At this unprecedented moment in history, the entirety of our membership is sheltering at home. We are managing our projects and careers; running our businesses; teaching our children; caring for our loved ones; and maintaining household, family structure, or sanity in solitude. It has been three weeks only but, radical shifts in culture and behavior are already evident and a new normal is inevitably emergent. On the other side of this, when we are safe to reunite as a design community, we will collectively design our new world.
My core belief is that our interior design training has provided the technical, creative problem-solving skills, and the social empathy needed to imagine a resilient future. We are ready to move forward in our new reality, expertly advocating for people in every physical environment.
Two years ago, whilst serving at HKS, I had the pleasure of working with a healthcare client team defining program for a new hospital. We debated modifying their typical program to accommodate a future hypothetical need for containment. There were costs associated with duplicate functions but, the conversation exposed the realities of mass contamination from virus, biological warfare, or other unknowns in a major urban system. The objective of the design exercise was to proactively future-proof the facility, designing for resilience. Interior designers were thinking through this scenario plan, advocating for patient populations and caregivers affected—THEN.
Through my career in commercial practice, a consistent observation has been advocacy for [human health, performance, right-scaled design, sensory cues, wellness intervention] by the interior design professional. We facilitate conversation around the people inhabiting space; design for an idealized outcome for all; construct romantic, emotive narratives; and, ultimately, bring projects to life. We do so because we know that a project lives and breathes where the humans are.
The strategic planning work by the National Board is focused on the unique contributions of the interior design professional as critical to every design equation: our evolving value proposition. This crisis has crystalized the position that the human equation is central to our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing in every living environment. We know it because we have now all lived it.
During the bubonic plague of 1665, Cambridge closed its doors for 18 months. In isolated quarantine, a 22-year-old Isaac Newton discovered the universal law of gravity. While we remain in isolation, our vocational and family roles seem to intensify. Let us also hope for a moment of quiet to creatively ponder the “big wicked problems” before us.
What will be our individual and collective contributions? I look forward to hearing yours because the future needs you now.
Stay motivated, stay inspired, and keep making!
All my best,
Jennifer Kolstad, ASID, Assoc. AIA
Chair, ASID Board of Directors
Global Design Director
Ford Motor Company