2019 Advocacy Symposium Inspires Collboration in Public Interest

The 5th annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium, held this past September in Boston, was a resounding success thanks to a bevy of informative speakers, engaged attendees, and meaningful advocacy conversations. We cannot say thank you enough to our sponsors IdeaPaint who hosted the opening reception, and Allsteel who hosted Saturday’s event.

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IIDA member attendees tour the Massachusetts State House. Image: Caitlin Cunningham

On Friday, attendees were welcomed to the Massachusetts State House, one of the premier examples of Federal architecture on the East Coast. Docents gave a guided tour of the historic building before attendees settled in for a keynote presentation from Arline Isaacson, president of Isaacson Consulting. Ms. Isaacson was a lead advocate in the fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts and integral in the passage of the first same-sex marriage law in the United States. Her inspirational story included practical advice on having more than just a good idea, but how to do the work to back it up. Next up, our lobbyists from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Utah had an enlightening panel conversation about the work that goes into passing a piece of interior design legislation in today’s political climate.

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2019 Advocate of the Year Chealyn Jackson, IIDA. Image: Caitlin Cunningham

The day ended with an awards ceremony, naming Chealyn Jackson, IIDA, VP of advocacy for the Ohio-Kentucky Chapter, the 2019 IIDA Advocate of the Year. Three Legislator of the Year awards were presented by IIDA New England to their bill sponsors, Senator (MA) Joan Lovely, Representative (MA) Elizabeth Poirier, and Representative (MA) Patricia A. Haddad.

On Saturday, we focused on the successes and challenges of advocacy at the chapter and the state levels. Members from Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin, and South Florida shared techniques for successful advocacy, discussed challenges they have overcome, and identified opportunities for the future of interior design advocacy. Next up, Tracey Thomas, director of strategic sales at IIDA, gave an energetic presentation on the power of persuasion that provided attendees with communication strategies tailored for advocacy efforts.

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Attendees of the Symposium. Image: Caitlin Cunningham

The Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) provided an update, which was followed by a panel discussion covering the changing and unchanging landscape of interior design legislation that featured John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA; Megan Blacklidge, IIDA, Mid-America Chapter member; Matthew Whitehead, vice president of the Governmental Policy Group, Inc; and Amy Coombs, founder and executive director of Prestige Government Relations.

This was followed by two panel discussions to close out the weekend; the first focusing on effective communication strategies for chapter leaders to engage their chapters in advocacy efforts, and the second focusing on discussing advocacy at multidisciplinary firms.

We can’t wait to see you all next year at the 6th annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detail, specify, notate, and repeat

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

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

IIDA student programs provide growth opportunities during and after school

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

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

 

 

 

 

Get Ready for the 2019 IIDA Advocacy Symposium

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


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

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

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Florida: IIDA and ASID Lead Advocacy Team Against Restrictive New Proposals

Once again, the interior design profession is in the crosshairs of two pieces of legislation that seek to deregulate a variety of professions in the state of Florida. These proposals, HB 27 and SB 1640, have the support of a popular governor and the Florida Speaker of the House of Representatives. For several months, ASID and IIDA staff, member Government Affairs Representatives/chapter leaders, the profession’s contracted Florida consultants, and both organizations’ chief executives have been preparing for this moment and the forthcoming effort to make sure that at the end of the legislative session, interior designers are recognized by the State in an appropriate way befitting the professionalism of the practice.

HB 27 and SB 1640, which were introduced on March 1, 2018, will do several things. They would:

  • Stipulate, “A license or registration is not required for a person whose occupation or practice is confined to interior design or interior design services”;
  • Remove the interior design members from the current Board of Architecture & Interior Design and rename it as “The Board of Architecture”;
  • Remove “interior designer” from the definition of “Design Professional” in statute leaving only architects, engineers, and landscape architects;
  • Amend the definition of an interior designer under the “Qualified Expert” in the Building Construction Standards statute by deleting “an interior designer licensed under chapter 481” and replacing it with “An interior designer who has passed the qualification examination prescribed by either the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications or the California Council for Interior Design Certification.”

Additionally, as the result of IIDA and ASID’s proactive efforts in Tallahassee this year, unlike past deregulatory bills targeting Florida interior design, this year’s bills attempt (in theory) to maintain the ability of interior designers to independently submit interior design documents for permit by:

  • Stipulating, “Interior design documents submitted for the issuance of a building permit by an individual performing interior design services who is not a licensed architect must include written proof that such individual has successfully passed the qualification examination prescribed by either the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications or the California Council for Interior Design Certification” and,
  • Stipulating these documents, “must be accepted by the permitting body for the issuance of building permit for interior construction…”

IIDA and ASID Headquarters, in conjunction with ASID Florida chapters, IIDA Florida chapters, and unaffiliated designers, are jointly fighting to defeat or positively amend these bills to the best of our abilities.

To combat any harmful effects from these bills, IIDA, ASID, and our Florida teams, to date, have:

  • Assembled a biweekly call of leaders from Florida IIDA and ASID chapters to keep them apprised of our efforts and how members can assist;
  • Created an advocacy communication plan for Florida chapters concerning this issue;
  • Created new advocacy materials for use in Florida;
  • Retained Nortelus Roberts Group, a lobbying firm in Tallahassee, Florida, year-round and retained additional counsel to assist in the effort;
  • Created a synopsis of the two bills for chapters, similar to what has been laid out here;
  • Created a defensive narrative for chapter use in op-eds and letters to the editor across Florida;
  • Organized a Phone2Action Campaign so members may easily contact their legislators to voice their disagreement with the bills;
  • Testified before both the House and Senate.

As of April 8, Senator Joe Gruters of Florida’s 23rd district sponsored an amendment to remove interior design from the deregulation bill. The amendment was adopted and passed in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. However, the industry is not in the clear yet since the bill still has to complete the legislative process and eventually go the to the governor for signature or veto. IIDA and ASID remain hopeful that interior designers will stay out of the bill, and staff and lobbyists continue to work on a compromise to appease both the design community and the legislature in Florida.


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

Jon Otis Gets Real About the Future of Interior Design Education

Many of us can name the first teacher who made us feel truly heard or inspired us to pursue a longtime passion. We don’t always get the opportunity to thank these teachers the way we want to, but sometimes we do: In 2017 Jon Otis, IIDA, tenured professor at Pratt Institute and founder and principal of Object Agency (O|A), was recognized as the IIDA Educator of the Year.

Jon’s clients are varied, from the Sundance Channel to the National Basketball Players Association, and his credentials impressive (he is both a Fulbright and Lusk Fellowship recipient). He has had a distinguished teaching career with over 20 years at Pratt and a 2009 Most Admired Educator award from Design Intelligence.

We checked in with Jon to get his thoughts on what drives him as a design educator, how the IIDA award has helped him start his new diversity in design foundation, and his hopes for the future of interior design education.

IIDA: What do you see as your primary purpose as a design educator?

Jon Otis: Our primary purpose as design educators is to connect and to inspire. To install a passion for learning, to prepare our students as best we possibly can for a career in design, and to encourage them to think, to be discerning, to be critical and even, perhaps, to be humble.

Digital technology has been the most radical change since I started teaching in the late 1990’s. That has been the most critical innovation, and for the most part it has facilitated many things, but it has also impacted education in many negative ways. With that being said, it means that I’ve got to try and fill the gaps that technology has created, while staying abreast of the things that I can’t control so that my teaching remains relevant and interesting to my students.

IIDA: Can you tell us what it meant to you to be named the recipient of last year’s Educator of the Year Award?

JO: It was an amazing feelingan acknowledgement that is largely overlooked in our culture. Educators are most often the forgotten heroes. I say that not because of how I view my own abilities, but because of how my teachers have been the most important people in my life and how they have shaped it more than anyone, other than my parents. To be part of that heritage and to be honored for it is a dream come true.

IIDA: Has being named an IIDA Educator of the Year influenced your career? 

JO: Something that I’ve learnedand it has taken many years to do sois that a lot of teaching is about accepting humility. You must let go of the ego if you really want to reach your students. [Since winning the IIDA award] I’ve continued along this path feeling good about the acknowledgment and the honor. It’s perhaps instilled more self-confidence that I’m doing something right.

IIDA: You mentioned in your acceptance speech that you intend to dedicate part of your award to a diversity in design education initiative. Can you tell us more about that?

JO: We’ve been moving forward with the diversity in design initiative, dubbing it “dxdf” for “Diversity by Design Foundation.” The purpose of dxdf is to foster more diverse and inclusive environments in the field of design. dxdf will ultimately focus its efforts on targeting the pipeline from early education to practice, funding initiatives that encourage people of all backgrounds to see a career in design as a viable path for their lives. We recently incorporated as a nonprofit and are awaiting our tax ID for fundraising purposes. For now, we are working to raise awareness.

IIDA: If you had to choose the next Educator of the Year, what qualities would you look for in a candidate?

JO: I would want that person to be aware of, and interested in, helping our field to be more diverse. Whether that happens in the community or in the university, I do believe that it should be on any candidate’s agenda.

In terms of teaching interior design, I’d look for someone who is truly committed to the field, passionate about how critical it is to improve peoples’ lives, and having a diverse pedagogical approach.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how design curricula needs to evolve and how we must devise new curricula because, from a design education perspective, we’re teaching the same way since I was in school (aside from the use of new technologies, materials, etc.). A young Hispanic interior design student expressed frustration that nothing discussed in her classes is geared towards her culture or her economic strata. Another student from India indicated how Eurocentric the “canon” of design is, as if no design exists outside of Europe and the United States. I believe that design curricula need to broaden and consider other cultures that have quite a lot to contribute to a more comprehensive view of design.

My former mentor, Ettore Sottsass, was deeply engaged in exploring different cultures. He spent a lot of time in India and Africa, traveled around the world, and brought back what influenced him, which is what shaped his work. He lived life fully, and in living life that way, he expressed a global view of design rather than a “studied” one. We should all be asking: What’s happening in India? Vietnam? Ghana? Chile? What are they doing that’s a response to their culture, or a response to global culture and re-informed by their local cultures? The new paradigm ought to be a reevaluation of how we teach design and what we emphasize.


Learn more about Jon and his work by visiting the O|A website

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.