On June 30, advocacy work done in partnership with IIDA and ASID on behalf of interior designers, saw great success in the state of Florida as Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the Deregulation of Professions & Occupations Bill. This achievement is made possible through the advocacy work from IIDA and ASID, as well as the support and hard work of the Florida design community and colleague organizations such as the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ).
The deregulation bill ensures the integrity of the interior design profession and public safety through the formation of a voluntary state interior design registry. Interior designers in Florida will benefit from the law maintaining the title “Registered Interior Designer” for qualified designers, the interior design positions on the Board of Architecture & Interior Design, the interior design construction document stamp for plan review, and that “Registered Interior Designers” will fall within the statutory definition of “registered design professional.”
The following is an excerpt from IIDA’s annual Industry Roundtable report, Industry Roundtable 23: The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife. Read the full report here.
There is no mathematical formula for creating products and spaces that are engaging and compelling—that end-users want to spend time with and in. That said, Holger Hampf of BMW Designworks relies on a set of “power tools” to create designs that have “stickiness”—an attribute that’s getting harder to achieve in our consumerist age of disposability and endless trade-ins and upgrades. “We’re in a dangerous moment where we are able to build excitement for—but not attachment to—objects,” he says with some urgency. “We need to find ways of retaining excitement and building attachment to our designs over time.”
Layering emotive, tonal qualities atop the physical, “object” qualities can enhance the sense of discovery and surprise. It’s an approach that correlates to the workplace, for which we design space around specific behaviors and to foster new types of behaviors. It’s the reverse of starting from an aesthetic style or visual cues. Notions like shape and style come only after first considering the behavior we wish to support, as well as defining the attributes we expect and want the design to deliver.
Another intriguing, if concerning, aspect of our cultural moment is a lowered standard regarding what we consume. “Everything we experience these days is compressed and pixelated”—meaning the music and images that stream through our smartphones and Internet cables. “We have started to accept the low res, which to me, as a designer, is a disaster.” It’s also a design challenge to be solved. “How can we extrapolate and create experiences that don’t feel compressed?” Hampf proposes. There’s the opportunity to create more relevant, authentic, “hi-res” experiences for our clients.
Design is Ultimately Human
“Automation/AI will change every industry, product, and service, including our profession,” says Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, Assoc. AIA. Indeed, it already has. Consider the advent of smart test fits. Verda Alexander, IIDA, had a darker take, cautioning that “AI and genetic modification will pose new problems for jobs—and increasing inequality.”
But where we once used to fear the robots, we now want to partner with them. It’s not about man versus machine, but man and machine. Perhaps in the future, there will be VR interfaces and “prosthetics that fundamentally blur the boundary of human and machine—cyborgs,” Susana Covarrubias, IIDA, predicts. “Interfaces that highlight human interactions are what’s most important.”
But for now, we need to work together better. AI is here to stay and will only become more useful and prevalent. Technology is now often viewed as a positive enabler. This is a shift from the usual party line which supports that technology undermines human connection. Technology can reduce loneliness, for example, a cultural phenomenon that concerns many industry leaders. Julia Feldmeier, journalist and brand anthropologist notes, “Technology gives us a sense of rootedness in a culture defined by the failure of institutions, a culture in which people no longer trust religion or corporations or government.”
Events of the past centuries, the past decades, and most recently in past weeks and days have painfully and plainly illuminated the disparities in our culture and society. We are at a pivotal moment where we must face great societal challenges that will not be repaired without great collective effort. Confronting racism, injustice, and a need for equity is critical to moving forward, and current events expose how much work needs to be done for us all to really “be in this together.” We know that design is but one small part of that larger equation—so why not start with the change we can most immediately affect?
Design illuminates disparity and helps close the gaps—from healthcare and education to public space and urban planning. Design in all its manifestations is a force for change.
Recently at IIDA, we’ve considered, like so many of you, what “re-entry” and a return to life in a post-pandemic world might be. Certainly, not the same world we left behind four months ago. And definitely not a so-called “new normal.” Frankly, the old normal wasn’t exactly working that well for us. For the environment. For people of color. For the LGBTQIA community. For so many.
So what will we come back to?
Quite simply, the spaces that encompass where our lives happen—the places where we heal, where we work, where we learn, where we gather, museums, theatres, playgrounds, schools, sports facilities, stadiums, civic centers, libraries, concert halls, outdoor festivals—all the places that perhaps we took for granted before, are now places filled with nostalgia. As we re-enter these spaces, let us mandate that they be healthier and safer, but importantly also more inclusive, more equitable—DESIGN FOR HUMANITY.
The power of our collective energy is more important than ever, and we should and will consider how we function as a global design community and how we hold strong to those foundational values. The spaces we envision and create, envelop and contain those values and this time requires a broadened vocabulary of collaboration. One where we are open to learning, expanding our societal and world views, and maintaining a through-line of equity and humanity in all the work we do.
Design and design strategies can develop the tools we need to create our safer spaces. As we head into the future and the inevitable aftermath of this global crisis, public and commercial interiors will be looked at through a new lens. Within interior design, there will be more of an emphasis on the way that people move within a space and how that enables them to interact.
Health, well-being, and wellness, must be at the forefront, and our interior spaces and the furniture, fabrics, and materials will be held to and regulated at much higher standards. It must be reinforced that no matter the neighborhood we live in, no matter where we exist socioeconomically, no matter our race, gender, or background, we all deserve to live with these fundamental design values and with DIGNITY.
Designers have always put humans first, and in a post pandemic world, humans and their safety and well-being are of paramount importance. And for now, for next, and for always, design will do what design does best, support and uplift humanity and culture. Design is indeed the business of life. Now more than ever, the world requires what design so abundantly endows—grace, civility, compassion, clarity, connection, common sense, empathy, well-being, comfort, healing, hope, and EQUITY.
We have to stand together as humans dedicated to the betterment of our society. Let us continue to be a force for good in this world and take responsibility individually and collectively for envisioning and enacting change, progress, and JUSTICE.
Design is forever an act of optimism, and we can little afford in our activism to not be optimistic about our collective future.
All my best wishes to you for peace, safety, good health, and well-being. Stay hopeful and stay strong.
2020-2021 International Board President Sascha Wagner discusses the roles of community and design in the process of evolving through crisis, and the need for adaptability in our environments.
Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, begins his term as the 2020-2021 IIDA International Board of Directors President during a time that is uniquely impacting our lives. As President and CEO of Huntsman Architectural Group, which has offices in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, Wagner oversees a firm with expertise in workplace, residential, and building repositioning design. Born and raised in Germany, Wagner holds degrees from the University of Toronto and Ringling College of Art and Design. He has previously served as IIDA Northern California chapter president, and more recently as vice president and president-elect on the IIDA International Board of Directors. While we are unable to gather in person to celebrate the beginning of his term and to listen to his inaugural remarks, Wagner shares his thoughts on the profession, design at this critical juncture, and on the next generation.
John Czarnecki: You begin your term as the 2020-2021 IIDA International Board President in an extremely challenging time. What are your thoughts and expectations for IIDA as a member organization?
Sascha Wagner: While acknowledging that this is a difficult time for the world at large and the design profession, this can also be a critical opportunity for commercial designers to help shape the future. IIDA has always been a great connector for our professional, student, and industry members, as well as design firms, product manufacturers, and our clients who benefit from good design. Strengthening these links is even more critical now, as we are all likely to work and collaborate from a distance for quite a while. People inherently have a need for belonging and a sense of place, and the role of IIDA as a member organization is more important than ever. I look forward to serving as IIDA International Board President in the coming year, as IIDA continues to provide relevant content and resources, connects members in meaningful interactions, and amplifies our members’ collective voice about the power of design to impact the human experience.
Going forward, human health in the built environment must be our priority. Our profession’s mandate to advocate and design for health, sustainability, equity, and social impact is only heightened. Spaces tell a story of values. Today’s acute focus on disease prevention adds a new dimension, and, as an industry, we are learning how built spaces can positively impact human wellbeing even more effectively. Looking further ahead, we can be hopeful that a post-pandemic future with an added emphasis on the importance of place will help to transcend the economic impact of 2020.
JC: So much is being written about what a return to the office will look like and the ways it may vary based on city and region. While the coming months will be challenging, and the impact may be lasting, what is your expectation for the future of the workplace a few years from now?
SW: We are currently operating in triage mode, retrofitting existing workspaces and adjusting how we use them for the next year or more. How much of this initial response will influence long-term post-pandemic decisions on real estate footprints and workplace design remains a critical question. Designers and clients are being forced to rethink the very nature of interactions between people in the built environment. Making people feel safe as well as besafe will be the key. Organizations will likely become more resilient and agile, and think of their workforce more supportively, I hope. The purpose and function of the office will evolve, and designers will continue to work with our forward-thinking clients to design places for culture and connection.
JC: As President and CEO of Huntsman Architectural Group, overseeing a firm with multiple offices, are there lessons that you are taking from this experience in terms of firm leadership and management?
SW: Every design firm is faced with challenges today, including ours. A crisis only amplifies an organization’s DNA. Our management team has always sought to be as transparent as possible in decision making and in conveying our situation, priorities, and plans to the employee-owners. At a time in which everything is uncertain, sharing information candidly helps to provide needed clarity and trust. As leaders, it is also okay to admit when we do not have all the answers, provided that we listen to others. Maintaining a social fabric is also important: While working from home, we have been focusing on staying connected with all-staff meetings, studio calls, happy hours, and sharing recipes and even childhood photos. We are going through this together, and in some ways, teams across our offices feel closer than before.
“Design is by nature an optimistic endeavor.”
JC: Our design profession is being called upon now for expertise in all commercial interiors, including workplaces, healthcare settings, schools, hospitality, and retail. What is your hope for the design profession overall as our knowledge and skills are in demand in increasingly urgent ways?
SW: The initial response from our design profession, including firms 3D-printing PPE and IIDA members volunteering in their communities, has been incredible. Many designers have openly published ideas and planning strategies for adapting our public settings—offices, stores, restaurants, and schools—to keep people safe. While designers are not healthcare providers, we have a deep knowledge of human behavior in the built environment and we solve complex problems in a multi-disciplinary and iterative design process. Collectively, we will keep learning, sharing, and improving solutions. In the long term, I hope buildings and interior spaces will become more resilient and human health-centric, which is a positive development out of a tragic premise. Design is by nature an optimistic endeavor.
JC: Designers are also strategists and can be at the forefront of multi-disciplinary teams designing healthy interiors with wellness in mind. How do you foresee the role of “designer as strategist” evolving?
SW: I see an opportunity for design professionals to further develop expertise in organizational development, human behavior, and the psychology of design to add greater value when defining future strategies for wellness in the built environment. Design strategy addresses the questions of how people interact with the physical environment as well as why. Physical health, emotional wellbeing, and connection to culture and brand are all important aspects of this relationship between people and place. Organizations are now faced with re-mapping some of these connections. But we are not going to live in isolation forever. The personal experiences one has working in an office, shopping in a store, or eating in a restaurant are valuable beyond the convenience of online equivalents. How we return to more meaningful interactions is a complex challenge to undertake. Designers are well-positioned to help lead this effort, with the input of health experts and others.
JC: Savvy designers incorporate sustainable design practices regularly in their projects. How are issues of sustainable design amplified by this moment?
SW: The concept of a triple bottom line—ensuring human wellbeing, protecting the planet, and economic benefit—remains highly relevant. Ultimately, we cannot let our reaction to this pandemic come at the expense of the environment. As we are now evaluating building systems, products, finishes, behaviors, and even sanitizing protocols from an antiviral perspective, we also have to continue to mitigate any negative impacts on the planet. At a larger scale, looking at work scenarios that reduce commuting and travel—not just remote working from home, but perhaps regional hubs or hybrid solutions—can help to reduce our environmental footprint in a significant way and have a positive impact.
“Being involved in IIDA certainly helped me feel fully immersed and connected in the profession early on, and that continues today.”
JC: Do you have any advice for those graduating from design programs entering the profession today?
SW: Speaking with a group of graduating students recently, I was amazed at their positivity and resilience as they are finishing the school year from home. I would ask students to remember that their chosen profession is an important one because, as designers, they can make a unique contribution to our future world. Even with a potentially delayed start, now is the time for graduates to begin building a network with design professionals and peers in preparation for entering the workforce. IIDA is the perfect platform to connect students and emerging professionals. Being involved in IIDA certainly helped me feel fully immersed and connected in the profession early on, and that continues today. We need that sense of connection, especially during challenging times like these, and that is what IIDA provides.
Despite the current state of uncertainty in our world, firms and designers should still look to design competitions for creative and professional validation, portfolio building, and community engagement.
While it may seem like an unusual time to be entering your latest design projects into competitions—with the ongoing global pandemic profoundly changing the ways we conduct business—design competitions can be especially valuable for both you and your firm. Thought moments of celebration are being hampered across the world, firms and designers can and should still look for ways to honor achievement and gain recognition for their accomplishments.
It’s important to promote your interior design innovations in sustainability, health and safety, and accessibility—and provide your design team with a sense of validation. Your newly realized or in-progress interior design projects will be setting the tone for what we continue to build and design in a post-pandemic world.
The process of applying to a competition can be a powerful team-builder.
No matter what kind of award or competition you are applying for, there is a great deal of work to be done by everyone on your team. From organizing project information to sourcing photos and renderings, a competition application is a commitment. If you look at applying as a team exercise with team-building as an additional goal it may inspire collaboration and creativity amongst designers. Like design itself, the application process can result in the sharing of perspectives, new takes on future projects, and defining your value as a firm.
Awards and competitions may help you achieve a promotional goal, whether you win or not.
Whether your firm is looking to attract new talent, or your team wants to take on larger-scale projects with big-name clients, placing in competitions is a great and straightforward way to show ‘em what you’ve got. Having your project highlighted as a competition winner can be a window into your design process or a way to demonstrate your firm’s strengths to an international design audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every competition will be what Bilboa was for Frank Gehry, but they can certainly help put you on the map in ways that internal promotion may not.
Competitions can be morale boosters and team motivators.
When you submit a design project to be considered for an award, it sends the message to your design team that their work is valued and deserves to be celebrated. At a time when workflow may be paused or future projects uncertain, the competition can reinstill excitement for the hard work and creativity within your firm. No matter what kind of work you do or what your professional end goals may be, receiving an award or accolade simply feels good and can provide a renewed sense of inspiration or affirmation.
Winning or placing in a competition enhances your firm’s portfolio, which can potentially attract more clients.
Awards offer credibility that may be attractive to clients—especially clients who are new to the process of selecting a design firm. Placing in a competition communicates with current and future clients that your design team is organized, has excellent follow-through, communicates well, takes pride in their work, and understands their strengths. If a competition publishes winning projects in major design publications, such as when Will Ching Design Competition winner OpenUU was featured in Interior Design, this can also increase the traffic to your firm’s website and result in more interest.
Competitions connect you with the wider design community.
Many competitions and awards have both regional and international audiences and applicants, meaning that when you apply to a design competition, you become a part of a robust network of professionals and designers. Competitions allow you to indirectly become involved in associations, organizations, design publications, and other firms. At a time when social distancing is the norm, anything that meaningfully connects you with your external community is more valuable than ever.
Sign up for Designed for Excellence, the bi-weekly newsletter dedicated to IIDA competitions and awards updates, plus news on events, celebrations, and award-winning design projects. Email Clare Socker at email@example.com to be added to the subscriber list.
Lead image: 47th Annual Interior Design Competition Winner | ICS kindergarten by Fun connection design | Photo by: Yue Wu, courtesy of Fun connection design
In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the fifth webinar in the series today.
Leaders in hospitality design whose clients include major global brands and renowned restaurateurs address challenges in overseeing a practice during this time. Join moderator John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA, and a panel of design experts based in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as they discuss the re-emergence of the hospitality industry, design for the human experience, and the future of interiors of hotels, restaurants, and places to gather.
The conversation, while focused on hospitality—the design of hotels, restaurants, and the hospitality industry overall—touched on topics of interest for the entire commercial interior design industry. The designers shared how their firms are supporting their employees, the status of their projects in the U.S. and globally, and how the business of their clients—hoteliers and restaurateurs—are impacted. They also shared expertise on how this moment will influence hospitality interior design in the immediate term and post-pandemic future, reflecting on how lessons from this moment could affect restaurants and hotel communal spaces.
As Czarnecki noted in the session’s opening remarks, “Even if you are not a designer in the hospitality sector, you enjoy going to restaurants, you travel, and you’re certainly interested in the future of the hospitality industry as an important sector of the economy. The designers in this session also offer lessons that can be applicable to the design of other projects as well.”
This webinar is registered for 1 IDCEC HSW CEU. To learn more about earning your CEU credit, visit IIDA.org for more information.