floor (all photos shown here) include a well-equipped kitchen and a number of soft seating arrangements that allow for casual conversations.

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A well-designed kitchen is a central hub for staff. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

The adaptable seating spaces serve double duty—designers can place new and different seating and tables here, essentially giving the furniture a test run before specifying in a design project. Near the seating areas, a number of large boards displaying design work and concepts can be hung on pegs. The boards are easily movable from a design studio to this display area for presentations, whether it be internal discussions or meetings with clients.

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A model-making area adjacent to the resource library enables the workspace to be akin to a maker space for designers. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

“The entire office could be considered a continuously running lab,” Dubisar says, “We love to try new things in order to better understand the challenges our clients face. We’re testing things that don’t exist in any other Gensler office, and it’s great to see the impact of our ideas.”


John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, is the deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA. He is the former editor in chief of Contract magazine.

5 IIDA Student Members Share Their Memorable Moments from the IIDA Student Conference

Last year, the Trustees of the IIDA Foundation added a new initiative to the Designing for the Future Campaign: A portion of the funds raised from the campaign sponsored five IIDA Student Members for an all-expenses paid trip to the 2018 IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter’s Student Conference. The annual Student Conference brings together an array of top students, educators, and design industry professionals for a multi-day professional enrichment experience that includes project and firm tours, mock interviews, and a variety of other networking opportunities. Here, these five students talk about what they took away from the experience, the value of portfolio reviews, and what getting outside of your comfort zone can do for yourself and your career.

Making Fast Friends

With my sponsorship from IIDA, I was able to attend the 18th annual IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter Student Conference, an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have financially been able to do. I was the only student from my school and from the state of Utah to attend the conference — I was pretty nervous. However, on the first day, I rode the bus from the hotel to the pep rally at the Haworth showroom. I randomly sat by another student who was also there by herself from Kansas. We realized that we were both recipients of the same sponsorship from IIDA. That evening we met another student from California who had been sponsored to attend the conference and we all quickly became friends.

I participated in the portfolio review and mock interviews. I was nervous but I was paired with incredible designers who were very genuine, talented, and eager to help me. They gave me great feedback and comments on my portfolio and how to interview with ease.

Allison Newell, Student IIDA, Utah State University, Inter Mountain Chapter

Realizing What You Want to Focus On 

I’ve always been told that to be the best designer, you have to walk out on a limb, make that extra effort, and step out of your comfort zone. Well, in my two years of traveling from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Houston and Dallas, I can say that this conference has taught me some of the most valuable and interesting lessons about being the best designer I can be!

This year my experience was nothing short of amazing. Each year the Texas/Oklahoma Chapter make us Alabama students feel so welcome with their generosity and hospitality. Seriously, these volunteers who put together this conference give their hearts and souls to making this the most educational and rewarding experience for students. I have always known that I wanted to be a commercial designer, however, it was at last year’s student conference that I realized I wanted to focus on corporate and office design and create spaces that make work environments enjoyable.

Carmen Jenkins, Student IIDA, University of Alabama, Alabama Chapter

Surrounding Yourself with Passionate People

This was my first time ever attending the IIDA Student Conference. I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect but the whole time being there was such a learning experience because I got to meet so many students that were just like me who knew what it was like to stay late in the studio to complete projects. It was so inspiring to see how passionate other people are about interior design, why they chose this career path, and what they are striving to be. There was so much to take in and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Nicolle Soriano, Student IIDA, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific Chapter

Learning How to Stand Up for Your Design

Any professional that I met, I made sure to grab their business cards. If they didn’t have one, I took a picture of their name tag. I now have a phone full of name tags and business cards. Each one of the professionals encouraged us to tap into their resources, ask them questions, email them about products, ideas, resumes, portfolios, etc. They wanted to help us succeed.

Our keynote speaker for the event, Primo Orpilla, co-founder of the firm Studio O+A, left all of us with some very wise words. He told us to find our voice, define our narrative, leverage space types to building flexibility, and to customize and curate success. We need to be in control of the design. Stand up for our design. We need to understand the things that make the space a memorable experience. Have empathy for the client and the space, not sympathy. He concluded his talk by reminding us that our design can change attitudes and how the users treat one another. Your designs have an impact!

Kellie DeVries, Student IIDA, Michigan State University, Michigan Chapter

The Power of a Portfolio Review

Our final day was loaded with panels and speakers, filling my head with very valuable information about stepping out into the world after school successfully. The best part of my day, however, was the portfolio review. After two conversations with a very kind Susan Bellson from JSI she pulled me over and set me up to do my review with Elizabeth Trupiano from Corgan and I got very lucky with that. Elizabeth asked great questions of me, listened intently and gave helpful critiques, and then sat and answered all of my questions until we ran out of time. I loved making friends and connections that I’m sure will last me years.

Chelsea Bainbridge, Student IIDA, Kansas State University, Mid America Chapter


To learn more about IIDA student membership, including professional development and leadership opportunities, visit iida.org.

IIDA Northern California Chapter: Be A Better Advocate, Know Your State’s Laws

This post was contributed by Bill Weeman, IIDA, CID, president of the Interior Design Coalition of California and former vice president of advocacy of the Northern California Chapter.

One of the first steps in being an educated advocate is knowing your state’s current law and how it works. It’s an important first step in understanding why commercial interior design advocacy matters.

In California, interior design advocates in the state should know that California law provides for the certification of interior designers per the Business and Professions Code section 5800, et seq.(BPC 5800). This code section reserves the title of “Certified Interior Designer” (CID) and delegates the evaluation of interior designers and the ability to award the title to a nonprofit “interior design organization.” No specific organization is designated by law to administer this title – unless you’re the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC).

The Facts

CCIDC may provide the stamp to an individual who provides “evidence of passage of an interior design examination approved by that interior design organization” along with a combination of education and diversified interior design experience. California is the only certification administered by an independent, private organization; it’s also the only state with its own exam.

The Interior Design Exam (IDEX), created by CCIDC, is the only permissible qualifying examination for CIDs in California, but it’s not recognized by any other state or by the federal government. Since California uses its own exam for certification, there is no reciprocity with other states, which makes it more difficult for California interior designers to expand their portfolios outside of California.

Additionally, the acceptance of plans with a CID stamp for review by local building departments is inconsistent across the state. Existing law provides local building departments discretion to accept or reject plans by a CID. Subsequently, in many jurisdictions across the state, CIDs cannot independently obtain the necessary permits on their own work – work that is squarely within their scope of practice and qualifications.

So what does this have to do with why we advocate?

We advocate to raise the bar, to ensure that qualified interior designers can practice to their fullest capabilities by providing them with the tools needed to succeed in California both independently and as part of a corporate partnership. Strengthening the profession benefits California consumers by increasing competition and ensuring access for interior designers to work independently, as they are qualified to do, in non-structural, non-seismic code-based built environments.

We advocate for using a combination of education, experience, and passage of the nationally recognized NCIDQ exam as the qualification requirements. We advocate to be recognized as “registered design professionals” as defined in the International Building Code, which will enable Registered Interior Designers equal access to the permitting process across the state.

We advocate to eliminate the misunderstanding and misinformation of our profession, and to promote smart policies that move us forward together.

When we, as interior designers, know how state laws impact us, we can be a more educated, stronger advocacy base to make real change for the interior design profession.


For more information on the laws in your state, visit advocacy.iida.org.

From Interior Design Student to Interior Design Professional: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

You graduated from your interior design program – congratulations! Now it’s time to tackle the next challenge: preparing for your career as a professional designer. This June, IIDA brought together four design industry experts to answer the questions students and recent graduates want answered. Thank you to Stacey Harloe, Ind. IIDA, of OFS Brands, Amy Leigh Hufford, Student IIDA, of NELSON, Hunter Charles Kaiser, IIDA, NCIDQ, of hk+c, and Rebekah L. Matheny, IIDA, of The Ohio State University for sharing their wealth of knowledge, insight, and advice at this year’s Career Bootcamp Panel sponsored by OFS Brands. From what makes a standout portfolio to how to network with the pros, here’s what they had to offer about succeeding in a career in interior design.

Bedside Manner

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Adopting a “humanistic” approach to solving a problem doesn’t just live in the area of medicine; it’s a significant part of your practice as a designer. Fulfilling a design concept for a client requires as much empathy as it does efficiency. “When the clients talk, they’re telling us the solution,” said Hunter. “We need to extrapolate it.” Be prepared to ask questions like, “What do you want to be able to accomplish in your space?” and “How does the space make you feel?” Use words that your client can understand, not design jargon. Talk less, listen more. Establishing rapport and trust with your client are crucial to maintaining a happy and healthy working relationship.

Tell Me Your Story

Rebekah starts the design process with her clients by asking them their story. “Sometimes, it’s not the client you’re designing for, it’s their customers, it’s their users of the space. How do you communicate the unfolding story in the space?” Understanding your client’s story will guide your design and dig deeper into the underlying goals and objectives. Added Amy, “We’re not designing for now, we’re designing for the future. At NELSON, we ask them, ‘How can we make you start your future now?’ ‘How can we institute change management for your company to make you perform better?’”

Process, Personality, Confidence

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A unique, creative, and diverse portfolio along with a strong skillset show you’re a talented and capable designer. Your personality and ability to describe your process eloquently are what sell you. “You’re going to have to articulate your vision to your clients, so there’s a selling acumen that starts very early for you, and that’s in the interview,” said Stacey. Build your confidence; practice articulating your portfolio as you prepare for job interviews. Come armed with questions, be inquisitive, and have a positive attitude. “Skills can be taught. It’s the thought process that’s most important because you’re bringing your mind set — the way you see and experience the world around you,” said Rebekah.

Share Your Work

Social media has become a natural part of our day. It’s as easy to post pictures of our vacation as it is pictures of our work. For some designers, sharing images of their work has been a real concern – what if someone copies my idea? Stacey embraces that. “When someone copies your idea, that is pretty rewarding. That’s gratification that you did something good, and that idea will become parent to later ideas.” We live in a world of sharing. If you’re doing something that’s well-done and you’re proud of, let people see it and learn from it. Conversely, added Hunter, share your mistakes so we could learn from those too.

Have a Dialogue

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It can be intimidating to approach designers when you want to catch them for a couple of minutes at a networking event or at the end of a talk. Rest assured, many of them know that. “Every designer started at one point too,” said Hunter. To help you break the ice, do a little bit of homework and research the designer before attending the event. What was the last project they worked on that you liked and why? Where did they get their start? Knowing these answers will inform what questions you ask and maybe find some common ground with them. And, quite honestly, sometimes starting the conversation is as simple as a compliment. “Find a way to flatter them,” said Amy.

But dialogue is a two-way street. “It’s also our responsibility [as professional designers] to say hi,” said Rebekah. “We need to make that human connection with you. Let’s shift to a collaborative process. Let’s co-design.”


Check out the IIDA Career Bootcamp page for information about the the Career Bootcamp Panel, interviewing, and networking. We also encourage you to reach out to your local Campus Center leaders for resources and suggestions that meet your needs as an IIDA Student Member.