IIDA Headquarters to Host Designers and Architects Talk

I am excited to welcome the design and architecture community of Chicago to the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) headquarters this spring for a superb series of talks.

IIDA, together with AIA Chicago in a first-ever collaboration, will present a series of Wednesday evening talks called “Designers and Architects Talk: A Series About Design and its Impact on Client Success,” that will address commercial interior architecture and design. Both architects and commercial interior designers will learn from the provocative discussions about projects, firm leadership, and design strategy.

March 20 – McDonald’s Headquarters: Impact on a Company, a City, and a Neighborhood

Speakers are Tish Kruse, principal, IA Interior Architects; Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, principal, Studio O+A; Scott Phillips, director of workplace management, McDonald’s; Neil Schneider, Assoc. IIDA, principal IA Interior Architects; and Grant Uhlir, FAIA, co-regional managing principal, Gensler. I will be moderating.

April 17 – New, Bold, and Entrepreneurial: Design Firms Changing the Face of Chicago

Speakers are Jason Hall, principal, Charlie Greene Studio; Ami Kahalekulu, partner, Twofold Studio; Sarah Kuchar, IIDA, creative director, Sarah Kuchar Studio; and Deon Lucas, AIA, NOMA, director, Beehyyve, E.G. Woode. The moderator is Chicago-based architect and AIA national board member Peter Exley, FAIA.

May 22 – Women Leading Hospitality Design in Chicago

Karen Herold, principal, Studio K; Jackie Koo, AIA, IIDA, principal, KOO; Laurie Miller, AIA, principal, Anderson/Miller; Meg Prendergast, principal, Gettys Group; and Patricia Rotondo, Assoc. AIA, IIDA, senior principal, Antunovich Associates. IIDA EVP/CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, will be the moderator.

Ticket sales have begun for all sessions, and advance purchase is necessary to reserve a seat. Members of IIDA or AIA have a special ticket price of $10/session or $25 for a seat to all three sessions. The public is welcome at $20 per session. Student members of IIDA, AIAS, or AIA Chicago are free.

Sessions allow for 1 IDCEC-approved CEU for interior designers and 1 AIA-approved LU for architects.

Order your tickets now.

Thank you to Host Sponsor Corporate Concepts, Inc., and Champion Sponsors: Bernhardt Design, Mohawk Group, Mortarr, Patcraft, Shaw Contract, Steelcase, Tarkett, and Wilkhahn.

Cultivating a More Diverse Design Profession

This post was contributed by Krista Sykes, a writer and editor with a background in architecture and design. She has worked with many practitioners, institutions, and publications in the industry, including Contract magazine. 


The 2018 IIDA Student Roundtable series looked to the future of design with a focus on diversity. Interior design students and key speakers, including some IIDA International Board Members, participated in conversations that took place in New York and Los Angeles. The following is a summary of those discussions. A full in-depth report about the series will be released by IIDA in March.

As the world becomes increasingly diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity, the interior design profession faces a distinct challenge: how can practitioners create environments that support and celebrate these rich differences? And how can the design profession better reflect a more diverse world? In fall 2018, IIDA presented the IIDA Future of Design Roundtable Series—two roundtable events in New York and Los Angeles—where a total of 35 interior design students and 11 educators and practitioners gathered to discuss this issue. What emerged in the series, sponsored by OFS, was an unqualified call for change. Specifically, to successfully design for diverse audiences, there must first be a push to cultivate diversity within the interior design profession. For this to happen, it is up to all, in every level of the profession, to take action.

Diversity itself is a complex issue, encompassing different expressions of race, religion, sexual preference, income level, cultural background, generational affiliation, and one’s stage in life as well as geographic location. As expected, the conversations in New York City and Los Angeles sounded quite different, as would those in any other city. Nevertheless, both roundtable discussions echoed common themes that offer broader lessons about diversity’s essential role in the future of the interior design profession.

Promoting Change

The many advantages of diversity in the workplace—including greater innovation, better decision making, and increased financial performance—have been well documented and, on the whole, widely embraced within the design community. Yet, many individuals and organizations remain unclear on how to cultivate and fully utilize diversity. Here, the presentations by renowned practitioners and educators proved invaluable.

At the Los Angeles discussion, Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, principal and director of Global Diversity at Perkins+Will, and 2018–2019 IIDA International Board President, highlighted Perkins+Will’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement program, an initiative she spearheaded and now directs across the firm’s 2,200 employees. Annie Chu, FIIDA, FAIA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President, principal at Chu-Gooding Architects, and professor at Woodbury University’s interior architecture program, emphasized the current need within the profession to making different voices heard and underscored each designer’s personal duty to position themselves as a leader.

In New York, Jon Otis, IIDA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President, Pratt Institute professor of interior design, and the founder and principal of multidisciplinary design studio Object Agency, discussed his recently launched Diversity By Design Foundation (dxdf), a nonprofit initiative dedicated to increasing awareness of design careers among people of all backgrounds.

The ensuing rich discussions with the roundtable participants generated concrete and manageable ideas to guide all students, educators, and practitioners on the crucial path toward achieving greater diversity within the profession. These practical next steps as well as additional insights regarding diversity in the interior design profession will be described in the detailed report about the discussions.

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Participants of the IIDA Student Roundtable in Los Angeles.

Moving Forward with an “Activist Mindset”

With rising frequency, design firm clients are younger, more diverse, and demanding design teams that echo the demographics of their own organizations. Likewise, firms are seeing more community-related projects, which require designers who reflect and understand these communities’ specific cultural and socioeconomic issues. Bullock notes that all practitioners have a role in cultivating these designers. Professionals have a duty to inspire individuals with different backgrounds to enter the profession, engage with global content and society’s shifting demographics, and to foster diverse workplaces where all contributions are valued.

The roundtable participants—students, educators, and practitioners—agreed that, while discussion is encouraging and must continue, action must happen now. “We are currently in an advocacy role. And it’s time now to shift into an activist mindset,” said Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President and principal and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative in New York. “Advocacy works within the established structure and rules, and we do everything possible to leverage the power we have. But when we adopt an activist attitude, we start to rewrite the rules. The work we do along established paths is important, but we also need to break out of the comfort zone and just do what’s right.”


The Student Roundtable series brings together interior design students and local practitioners to engage in informal discussions on both the current state of the profession and the future of design. Learn more about other topics discussed from the previous roundtable report.

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

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

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

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

Sana's Booth Concept

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

A Hub for Design Ideas

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

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

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

Understanding the Client

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

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

Balancing Aesthetics and Meaning 

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


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

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.

Diversity in Architecture: A Promise for the Future

It is 2018 and only 36 percent of newly licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black. But those numbers are changing. With the benefits and necessities of diversity in the workplace undeniable, firms big and small are setting new goals for themselves and having active, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about diversifying the field.

But what does “workplace diversity” really mean when the leaders of these discussions are often not the ones who directly face discrimination? The 46th Annual NOMA Conference attempted to pose, answer, and challenge the questions around diversity from the personal perspectives of people of color. Through a series of events, lectures, and panels, “NOMA UNBOUNDED – The Convergence of a Legacy” was a weekend devoted to celebrating and defining diversity within the architecture and design fields.

IIDA hosted NOMA participants and members at IIDA Headquarters on Saturday, October 20, for the panel discussion “Because…Design,” sponsored by Mohawk and moderated by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, FIIDA and IIDA International Board President Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA. The panelists present were George Bandy, vice president of sustainability and commercial marketing at Mohawk Group; and Dina Griffin, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, owner of Interactive Design Architects (IDEA).

The event positioned itself as less a formal discussion and more an intimate exchange among four people on racism, equity, culture, and loving their jobs. “We’re not going to have images, you’re not going to look at a PowerPoint,” Durst announced to the audience members. “We’re just going to have a conversation. The power of conversation is underrated and we need it now more than ever.”

Bandy began the discussion with how he perceived a growing importance of sustainability and well-being going hand-in-hand with a push for diversity within design, architecture, and manufacturing. Communities of color often bare the brunt of unsustainable, cost-cutting development practices, and now the conversations around helping those communities are being led by a diverse crowd. “There has been an influx of people being able to express themselves more freely as it relates to the importance of design,” Bandy said.

Bullock echoed the notion that diversifying the workplace is critical for bettering the lives of diverse communities. “I wanted to become an architect because I wanted to improve how people live,” she said.

Architects are thinking about the environment on a personal, micro level, and in turn, discovering how important a diverse workplace is for generating and maintaining sustainable practices. It seems that the A&D industry is actively rediscovering the workplace as a microcosm for society, and as Durst noted, “You can’t design for the world if you are not of the world.”

“I’ve had clients that have given us work because we are diverse,” expressed Bullock, “and that’s been happening more and more.” Many Perkins+Will projects focus on communities; this necessitates diversifying those working on community projects and helping improve the quality of life for a broad range of people. Diversity is a “spoken strategy” in the Perkins+Will offices.

The panelists also described the ways in which their firms are taking the initiative to ensure diverse hires, which range from overhauling the hiring process to having ongoing dialogues about racism and inclusion. 

“Because…Design” concluded with the question “Does architecture still excite you?” (an unequivocal ‘yes’), along with advice from the panelists: “Bring the voice of your culture and your ancestors to work with you every day, ” Bandy stressed. “Don’t leave your street sense at home; bring it to work with you. Bring your true self to the table.”


Visit NOMA Unbounded for more information about the conference.

*An earlier version of this post cited that only 36 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black. It should be only 36 percent of newly licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black (as of 2016). 

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.

Gensler_GenslerSF_415

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.

Gensler_GenslerSF_063

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.