Written by Lauren Foisy, Andres Gutierrez and Ali Akbar Sahiwala
On April 22nd and 23rd, Pratt Design Management students and faculty, participated in a two-day think-tank along with leaders and experts at the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI) Regional Design Symposium in New York. The initiative was titled Design + Economy = Our Future; it stimulated participants to analyze a direction for design as a strategy for growth, through the formation of a consensual design policy statement. Such a tool would be used to improve the quality of life and spur economic development across cities, nations, and regions.
Shashi Caan, IFI President 2009-2014, began the program with an introductory overview, explaining the structure of the workshop. Shashi explained that this symposium would build on a previous initiative titled the IFI Design Frontiers: Interiors Entity (DFIE) program. The DFIE was held at the same venue in 2011, the Steelcase WorkLife Center in New York. It’s main premise was to identify core tenants constituting the design of habitable environments and was adopted by 115 cities. By expanding on these findings and understanding how design shapes opportunities in societies worldwide, the IFI Regional Design Symposium would take the work further through developing a holistic policy.
Michael Thomson, Strategist at Design Connect, led the group through an initial overview of design being utilized as a strategy for growth, exemplifying examples from various countries including Korea, where the first national design policy was established. Michael’s insight proved how design is often an under-utilized strategy for growth and can be adopted at different scales on the micro or macro level.
In a panel discussion comprising of five industry leaders, themes discussed included how people measure design, whether technology has replaced art in schools, why design has a higher level of impact today than it has in the past, and, moving forward, the importance of advocacy to lead these conversations, highlighting design as undervalued.
Participants were divided into break-out groups, with each person assigned to investigate a category that design policy affects, namely: Innovation, Business + Economy, Public Sector, Society, Health & Wellbeing, Education and Policy.In each respective group, the goal was to identify five challenges, eight recommendations, five next steps, and finally, craft a statement that encompassed the team’s overall findings. Each of the groups presented their results and final statements to all participants at the symposium. Finally, the policy group was responsible for the final challenge of the day, combining each group’s reports, to formulate a comprehensive statement. The Design Policy Statement reads:
“Redefine design as a cross collaboration of all disciplines and leverage their knowledge to create an innovation coalition. Establish a vision of a prosperous global community demonstrating the value of design through storytelling and measured economic, social and environmental impact. Harness the value of design as essential to health and well-being and embed this intrinsic expectation through education across society. This will ensure all designers and design professions are active participants and leaders in activities and discussions that shape our future quality of life.”
Towards the end of the conference, a final panel discussion was held in which four experienced design leaders discussed lessons they have learned working in NYC. The panelists identified key themes including what is valued in policy today, schedule and budget versus value in government, design value as being perceived for the elites of society, and the importance of fostering space for collaboration as a trend and a driver for growth. By creating a unified design policy statement, the IFI positioned this symposium to serve as a first step towards a collective vision of the role of design. Such a framework can then be modelled by the public sphere as a way to raise awareness of the importance of design. In addition, as the IFI will soon celebrate it’s 50th year anniversary, it will continue to involve designers as active participants through ongoing conversations that shape the future of society.
About the Authors:
Originally from Boston, MA, Lauren has her B.S. in Interior Design from Endicott College. She has worked at Jacobs Engineering for the past seven years as an architectural, interior, and sustainable designer. Her experience spans several market sectors including retail, restaurant, transportation, mixed-use, as well as, corporate interiors. With an interest in business development, design strategy, and communications, she is currently enrolled in the Design Management Program at Pratt, where she hopes to continue her endless curiosity and desire to learn, while being a dynamic and effective designer.
Born and raised in Bogota-Colombia, Andres holds a Bachelors degree in architecture from Los Andes University. Prior to his graduation in 2007 he started working in Daniel Bonilla Arquitectos studio, a well-known architectural design firm in South-America. In 2009, he began his own studio, Oficina de Proyectos Arquitectonicos (OPA). Currently, Andres is studying at Pratt Institute, earning his Masters in Design Management. He is also working with an international platform for creative professionals “Posiciones de Emergencia” (PdE), a project he co-founded in 2009 with a group of artist, architects and designers. In addition, Andres has been involved in the sphere of academia as a teaching assistant Los Andes University.
Ali Akbar was born and raised in Dubai, UAE and has been witness to the city’s tremendous development over the past two decades. Equipped with his Bachelors degree, Ali provided strategic architectural thinking and insight to notable firms working on various architectural and wayfinding projects, artistic commissions and graphic design challenges in the Middle East. Ali’s expertise includes applying an analytical approach to complex problems and has often served as a dedicated design lead. Currently a graduate student at Pratt Institute, Ali aspires to elevate the nature of business by studying Design Management.