November Chair's Message
 
 
Cash In On Your Designs
This month’s message is the result of an ambush. Joseph Cephas, the ASID VP of Communications, visited my office when he was in LA, saying innocently that he wanted to try out a new format for the November Chair’s Message.
But rather than having the laid-back discussion I’d envisioned, he pulled out his iPhone, hit Record, and proceeded to lob questions my direction. I freaked out, as you might imagine, but he assured me that I had information in my head that needs to be shared with the ASID community. I still don’t believe him, but let’s see if he was right!
 
Question one: what are some of your biggest challenges as a workplace designer?

- Joseph

"You are seriously going to make me do this, with no preparation?!" [Nod and devilish but encouraging grin from Joseph.]

"Two things come to mind. First, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of the Silicon Valley look. People say, 'Make my office look like Google!' but they’re not Google. We have to convince them that concrete floors, an industrial ceiling and a bunch of beanbag chairs – or even an indoor skateboard park – won’t instantly make them cool and successful. The challenge is to dig deeper to identify what makes their business unique, understand what in particular they’re trying to achieve, and design spaces that support those goals."

"Which leads to the second challenge..."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
A series by designers, for designer.
As an organization, ASID believes that Design Impacts Lives. You’ve mentioned health and wellness in your previous answer. How has the emphasis on employee health changed the interior design profession?

"What good is a beautiful, well-equipped space if it makes you sluggish and sick? Making sure that the paint and carpet pad don’t off-gas is only the first step; now with innovations like the WELL Building Standard (From the International Well Building Institute), we know that the decisions we make can impact employees’ health, morale, and productivity...."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
See this isn’t so bad! Next question, you’re a Principal at Steinberg and the Chair of ASID, which are huge career milestones. Did it click at some point and you told yourself, “I’m ready for this, I’m ready to be a principal”?

"Ha, that’s pretty funny because as a kid, I never thought of myself as an artist or a leader – I wanted to be a surgeon. I never imagined doing anything artistic or business related."

"Going into interior design was really intimidating because I could barely draw stick figures. But at UCLA Extension Interior Design program’s open house, the advisor promised that they could teach us how to draw. She also said that design is more about problem-solving than beautiful drawings. Later, an instructor said that you don’t need to be Michelangelo to be a good designer, you just had to draw well enough – and in your own style – so that you can get your ideas across. Both were very reassuring."

"At my first job, I was lucky enough to work with generous, patient senior designers who helped me develop my design skills and translate them into a built space. I think I’ve become a pretty decent designer. But I’m still awestruck by the work of many, many others whose creativity and imagination are mind-blowing to me. Which leads me to this realization:"

"To be a good principal or to run your own design firm successfully, you have to be more than a great designer. You also have to know how to get the best out of your teams and to work well with clients. That’s like being a triathlete, and my brother Sherwick is a great example. He’s a world-ranked Ironman who’s gone to the Kona world championships a bunch of times. He once said to me, 'I'm not the fastest swimmer, or the fastest cyclist, or the fastest marathoner. But when put all three together, and then add mental discipline to the mix … that’s what makes me a really good triathlete.'"

"So when Steinberg’s CEO asked me to start a new interiors practice for his firm, I knew I was ready … terrified but ready. Now, a year and a half later, we have an amazing team and we’re working on some fantastic projects. And thanks to all the designers, principals, and business owners I’ve met through ASID, I have a wonderful network that I can call on for advice. And ASID offers tons of online and in-person courses on business strategies, project management, sustainable design, etc."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
A series by designers, for designer.
Interior design is not just your second career but your third. How did you make up for that lost time compared with people who went straight into design after college?

"...there is something to be said for being able to pull from past experiences to inform current decisions. So to other designers who have changed careers, I say never apologize for those careers because you can pull on any sort of life experience to help you relate to users and develop your design empathy. But you can’t expect design responsibilities to be handed to you just because you’re more 'seasoned'. You have to earn it."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
With your unique path and ascension to principal, was there anything in particular that your ASID membership did that benefited your career?

"Yes, absolutely! At UCLA Extension, I helped resuscitated a student chapter that had been dormant for a couple of years. At the time, I didn’t think of myself as a leader at all. I hated speaking up in class, making presentations. I still don’t like crowds or being in the spotlight. But because I was thrust into becoming the student chapter president, I was forced to think like a leader."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
A series by designers, for designer.
Last question. Is there a mistake you made early in your career that still haunts you today?

"Geez, where do you want to start? I’ve made a ton of mistakes! Here’s one I share with students all the time. If you have two refrigerators side by side, double check your clearances extra carefully because you have to make sure the doors in the middle can both open at the same time. Duh, right? I will never forget showing up at a construction meeting and..."

See full answer

- Charrisse

 
See All Charrisse's Answers
 

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