Planning for a Robust Spring Design Season and NeoCon

As we now enter late May, with NeoCon (and our IIDA Annual Meeting and COOL) less than a month away, the IIDA Headquarters office is quite busy with activity. And for me, now two months into my role as deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA, I am diving in, overseeing the planning and programming of multiple items, communication activities, and events as the design season is upon us.

We are gearing up for the IIDA Annual Meeting, where Dina Griffith, IIDA, FAIA, will receive the Star Award, and Janice Feldman will be honored with the Titan Award. An architect, Griffith is the president of the Chicago-based firm Interactive Design, Inc., which is currently collaborating with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA) on the design of the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Feldman is the founder and CEO of the furniture company Janus et Cie, and an advocate for the design profession.


Deputy Director and Senior Vice President John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, met with Janice Feldman, founder and CEO of Janus et Cie, in her company’s space at HD Expo earlier this month.

Sunday, and NeoCon Monday

The 2018 IIDA Annual Meeting is Sunday, June 10, at 1 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Admission is free and open to all in the industry. RSVP by June 1 to reserve your seat; we expect to reach capacity. There, you’ll see Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, principal at Perkins+Will Los Angeles, give her inaugural address as the 2018-2019 International President of IIDA, and three new international board members inducted: Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA, of FX Collaborative in New York; Jon Otis, IIDA, of Object Agency in New York; and Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, of Huntsman Architectural Group headquartered in San Francisco.

A limited number of tickets are available for the IIDA COOL Gala to be held on the evening of Sunday, June 10, at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, where the winners of the IIDA Interior Design Competition and the Will Ching Design Competition will be honored. Reserve your tickets at this link for COOL.

Whether you are traveling to Chicago for NeoCon, or are a Chicago-based design professional, please join us on the opening day of NeoCon for a reception at our IIDA Headquarters office. The reception is from 3 to 6 p.m. on Monday June 11, at 111 East Wacker Drive, Suite 222. The event is free but we ask that you RSVP to attend.

Earlier in the day on the opening Monday of NeoCon, I will be moderating a discussion with acclaimed Los Angeles-based architect and designer Clive Wilkinson, FIIDA, FAIA, of the eponymous Clive Wilkinson Architects. The conversation will be Monday, June 11, at 11:30 a.m. in the Ligne Roset showroom at 440 North Wells Street, one block north of theMART. Wilkinson will have a candid conversation with me about his career, his work, and his design approach. He has designed numerous award-winning buildings and interiors across the U.S., including notable workplaces for clients such as Intuit, Publicis, Google, as well as his firm’s most recent collaboration for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Admission is free and open to all in the design industry, and light lunch and refreshments will be served. But attendees must RSVP to attend by sending an email to

Wilkinson will also be honored as one of four new Fellows of IIDA in the Annual Meeting on June 10. The other new fellows are Nila Leiserowitz, FIIDA, FASID, of Gensler in Chicago, Frederick Schmidt, FIIDA, of Perkins+Will in Chicago, and Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, president of Huntsman Architectural Group.

On the Road with IIDA

It’s also the time of year to be on the road. Just last week, I was so pleased to emcee the IIDA Wisconsin Awards program, Celebrate In Design, in Madison. As a Wisconsin native and former classmate of a few of the winners while at UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture of Urban Planning, this was a fun homecoming for me. The awards program honored excellence in design projects among both Wisconsin firms and design students.


John Czarnecki presented the IIDA Wisconsin Awards last week in Madison.

In coming days, I look forward to attending the IIDA Leaders Breakfasts in both New York on May 17 and Houston on May 22. Tickets for the Houston IIDA Leaders Breakfast are available at this link. If you see me at either event, please say hello!

And finally, speaking of on the road: IIDA will literally be on the road during NeoCon. This year, look for the IIDA truck on the streets of Chicago for NeoCon! Follow @IIDA_HQ on social channels to know where the IIDA truck will be from Sunday through Tuesday, June 10—12. We will have giveaways and more opportunities for the design community to connect as we spread the message of the power of design—outside theMART, on the streets of Chicago for all to see—during NeoCon.

New Beginnings: A Message from John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, as He Starts His Role as IIDA Deputy Director and Senior Vice President

Change is, many times, a good thing. I’m thrilled to begin my work as Deputy Director and Senior Vice President of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). After 18 years in editorial positions in New York related to the architecture and design profession, I am a few weeks into the work at the IIDA headquarters in Chicago—getting to know the headquarters staff and getting up to speed on every aspect of IIDA’s programming, events, communication efforts, and advocacy initiatives. I am focusing my work on a few key areas prior to NeoCon, with a broadening scope to follow as the months proceed. Working closely with IIDA EVP/CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, the headquarters staff, and IIDA chapter leaders, my initial focus is on industry relations, membership communications, and expanded programming efforts for the organization. And I am ramping up my work just as we prepare for spring events and NeoCon!

Members should know: In the near term, besides the forthcoming announcements of award winners, you’re going to see a few exciting new things from IIDA in the coming weeks and months. Some are subtle, and some are more bold. How’s that for a tease? Saying nothing and yet leaving you curious for more: That’s where my years of editorial experience come in to play.

Deadlines to Keep in Mind

With the spring season here, here are a few things to keep in mind for your calendars: Chapters have until April 20 to enter the IIDA Chapter Awards at this link. The Chapter Awards have been fully redesigned, and now include two components: a chapter benchmarking assessment and the Best Thing Ever (BTE) Award. The deadline for the IIDA Campus Center Awards is also April 20, and all entry information is at this IIDA Campus Center Awards link.

For firms that have completed recent projects in Latin America or the Caribbean, know that the deadline for the IIDA Latin America Design Awards is April 20. The design projects must be located in Latin America or the Caribbean, but the design firm may be based anywhere, including the U.S.

IIDA During NeoCon Week

Are you already planning your time for NeoCon week in Chicago? Be sure to include the IIDA Annual Meeting, COOL Gala, and IIDA headquarters reception in your plans.

The IIDA Annual Meeting is at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Admission is free and open to all in the industry. But we will reach capacity, so get there early to get a seat to see honorees such as the Star Award and Titan Award winners, and Chapter of the Year and Member of the Year. Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, Principal at Perkins+Will Los Angeles, will give her inaugural address as the 2018-2019 International President of IIDA.

Tickets are available for the IIDA COOL Gala to be held on the evening of Sunday, June 10, at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, which was beautifully renovated this past year. Reserve your tickets at this link for COOL.

On the opening day of NeoCon, after you’ve had a full day within the friendly confines of theMART, join the IIDA team for a reception at our IIDA headquarters office. The reception is from 3 to 6 p.m. on Monday June 11, at 111 East Wacker Drive, Suite 222.

Reports with Insights from Practitioners and Students

At headquarters, we are busy putting the final touches on a few key resources. Later this month, we will be releasing both the IIDA Industry Roundtable Report and the IIDA Student Roundtable Report online. The IIDA Industry Roundtable Report will summarize high-level discussions held at the IIDA headquarters in January. And the IIDA Student Roundtable Report is a summary of four gatherings of students and professionals, sponsored by OFS, held in the past six months in various cities across the country. The findings in both reports will be enlightening as we have a meaningful, continued dialogue about the future of the design profession.

And in case you may have missed it: You will find the results of the IIDA Interior Design Compensation Report to be informative. Released just two months ago, the report is an analysis of salary and benefit information that enables design leaders to monitor the health of the industry. According to the report, design professionals’ salaries are on the rise: 69 percent of respondents report receiving a raise in 2017. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession will grow an additional five percent over the next decade. Learn more about the report—and the IIDA compensation calculator—at this link.

That’s all I have for now. Please visit me and the IIDA team in Chicago (in our fantastic office designed by Todd Heiser, IIDA, and his team at Gensler). And you’ll see me on the road, too, at HD Expo in Las Vegas in early May and at the AIA Conference on Architecture in late June in New York. Contact me at, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!


Leaders Breakfast 2016: Looking Back – Moving Forward

With no plans of slowing down, the IIDA Leaders Breakfast had one of its biggest and most successful years in 2016 since the program began in 1989. The eight-city series event – created to connect design leaders through a dynamic program of inspiring keynote speakers, a celebration of local design luminaries, and great conversation with colleagues – has become a favorite signature experience. With Interior Design Media and Herman Miller as the International Benefactors of the event, we are proud to present the highlights of Leaders Breakfast 2016.


View the complete roster of Leaders Breakfast 2016 keynotes and honorees. Learn more about Leaders Breakfast and stay tuned for 2017 dates to be announced soon. 

IIDA Response to White House Occupational Licensing Report

Today, the White House released a report, “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers,” on occupational licensing. It provides a cost-benefit analysis of occupational licensing based on current data and suggests a number of best practices for state legislatures in regards to occupational licensing.

In the report, best practices for occupational licensing include:

  1. Limiting requirements to those that address legitimate public health and safety concerns.
  2. Applying the results of comprehensive cost-benefit assessments of licensing laws to reduce the number of unnecessary or overly-restrictive licenses.
  3. Harmonizing regulatory requirements as much as possible, and where appropriate entering into inter-state compacts that recognize licenses from other states, to increase the mobility of skilled workers.
  4. Allowing practitioners to offer services to the full extent of their current competency to ensure that all qualified workers are able to offer services.

The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) believes and supports the best practice of allowing practitioners to offer services to the full extent of their competency underscores the reason the Commercial Interior Design industry is striving to pass meaningful legislation. In most states current architecture licensing laws prevent qualified interior designers from providing services to the “full extent of their current competency.” IIDA is working to expand the number of practitioners providing interior design services to consumers in the code-impacted interior environment. We also believe lawmakers should apply cost-benefit analysis to ensure laws serve the best interest of their state.

The report also states that one of the reasons licensing laws exist is to protect the public’s health and safety, and is especially important in situations where it is costly or difficult for consumers to obtain information on service quality. Licensure of interior design would alleviate the consumer’s burden of design service quality verification.

Additionally, IIDA agrees with the White House report that licensing should not impede a designer’s ability to move or provide services in more than one state. Laws should reflect the mobility of workers and provide for reciprocity between states.

IIDA is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates as needed. IIDA does not believe that the White House report is damaging to our efforts to pass meaningful interior design legislation, and we will continue to advocate on behalf of the Interior Design profession.

Edwards, Julia. (2015, July 28). House Report Calls for Eased Job Licensing Requirements. Reuters 

Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers. (2015). Washington, DC: The White House. 

Advocacy Spotlight: Rocky Mountain Chapter

Karen Hailey, IIDA, is the Vice President of Advocacy for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. She recently created an excellent presentation that covered the basics of interior design advocacy using Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software. We asked her a few questions about the presentation and advocating in a state without pending legislation.

What inspired you to create the presentation?
Explaining legislative issues can be tricky. We really needed a presentation that was stripped down and simplified in order to focus on a single message. The intent was to make the content clear and, most importantly, usable. In addition, we needed to present definitive and concise answers to some of the misconceptions and opposition that we face when advocating for interior design. None of the content is new or groundbreaking but is just gathered and presented in a fresh way.

Prezi isn’t the usual presentation format, but it makes for a more dynamic presentation. How did the chapter respond to a new presentation style?
One of the best features that Prezi has to offer is its ability to organize information graphically. The ability to make dynamic thought bubbles and visually describe the links between concepts really helps to explain a multifaceted topic. The audience seemed to respond really well to the presentation format. The less formal nature of it seemed to make it easier for people to open up and participate in discussion. I didn’t see anyone fall asleep, so I think that’s a good sign.

What impact has the CEU and your advocacy efforts had on the chapter and level of interest from members?
The CEU presentation sparked great discussion and helped to empower the participants to be advocates in their day-to-day lives. IIDA Rocky Mountain Chapter’s advocacy efforts continue to evolve. This CEU was a kick off to a fresh and intentional approach to outreach for us. One of the main messages in the presentation is that making change for the profession is accomplished by grassroots advocating efforts. The more our coworkers, friends, families, and colleges understand the health, safety, and welfare impacts of interior design, the more they can spread this clear message to their networks. My goal for our chapter is to give the design community the right tools to do this.

How do you promote advocacy in your chapter when there isn’t an active interior design bill in your state?
In Colorado, we do not currently have an active bill. The purpose of creating the aforementioned presentation was to drum up advocacy efforts in this “off-season.” This can be the most important time to promote advocacy because you are building a network base of supporters in order to be prepared for new interior design legislation. This is also a time to take a step back and critically analyze past efforts.

During an inactive legislative year, it is important to stay present. Work with your coalition and lobbyists to get designers in front of legislators and start changing perceptions when the stakes are not so high. Most importantly, remind people to continually advocate for the future of the Interior Design profession.

What do you wish other people knew about interior design legislation?
It is a long process to turn a big ship. It takes a LOT of small conversations to change a big perception. These grassroots efforts require everyone’s participation. Our coalitions can’t reach all of the people that the individuals in the design community can. It is crucial to promote the profession through support of the coalitions and through individual advocacy efforts. It is often difficult to get coalition membership but it is a vital component in influencing legislative outcomes. The coalitions employ lobbyists and act as the legislative watchdogs for the profession; they need member support.

View the presentation!

Advocacy Spotlight: Intermountain Chapter and IDEAL for Utah

Interior Design Education and Legislation for Utah (IDEAL for Utah), the Utah interior design coalition, introduced interior design legislation during the Utah State Legislature’s 2015 session. The Intermountain Chapter, IDEAL for Utah, and their lobbyist, Amy Coombs, have worked diligently and passionately to support the legislation, which was introduced in both the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Senate. We reached out to Coombs and Melanie Bahl, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, President of IDEAL for Utah, and asked them a few questions about the process and all of their hard work.

What helped the coalition decide this year was the year to introduce legislation?
Once we were able to detail the strategy and received positive feedback from those we tested the proposal with, we felt an attempt was warranted. We were like “blind mice” not knowing what we needed to do until we found a knowledgeable lobbyist, who was familiar with the industry.

What has surprised you about the legislative process?
We have been most surprised at how quickly things change. [We learned that] the legislative process is challenging. We also realized how uncertain things are and how relationships are interconnected. We have also learned the importance to leverage relationships whether it’s a family friend, a client, [or] a constituent. It’s necessary to connect individuals to build solid relationships.

We are also surprised how much is decided upon prior to the committee meetings. You must feel confident going into a committee meeting that you have provided the legislators with enough information that they feel confident voting in favor.

We’ve learned that it’s never too early to plant seeds and build relationships. Where we were once terrified to talk with legislators, we found that they are just like us, passionate with their beliefs and want to make things better. Have confidence when you speak with them knowing that you are the expert and it is your responsibility to educate them. Don’t underestimate the power in numbers — numbers contacting the legislators, numbers sending letters, numbers attending committee meetings.

Lastly, we are surprised how you can do everything right and not get the outcome desired.

What do you wish other people knew about interior design legislation?
Great question! We wish that the public was more aware of the value that interior designers bring to projects in their communities. We wish legislators would not be so dismissive at first regarding the issue. We don’t know how many times we have said, “It is so much more than pillows and paint.” Most people do not know the kind of projects that interior designers work on, the amount of education that is often required, and the current barriers to practice.
Furthermore, we want interior designers to realize that they are being limited. We wish interior designers were aware of the limitations placed on their ability to practice independently to their full [ability].

How has the IIDA Intermountain Chapter supported the legislative efforts?
[The Intermountain Chapter] has been instrumental in our efforts. Specifically, [the chapter] has offered support via the many conference calls where we discuss what has happened in previous states, evaluating bill language, communications/ email campaigns, and especially in educational materials. A large factor in calculating success comes from the availability of accurate information and the accessibility of the advocacy team at IIDA is a tremendous benefit to coalitions.