See what caught our attention from the first webinar in IIDA‘s new weekly Collective D(esign) series. Learn more about future webinars here.
We’ve all seen the hashtags: #AloneTogether, #AllInThisTogether, #WashYourHands, etc. As social media — and the rest of the globe — reacts to close the distance caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the design industry has rallied its collective forces to create and sustain community via virtual channels.
Cheryl Durst, IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO marshaled her organization’s troops to tune in to a 997-participant Zoom event on March 26. The webinar marked the start of IIDA’s new, weekly Collective D(esign) series. Intended to bring together top minds in the industry to discuss how aspects of the crisis are affecting everything from healthcare design to educational spaces, the program aims to offer free, concrete help for its membership and the rest of the industry.
Collective D(esign) – An IIDA Webinar Series for Shared Resources, Support, and Community
We tuned in as panelists Gina Berndt, FIIDA, ASID, Principal, Managing Director Perkins + Will Chicago; Susan Chang, AIA, Principal and Founder of Shimoda Design, Los Angeles; Jordan Goldstein, IIDA, AIA, Principal & Global Director of Design, Gensler, Washington, D.C.; and Tara Headley, Assoc. IIDA, Interior Designer, Hendrick, Atlanta, shared their thoughts on what the COVID-19 pandemic would mean for the design community, and how they personally and their firms are managing to deal with the situation.
The panel was diverse geographically, and their firms vary in size, scale and breadth of work, but the concerns, suggestions and solutions shared offered actionable insights for all participants. We have selected a few key highlights to share with you below.
How is your firm responding to the obvious challenges and uncertainty we are facing?
Jordan: We are challenged with the transition to the new reality. We saw things play out with our colleagues in China, so we had some warning. We migrated projects to the cloud, prepared for the technical challenges. We are set up so that everyone is connected. We have a borderless practice in a different way.
Susan: Our team of 17 is coping well. The shelter in place situation took us by surprise to quickly deploy to WFH, we are used to being in one room together. Our studio is savvy with technology. Web-based meetings are going ok, and we are experimenting with how to design collaboratively, without the physical tools of paper or models.
Tara: We have 40 people in our office. We jumped into a new, recently developed WFH policy. This has shown us how we can work as a team separately. We are utilizing Teams from Microsoft and sharing on Bluebeam. We are getting around the challenge of not being together, but we are helping each other through the learning curve of technology.
Gina: We are learning and growing from the experience. Our virtual communications have increased both internally and with clients.
Technology in post-COVID-19 offices
Tara: During these times of extended work from home periods, employees will have adapted and embraced technology as their new way of working. Therefore, future offices need to be designed to have ample plug-and-play options for seamless integration of WFH practices and office systems.
Gina: People will be working with physical tools to visualize space – there will be an uptick in more and better technology tools. There will be more online interaction and learning.
Optimism based on markets ahead of the US
Jordan: While it’s hard to predict outcomes, one metric gives up a positive indication of the future of design. As restrictions are being lifted in Asia, Gensler offices in China are reporting that clients are jumping back into projects, anxious to make up for lost time.
Gina: More crossover from health design to other practice areas – There will be more integration of design elements to create a healthy environment such as public hand washing and public restrooms of good quality. Design is going to be important to a transformation once we are through this.
Advice for smaller firms?
Susan: While some firms have been embracing collaboration with other like-sized firms, collaboration will be even more important as we emerge from this time. Connectivity and community will win!
How can architects and designers make employees feel safe to return to the office?
Gina: Employers need to be prepared to offer more flexibility such as allowing people to choose their hours to work; provide plenty of options in the space; have an emphasis on cleanliness; intentionally build in more hand washing stations outside of washrooms. We shouldn’t be surprised if you see more employees exercising caution by wearing gloves and masks in the workplace.
Thoughts about moving ahead
Susan: We have a responsibility as designers and architects, to think about the questions of today, and be challenged by what is to be more important. Going forward, want to stay positive, and think about what we do that can lift us out of this place we are in.
Tara: Tara – I am trying look outside myself, to see what I can do as a designer to help others.
Gina: Understanding that when you have fortune and privilege it is important to give it back and design is a powerful tool to do that.
Jordan: Consider changing up items/furniture/format in your WFH space.
Susan: I am taking calls on multiple devices, in multiple places, walk around the room or take a meeting outside while taking a walk. Play fetch with the dog, in between calls!