IIDA Industry Roundtable 23: What Clients Want |The Future of Place, Experience, and WorkLife

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Guest Speakers and Panelists




Good Design is Sticky Behavior-Enabled, and Hi-Res Design Is Ultimately Human

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Omnipresent, Invisible, On-Demand Technology Shy Tech at the Office

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How to Capture Workplace Behavior

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Everybody is Included

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Each Generation Has Its Own Issues

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Nurturing Nature: From Outdoor Space to Outer Space

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What Clients Want

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Other Key Takeaways


Front cover, front to back: Alan Almasy, Ind. IIDA, Herman Miller; Amy Storek, Ind. IIDA, Pivot Interiors; James Woolum, IIDA, ZGF Architects; Ed Woodill, IIDA, Pivot Interiors; Julia Feldmeier, Journalist ; Laura Robin, BMW Designworks; Catherine Minervini, Ind. IIDA, Sunbrella/Glen Raven; Jennifer Busch, Hon. IIDA, Teknion Above: Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA IIDA Headquarters



The IIDA annual Industry Roundtable convenes leaders in the field to discuss the most pressing topics and urgent challenges affecting their businesses. High-level practitioners and manufacturers contemplated the future, looking ahead to predict what significant issues their clients will face five, ten, thirty years from now. This exercise is vital given the amount of time even the fastest-track projects take to build out; no one wants a space that’s outmoded by move-in day. Of course, given the sheer pace of change today, that’s sometimes unavoidable. The National Science Foundation recently conducted a study regarding what comes to mind when people hear the word “future.” As it turns out, “Fifty years ago, we used to think about things; now we think of ourselves in the context of the future: the future is about the human experience,” IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, explains. Her anecdotal reporting with a cohort of Chicago-area third graders—the designers of tomorrow—bears this out, reflecting a generational focus on global warming, community building, and gender fluidity, all of which happen to be topmost concerns for industry leaders as well. Another common prediction from the kids was pod-like homes bereft of interior walls. “They saw the future of living as an elastic, fluid entity, with no artificial divisions to demarcate where activities should happen,” Durst says. They envisioned a “porousness borne of not living where you were planted, but where your pod takes you.”

This vision of the next-gen home sounds an awful lot like a vehicle, which makes perfect sense to Host Sponsor Designworks, a creative consultancy that functions as the design innovation arm of parent company BMW Group, as well as envisioning products for clients in other sectors. With the advent of autonomous vehicles, cars are becoming an extension of our homes, our workplaces, and even our leisure destinations. Tasked with creating products that (literally) drive behavioral change, studio president Holger Hampf and his team are at the forefront of investigating human behavior and predicting where consumer tastes and expectations are headed. Industry leaders can take inspiration from how Designworks and BMW define the term futurist: “one who uses foresight to describe what could happen in the future and, in some cases, what should happen in the future,” says Hampf. That’s a proactive, rather than reactive, stance. “Our goal should be no less than cultural change, taking clients to a place where they can say ‘welcome home’ to the future.”



Julia Feldmeier: Journalist and Brand Anthropologist

Holger Hampf: President, BMW Designworks

A former Washington Post journalist, Julia Feldmeier has spent nearly two decades studying consumer behavior to help brands figure out what consumers actually do, what motivates them, and how to meaningfully connect with them. Her breakthrough insights have shaped product and marketing strategy for clients including Capital One, MasterCard, Ford Motor Company, Land Rover, Starwood, and more. Julia’s work has been published in the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Fast Company, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review.

Holger Hampf has held the title of president of Designworks since 2017, after moving from Munich to lead the firm from its headquarters in California. Having previously held the position of Head of Design User Experience for BMW Group, he led the digitalization efforts, as well as user interface design for all brands in the Group. Holger brings extensive experience and passion to his role. His experience in design is diverse, enabling him to be a pioneer, consultant, designer, network partner, and ambassador alike.

Guest speakers, panelists, sponsors, and participants as of the January 23-25, 2020 event date.



Elizabeth Christopher: Design Manager, Netflix

Elizabeth Christopher is a design manager at Netflix with a background ranging from interior design to project management. She has held positions at various organizations and companies, from Walcott Architecture Interiors to Design Continuum Inc, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design from Auburn University with minors in sustainability and business administration. Kyle Hamblin: Vice President, Capital One

Kyle Hamblin is the vice president of workplace solutions at Capitol One, having been with the company for over 6 years. Hamblin has held senior leadership roles in a number of organizations, ranging from Lincoln Property Fund to the Save the Family Foundation of Arizona, and has a proven track record working in both business management and real estate solutions. Hamblin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from North Carolina State University. Kirt Martin: Chief Creative Officer, Landscape Forms

Kirt Martin is a multiple award-winning industrial designer with a demonstrated history of success within the furniture industry. Prior to joining Landscape Forms, he served as an executive for 17 years at Steelcase Inc. Before moving into his current position, he was the Landscape Forms vice president of design and marketing, playing an important role in the company’s robust growth, market expansion, and introduction of groundbreaking products. His work is informed by the conviction that the experience of outdoor space promotes social and civic engagement, human health, and well-being.




Johannes Lampela Director of Design, LA Studio

Ken Baugh President and CEO

Laura Robin Studio Director

Amy Storek, Ind. IIDA Chief Revenue Officer Ed Woodill, IIDA Senior Director of A+D

3Form Jennifer Ruckel, Ind. IIDA Vice President of Sales

KI Debbie Breunig, Ind. IIDA Vice President of A+D Marketing

Shaw Contract Daniel Collins, Ind. IIDA Director of Workplace Markets

Bentley Mills, Inc. Ginger Gilbert, Ind. IIDA Vice President of Creative

Mannington Commercial Roby Isaac, Ind. IIDA Vice President of Commercial Design

Steelcase Denise Calehuff, Ind. IIDA Principal, Design Alliances

Crossville Inc. Mark Shannon, Ind. IIDA Executive Vice President of Sales ESI Julia Ryan, Ind. IIDA A+D Development Director Haworth Jill Stewart, Ind. IIDA Director, North America Sales Operations Herman Miller Alan Almasy, Ind. IIDA Director of A+D Sales Central Area

Mohawk Group George Bandy, Jr., Ind. IIDA Chief Sustainability Officer Mohawk Group Jackie Dettmar, Ind. IIDA Vice President of Design and Product Development National Office Michelle Boolton, Assoc. IIDA A+D Manager OFS Ryan Menke, Ind. IIDA Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Sunbrella / Glen Raven Catherine Minervini, Ind. IIDA A+D Regional Manager Tarkett Chris Stulpin, Ind. IIDA Chief Creative Officer Teknion Jennifer Busch, Hon. IIDA Vice President of A+D Wilsonart Teresa Humphrey, Ind. IIDA National Specification Sales Manager



PRESIDENT-ELECT Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA President and CEO Huntsman Architectural Group

VICE PRESIDENTS Ronnie Belizaire, IIDA Corporate Real Estate Manager Daimler Real Estate

Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA Principal, Director of Global Diversity Perkins and Will Jeff Fenwick, Ind. IIDA President and CEO Tarkett North America James Kerrigan, IIDA Design Principal of Interiors Jacobs

Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA Partner, Design Director of Interiors FXCollaborative Erika Moody, IIDA Principal and Shareholder Helix Architecture + Design Jon Otis, IIDA Founder and Principal O|A Object Agency Doug Shapiro, Ind. IIDA Regional Vice President OFS

PRACTITIONERS Verda Alexander, IIDA Principal and Co-Founder Studio O+A

Brian Graham, IIDA Founder Graham Design

Pam Light, FIIDA Regional Leader of WorkPlace HOK

Frances Bruns, IIDA Principal and Managing Director IA Architects

Dina Griffin, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA President and Architect Interactive Design Architects

Mavis Wiggins, Assoc. IIDA Managing Executive TPG Architecture, LLP

Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, Assoc. AIA Principal and Co-Managing Director, Miami Office Gensler

Jennifer Johanson, IIDA, AIA President and CEO EDG Interior Architecture + Design

James Woolum, IIDA, AIA Partner ZGF Architects, LLP

Meena Krenek, IIDA Interior Design Director, Principal Perkins and Will




Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA Executive Vice President and CEO

Melissa Cook Communications Coordinator

Jim Nuttle Graphic Artist

Tonya Glover Executive Assistant to Cheryl S. Durst

Jen Renzi Report Writer

Lauren Haras Marketing Communications Director Tracey Thomas, Assoc. IIDA Director of Strategic Sales


GOOD DESIGN IS STICKY, BEHAVIORENABLED, AND HI-RES 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 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.”

Roby Isaac, Ind. IIDA Mannington Commercial




Layering emotive, tonal qualities atop the physical, “object” qualities can enhance the sense of discovery and surprise. “Incorporating features we can’t see at first, but find out about over time, is a key factor in maintaining excitement and elevating attachment,” Hampf explains. In this way, the design gets enriched by human behavior, and the end-user becomes a co-designer of the product. 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. “We have to ask what is the object good for? What is its purpose? What do we want to do? And then we design the object from there.” 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. “It’s starting with words instead of images,” he says. 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 cautionary take, “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.”

relationship between AI and employees,” says Mavis Wiggins, Assoc. IIDA.

Technology is 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, a cultural phenomenon that concerns many industry leaders. “Technology gives us a sense of rootedness in a culture defined by DESIGN the failure of institutions, a culture in DELIVERS... which people no longer trust religion or corporations or government,” said Julia Feldmeier.

Beauty Rigor Performance Quality Value Innovation Research A vision

But for now, we need to work together better. AI is here to stay and will only become more useful and prevalent. But holding onto the human touch will be equally vital. “We need to keep it human in an age of artificial superintelligence,” says Michelle Boolton, Assoc. AIA. AI will also continue to have major ramifications on the workplace, causing designers to have to “navigate the

New knowledge about the brain will have implications for the design of spatial environments. “Neuroscience will be an integral component of interior design and architecture, and it will be embedded into the planning process at inception,” says Jon Otis, IIDA. “our differentiator will be our value-proposition of critical design thinking,” says Covarrubias.

The workplace must address the entire human experience. “When I started out in the field of workplace strategy, we didn’t think about what employees did before they came into the office or after they left,” said Kyle Hamblin. “Now, we have to consider how our employees work and live.”





The modern workplace runs on technology: Wi-Fi, video conferencing, biometric security systems, motion-activated lighting, app-controlled climate zones, Slack, AutoCAD, etc. Technology is essential. Yet the cumbersome wires, cables, power cords, switches, sensors, and gadgets that enable it can make technology feel like a burden. As a result, the seamless integration of technology into the work environment—both physically and psychologically—is one of the greatest challenges designers and manufacturers face. The wave of the future is to create spaces in which technology is omnipresent but invisible until the very moment it’s needed—out of sight, yet right at arm’s reach. BMW realizes this fantasy with its Interaction Ease technology for iNext, a fully electric autonomous vehicle that will be introduced to the market in 2021. In rethinking the SUV interior for the selfdriving era, Hampf and team sought to emulate the feeling and experience consumers have in their happy places, whether that happens to be a remote mountaintop or a buzzy bar/ lounge hanging out with friends. In short, they envisioned iNext as a destination in its own right. Accordingly, the iNext interior features residentially styled chairs and surfaces that have the appearance of freestanding furniture, a palette that takes cues from boutique hotels, and a seating arrangement that encourages

conviviality. Glass on all sides switches from transparent to opaque at the wave of a hand. The vehicle has an eclectic, cocooning, unexpected quality. These attributes abet a driving experience that’s “ultimately human,” says Hampf, and that allows for “natural, multimodal, and social interaction” between passengers. A key to creating such a space was an approach to technology dubbed “shy tech,” whereby elements like GPS navigation and audio controls are hidden from view but reveal themselves where and when the driver or occupant needs them. Adjustment mechanisms for the zerogravity chairs are hidden beneath the seat upholstery; the door handle appears, as a glowing icon, only when you reach out for it. “In iNext, the tech is all around you: alive, reactive, and abstract,” Hampf explains.


Shy Tech at the Office Shy tech is an apt model for the next-gen workspace. “We have to make sure the right technology is there to enable human experience, and yet design it away since it creates a lot of visual noise,” says Hampf. One way to reduce said noise is to embed technological capabilities into finishes and materials. For instance, iNext features high-tech textiles embedded with haptic controls, and the windshield glass transforms into a flatscreen on demand. “We have to ask what experiences we want to create in a space, and then drive them under the surface of that space,” Hampf explains. This vision aligns with where corporate interiors are heading. “By 2050, no one will have a computer, because everything will be computerized,” Jennifer Ruckel, Ind. IIDA, predicted. “Computers will be small and cheap, embedded in everything, and rituals like

swiping to get into an office will not require a card.” Unobtrusive sensors have already rendered offices technologically capable of providing real-time feedback on end-user productivity, wellness, happiness, and other success metrics. The next frontier is for the space to somehow self-adjust immediately to that feedback. In the interest of sustainability, designers and manufacturers will need to figure out ways to incorporate technology into materials and furniture in a manner that allows for continuous upgrades. “Furniture with embedded technology becomes obsolete more quickly since the technology often becomes outdated before the furniture itself does,” says Elizabeth Christopher. Companies are already designing or retooling their products to address this consideration. For instance, “our pieces are designed to accommodate rather than integrate technology,” Kirt Martin notes.

"The real world is about 10 years behind everyone in this room, and that's a challenge." KIRT MARTIN, LANDSCAPE FORMS

Above: Jennifer Ruckel, Ind. IIDA, 3Form Opposite page, left to right: Johannes Lampela, BMW Designworks; James Woolum, IIDA, ZGF Architects; Denise Calehuff, Ind. IIDA, Steelcase; Diana Farmer-Gonzalez, IIDA, Gensler; Ronnie Belizaire, IIDA, Daimler Real Estate; Jennifer Ruckel, Ind. IIDA, 3Form





In an autonomous vehicle like iNext, the goal of shy tech is to abet navigation, comfort, entertainment, and recharge. In the workplace, it can help us do work more efficiently and allow for a more focused, productive, and happy-making experience. For manufacturers, shy tech can be leveraged to create the seamless, unencumbered customer experience the clients crave and value. “Ease of doing business is the tipping point,” said Chris Stulpin, Ind. IIDA. There’s a yearning, says Ryan Menke, Ind. IIDA, “for transparent and friction-free experiences,” as well as interfaces that respond to the individual user. To boost customer satisfaction, says Ruckel, “we have to ensure every touchpoint is a smooth one. What matters now is giving our customers a great experience, enabled by technology.”



Open plan versus closed door; solo versus collaborative; heads up versus heads down; “me” space versus “we” space. How can clients describe exactly what form (or forms) “work” takes in their workplace? And, on the flip side, how can designers wrap their heads around the minutiae, mechanics, and methodologies that undergird productivity in their clients’ physical environments? Despite that many of today’s workplaces are embedded with sensors that capture abundant information about spatial use, Big Data is no panacea when it comes to assessment and evaluation. “We are capable of developing AI and machine learning, but we haven’t been able to provide any of our data [for those efforts],” says Hamblin. “There are still privacy hurdles to jump over.” So, they mostly use their eyes and ears. “We do observations, surveys, interviews, and videos. That’s not scalable or efficient, but we get a lot of good information that way.” Clients look to designers as experts in human behavior to provide deep insights and analysis—not only about what they observe happening in the client’s own organization, but also what they notice and observe in other workspaces. Speaker Julia Feldmeier, drawing on her dual background in journalism and consumer research, suggests ways designers and manufacturers can approach informationgathering during the programming stage and beyond to uncover a deeper truth about what end-users want and need. In our quest to gain the clearest picture of human behaviors in spatial environments, we need to challenge our assumptions, check our biases, and open our minds to all possibilities, no matter how seemingly counterintuitive or irrational.


Catherine Minervini, Ind. IIDA Sunbrella/Glen Raven


During interviews, ask people about only what they know. Get specific with behaviors and values and ask the right questions. A query like “what do you do at your desk?” is too vague. Try: What is making you happy right now? Where are you most comfortable? Would you rather have things arranged for you or do you prefer having the agency to arrange them yourself? “Let them tell their own story, let it breathe, and really listen to it,” Feldmeier advises. Don’t always trust what they say! Human interview subjects are notoriously unreliable narrators, so take everything with a grain of salt. Interviewees lie all the time, for all kinds of reasons: because they are embarrassed (an effect called social desirability bias) because their actual behaviors don’t align with how they perceive them, or because they’re not in the right mindset or context. A neutral, flat-faced affect will elicit the most truthful answers. Being nonreactive creates an interview environment in which the subject feels that all answers are equally acceptable. Avoid responding with prompts like, “That’s so interesting; tell me more.” Any positive reaction on your part will subconsciously encourage the interviewee to give you more of that same information rather than the complete picture. Get out and observe the real world—the one in which your customers work. Don’t rely on selfreporting or questionnaires alone, or grilling endusers while they’re sitting around the boardroom table. “Focus groups are artificial situations rife with bias,” Feldmeier explains. “You get peer pressure, subjects wanting to elicit approval, and moderator bias.” Instead, scrutinize firsthand how subjects behave—in the real world, versus a lab or focus group setting, ideally in the same context as the one in which they’ll actually be using the product or performing the work. Things to make note of during observations: • What is common behavior? • What is different and interesting? • What are a lot of people doing? • What are just a few people doing?

Ditch your bias. “Assumptions are confining,” says Feldmeier, “and will make you overlook a lot of truths.” As an example, she cites the Mars Company’s decision to start selling Mars bars in the Russian market after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Turns out that ice cream sold like hotcakes during the wintertime…but not at all during the summer months. Execs scratched their heads until they eventually realized that refrigeration was not yet ubiquitous in Russia, and items that needed to be kept cold were only viable in chillier months. Had market researches actually observed how Russians lived at the time, versus making uninformed assumptions based on their own Western lifestyles, they would have discovered this truism much earlier. Embrace the irrational. Don’t lock in on just one data point; instead, “get all your data in a room and see what it tells you,” Feldmeier says. “Let the data points quibble with each other and see what happens: Do they line up? If there’s an outlier, what is that tension?” Those outliers tend to lead to the most innovative ideas and solutions. Context doesn’t just matter—it’s everything. There is a tendency for research results to become “sanitized” by the time they’re collated and presented to clients or higher-ups in a deck. “The context is stripped away, and the information comes out like bland chicken wings,” says Feldmeier. Better is to approach the complete information like a mosaic: “You can roll up close to see all the vignettes, and then back out to see the big idea without losing sight of what makes it real,” says Feldmeier. “Those vignettes are the things that will make you think about change.” Follow up. Things are always changing; the story is never complete!

“The percentage of time that people are not at their desk is so surprising. The more we provide other types of spaces, that’s where people gravitate." KYLE HAMBLIN, CAPITOL ONE



Left to right: Jennifer Johanson, IIDA, EDG Interior Architecture + Design; Jackie Dettmar, Ind. IIDA, Mohawk Group; Debbie Breunig, Ind. IIDA, KI; Jennifer Ruckel, Ind. IIDA, 3Form; Denise Calehuff, Ind. IIDA, Steelcase; Michelle Boolton, Ind. IIDA, National Office Furniture; Catherine Minervini, Ind. IIDA, Sunbrella/Glen Raven

While the design industry still struggles with diversity, progress has been made in recent years, and leading practitioners and manufacturers are deeply committed to the goal of inclusivity—both within their own organizations and with respect to the end-user for whom they are designing. Current efforts to diversify the talent pipeline ensure a more equitable future. The profession will look very different in the coming decades, more reflective of the world at large. The design ecosystem will encompass a greater diversity of practitioners, collaborators, and partners and a wider range of ages and gender identities, as well as a broader cultural and racial makeup. (This will make for an intriguing Industry Roundtable: “In 2050, the age range around this table will span 80 years; some will attend via hologram; everyone will speak in their native language, and the audience will hear it in theirs, whether attending remotely or in-person,” Menke presages.) The industry will become more inclusive by default, but also by intention, as designers


INCLUDED advocate and agitate for systemic shifts. “For instance, space and local/international codes can work together to support a growing community of gender nonbinary individuals,” explains Wiggins. Multidisciplinary design professionals and firms with expertise and backgrounds in other fields are likely to disrupt our industry, which will be even better equipped to solve the complex, multimodal problems of tomorrow. “In thirty years,” James Kerrigan predicts, “BMW will be here speaking about how they got into the design space by applying their production and supply chain know-how to overturn traditional construction approaches, delivering high-tech, sustainable, and beautiful design solutions for interior and exterior applications.” For now, inclusivity looks different at every firm, and so do the specific impediments to achieving it. As an example, Landscape Forms is currently endeavoring to make two very different populaces feel equally included under one roof. “Our production staff and our office teams are antitheses of each other, and here we are asking them to work together,” Martin says. Design, particularly of office amenities, has played a

role in bridging that gap, he explains. So has giving employees as much choice as possible about when, how, and where they work. For Netflix, an impetus for addressing inclusion is the network’s penetration into previously unexplored external markets—“countries that haven’t yet experienced content the way we do, and from whom we’re learning a lot,” says Christopher. Design leaders are seizing opportunities to better narrate the stories of those who are oft overlooked or excluded in our spaces and our culture. “In order to design a better world, we need to unpack the missing data: the missing stories of the people we purportedly design for,” says Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA. Being inclusive also means considering vulnerable and under-resourced populaces, and being proactive about designing solutions for them, whether or not we’re hired by clients to do so. “What matters now is designing for social equity and affordable living,” says Martin. The industry will be challenged and emboldened to address pressing issues like urban density, overpopulation, and the housing crisis, and to help climate refugees. “Equality and justice for women and minorities will positively change our built environment,” Farmer-Gonzalez concludes.


Susana Covarrubias, IIDA Gensler


Design is a key mechanism for addressing changing workplace demographics. Intergenerational conflicts and shifts are impacting our clients’ organizations on every level. “What’s most affecting our own company right now is people retiring: the older generation moving out and the younger folks moving in,” says Martin. “With that changeover comes new ways of thinking about everything, new expectations, and different types of social interactions. Our physical space is changing because of that.”

“Clients want to collaborate with a design team whose values align with their own.” SUSANA COVARRUBIAS, IIDA, GENSLER

At Netflix, the change isn’t so much age-based as skills-driven. “We are now hiring engineers, Hollywood writers, marketing folks—new types of employees with different needs,” Christopher says. “This creates tension. Our challenge is to acknowledge and solve for difference: to listen to and absorb individual feedback and then try to make things better for everyone.” George Bandy, Jr., Ind. IIDA, concurs: “I work in the oldest industry in America, and when we say things like, ‘we’re doing that because younger people want it,’ we get a lot of pushback. The real struggle is when different generations ask for different things.” Designers can help massage these conflicts. They know how and when to use influencers and when to poke the C-suite in order to enact change.

The clash between age brackets is the dominant generational issue in the workplace. But elsewhere, it’s the plight of the aging population. This growing demographic will require innovative design solutions, and many practitioners and manufacturers are innovating the growing senior living category. “Addressing the aging population and how they live and receive healthcare will be top of mind,” says Otis. “We need new models for housing and interiors.” He envisions wellness as “an inclusive idea that gets considered and designed into every environment.” It might just be the young, idealistic, and enlightened professionals of today who successfully democratize wellness.



We used to talk about nature as restorative; now we talk about nature needing to be restored. Climate change creating a world we don’t recognize dominates the cultural discussion and our collective fears. “The deferral of massive environmental issues is catching up with us,” says Jeff Fenwick, Ind. IIDA. Global warming and political instability have already increased the price of raw materials, complicating budgets and cost estimates. “It’s the economics of climate change. The stress on resources will continue to increase costs of manufacturing, shipping, and recycling,” Otis notes. With accelerated urgency about global warming, companies are trying to do right where governments and politicians are failing, and designers are taking on the charge, from advocating for carbon-neutral building codes and systems support to steering clients to make earth-friendly choices. “We need to find ways to be carbon-neutral—and ultimately climatepositive—as quickly as possible,” Alexander urges.

From left to right: Michelle Boolton, Ind. IIDA, National Office Furniture; Matt Potter, BMW Designworks


The next wave, says Wiggins, “is the conservation of resources, and figuring out how to harvest them without harming workers and local communities.” With humanity having compromised our home planet, there’s an increased likeliness of needing to find alternative accommodations, so to speak. The moon? Mars? Space stations? The new frontier is outer space. This reality presents many design challenges and opportunities, from navigating zero-gravity conditions to “designing for hostile climates,” says Jennifer Busch, Hon. IIDA. Before we conquer outer space, though, we have to better utilize outdoor space— even as it becomes a more extreme environment. “In the workplace, outdoor space lags by about 30 years from an innovation standpoint,” Martin explained. There’s a big opportunity to shift our thinking about alfresco environments from leisure and break spaces to areas that support solo and group productivity. Younger employees have especially demonstrated a

strong interest in working out of doors, so providing better-designed, tech-enabled, plein-air experiences will help keep this generation engaged. Outdoor spaces need to be designed not only to support productivity but also to telegraph a different message, Martin says. “It’s really about the optics: Creating intentionally designed spaces that signal something important is happening there. If they look like respite spaces, they don’t get used.” Think about the entire campus as an opportunity to boost culture and the bottom line. “Outside is the least expensive area to invest in and has huge returns,” Martin continues. He’s found that, even in colder climates, utilization rates are so high when the weather permits that overall annual usage is equivalent to that in warmer places. Of course, many clients rightly have concerns about air quality, just one of many constraints including noise and wind. “We have to deal with a litany of issues that are not in the indoor realm,” Martin agrees. It’s not easy to navigate, but at the end of the day, “it’s just a design problem to be solved.”





From left to right: Amy Storek, Ind. IIDA, Pivot Interiors and Ed Woodill, IIDA, Pivot Interiors




Further exploring the customer experience was a keynote panel of notable clients representing diverse sectors: Elizabeth Christopher, Netflix design manager; Kirt Martin, Landscape Forms chief executive officer; and Kyle Hamblin, Capital One vice president and senior director of the FinTech company’s workplace solutions team. The trio, all of whom have hands-on design and/or construction experience, embody today’s radically empowered and informed client. They shared their concerns in a “real talk” style that stripped away the usual designer/client power dynamic.

“Clients want an emphasis on placemaking in an increasingly optional work environment.”


In sum, they want spaces that are socially conscious, inclusive, emotionally connected, supportive of innovation, and that demonstrate a measurable return on their investment. Clients want to see proof of concept and are asking designers to back up their proposals and ideas via data, case studies, and other evidence. “They want predictive analytics on the workplace,” explained Jill Stewart, Ind. IIDA. They have higher expectations—and tighter deadlines— than ever before. At the same time, they are increasingly aware of the value of good design and good designers. In-house real estate/facilities executives and workplace strategists often rely on outside firms to help them advocate internally for innovative design. “Me trying to explain the value of design is not always successful, which is why we bring firms on board, and why our reliance on them is so huge,” says Hamblin. Clients view their design partners as facilitators and synthesizers who can reconcile the divergent viewpoints and conflicting “have-to-haves” of their many internal stakeholders. There is also a broader awareness today that human capital, not real estate, is a company’s greatest asset and expense, and that the physical environment has much to do with attraction and retention. “Design is pennies compared to what people cost,” says

Hamblin. “Even when we are looking into cost efficiencies, we don’t make tradeoffs that would affect employee retention.” Connecting certain design elements to their potential impact on recruiting is always a smart sell to stakeholders.

“Beauty is in convergence: when a design transforms business and culture at the same time." DIANA FARMER-GONZALEZ, IIDA, ASSOC. AIA, GENSLER

The types of employees that companies are most interested in recruiting (and keeping engaged) continues to evolve. For instance, today’s talent war for younger Millennials and Gen Z staffers translates to a demand for spaces that reflect the value those demographics have regarding wellness, work/life balance, inclusivity, sustainability, and even adaptive reuse. Taking care of talent includes building a strong community and culture, as well as providing “emotional security, growth opportunity, progressive compensation, and creative spaces for collaboration,” says Covarrubias.


OTHER KEY TAKEAWAYS Clients value design partners who will be accountable—and willing to hold them accountable. “It’s not always about giving the client what they want,” says Christopher. “Give us your critique; we are putting a lot of trust and money in that.” Don’t be afraid to challenge clients in an appropriate way. “You should feel empowered to push back, that’s why we bring in the industry’s best,” says Hamblin. It’s the designer’s role to “rattle the cage,” says Hampf: to inspire and provoke. “Challenge your client and those you are working with but in a positive, nonconfrontational way.”

They care about wellness. The definition of well-being has evolved in the last decade as we gain a more nuanced understanding of its many facets. “Clients are seeking our knowledge and advice about how to best achieve employee health and wellbeing,” affirmed Busch. Many organizations want workplaces that exhibit radical innovation and wellness as a way to telegraph to recruits and customers that they support those values. Clients have shifted their expectations about design, no longer viewing it as a spatial solution but as a spatial service. “Design used to focus on how to layout ‘boxes’—cubicles and offices— and how to fit things between columns,” says Hamblin. “Now, it’s about creating a culture of innovation and inclusiveness, and about integrating flexibility into the space.” They expect environments that are future proof: that endure change and can adapt to surprises, especially given the uncertainty of the future.

Enlightened clients leverage design as a tool to move their organization in a new direction. The most common catalyst for change in an organization’s workplace today is a brand repositioning. All three panelists, as well as host sponsor Designworks, have been through this process in recent years, an exercise that entailed redefining what they do, how they do it, and by and for whom. Netflix, for instance, is evolving from an entertainment-delivery platform into an entertainment creator, which has not been without growing pains. “We were a tech company, and now we’re a Hollywood company,” Christopher explains.

From left to right: Kyle Hamblin, Capitol One; Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, IIDA; Kirt Martin, Landscape Forms

Transparency builds trust… which in turn translates to a more hands-off client and a more empowered designer. “When I trust the firm, I don’t feel I need to be as present,” says Christopher. Trust being a twoway street, it’s just as important for a designer to have faith in and respect the client’s view, perspective, and knowledge. For instance, when a client shares their workplace strategy results, or their findings of employee needs, “trust that we have done our due diligence,” Christopher adds. “Our employees are people we work and interact with every day, and we do know a lot about them.”

Clients struggle to strike the right balance between brand and individual identity in the workplace. An office is expected to be the physical embodiment of a company’s corporate culture and identity. But does this leave enough room for inclusivity? At Netflix, for example, “we are trying to determine our core values while letting everyone be themselves,” explains Christopher. “You can watch whatever you want on Netflix, and so it’s important that our employees get that same flexibility in the workplace—but without the company losing our core values. That can be hard to grab.

Education is a vital facet of the design process. After design delivery, occupants need to be taught how to use their new offices. Indeed, change management is a major component of a project’s success. “A lot of HR conversations about design and the physical environment center around ‘see me, hear me, show me’—not only eliciting input from all the stakeholders, but then demonstrating how to use the space, what it means, and why it’s important, says Durst. Clients emphasize that education must happen along the way, as the design is being developed. Explaining to occupants how the design was arrived at and the issues and impediments faced along the way increase trust and buy-in.

Globalization and information overload have greatly influenced how clients view design as a strategy. “Clients are looking for integration and discernment of information,” says FarmerGonzalez. Hamblin affirms that view: “The world is changing, and we are trying to figure it out.” He and others rely on partnerships with outside firms to help them make sense of things—to be their eyes and ears. “Designers are the ones who are out there seeing what’s going on,” Hamblin says. Adds Christopher, “In our position as client, we get to see and work with multiple designers, but you get to see multiple clients. I want to know what’s out there that I haven’t seen and should be thinking about.” Accordingly, today’s clients prefer to work with partners who are globally savvy and attentive to what’s going on in the surrounding environment. “The team has to be able to culturally connect to the community the design is serving,” says Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA.


“BEAUTY IS CONVERGE WHEN A DE TRANSFOR BUSINESS A CULTURE A SAME TIME ABOUT IIDA IIDA is the commercial interior design association with a global reach. We support design professionals, industry affiliates, educators, students, firms, and their clients through our network of 15,000+ members across 58 countries. We advocate for advancements in education, design excellence, legislation, leadership, accreditation, and community outreach to increase the value and understanding of interior design as a profession that enhances business value and positively impacts the health and well-being of people’s lives every day. Visit www.iida.org for more information.

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