Inspired Design for Society’s Digital Age

Impact, Science of Story February 9, 2017

Inspired Design for Society’s Digital Age

Rachel Pollard
Media Relations Manager. Sour beer enthusiast. French Fry connoisseur. Aggressive typer. Can also ski.

StaircaseIn a world fueled by digital overload, what does good design mean? In today’s society, the vast majority of people thrive on connection; this connection can happen through technology but there isn’t a communication method better than face-to-face interactions. Why do we understand the strength in good communication with peers, but don’t understand the power of strong design? Good design should elicit an emotional response just as a strong conversation should.

Those within the interior and industrial design industry know the importance of inspired design and the emotions it should evoke. What matters most is that people realize that design is essential to their everyday lives: anything not organic was designed by someone. Cheryl Durst, Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Interior Design Association, talks about why design is intrinsic and essential to society. She also believes that design can be used to further society; what if we used design to think about issues such as gun violence? It could be a new approach to the way in which we tackle social issues and could get new people on the activist movement. 

Inspired Design

“Design isn’t design until it elicits a response,” Durst says. She talks about inspiring people in addition to creating and enhancing culture; it’s all about what makes people happy. Pool tables, free snacks, happy hours, and the like don’t mean much if employees have a three hour commute to work or work in an uninspiring space. 

More so than just the things you provide, it’s also about overall wellness and well-being and thinking about your employees as people rather than another cog in the wheel, or a number on a spreadsheet. This isn’t an industry specific issue either: everyone seems to be talking about improving their culture. Designers are uniquely wired emotionally to understand culture. Something the vast majority of people tend to forget is that a space is design to be consumed and used by a human being: designers have to make it a priority that their space is being used for a functional purpose. 

Modern OfficeAs her career progressed, Durst started to notice a shift in purpose driven companies. She sat down with her fellow IIDA board members regarding the fact that they needed to do the same. They narrowed their focus to becoming an organization around knowledge, value, and community. Everything the organization now does fits into one of those three buckets. Her and her team have recently started spending time talking to design schools about teaching their students about people, psychology, and sociology.

When talking about this idea of inspired design, it’s easy to think of examples. When a customer walks into, say, a Warby Parker, they are instantly surrounded by a sense of inspiration just from walking in the door. They can feel that the space is designed with a functional use in mind. When a space is designed well, people can feel it; it feels natural to them.

Looking Beyond Design

Despite the fact that the IIDA is an organization about interior and commercial design, they’ve started to focus beyond design for their overall purpose. They believe in design’s role within humanity and the impact it creates. Durst talks heavily about the fact that she is never done. “I never want want to say, ‘Okay, we’ve made it,’” she says. “Being mindful about the end isn’t indeed the end.”

Bank Turned OfficeBy now, IIDA has over 15,000 members agreeing to talk about inspired design; to talk about its emotional response and impact. The organization has created a curriculum called ‘Leadership by Design.’ This is a program designed to augment a design education; it isn’t a business program or design program. The IIDA has created a curriculum that is people-based and is about what happens on the receiving end of design. Durst believes that if we can keep humans at the center of what they do, it will greatly improve both professional and life skills.

For Cheryl Durst, she understands that design is important, but equally so is the emotion it evokes from its audience. Creating a human-focused program is just the first step in IIDA’s move towards a purpose driven organization. She’s got the backing of her fellow board members as well as the over 15,000 members of the IIDA. Moving forward, she hopes to see the development of inspired design and the way in which design elicits a new emotion from its viewers.