Design’s Invisible Impact

On October 8th, IIDA SoCal hosted a panel discussion with thought leaders in design and wellness about the impact of the unseen in the built environment, through the lens of our current global circumstances. Moderated by Melissa Steach of Herman Miller, the conversation was practical, deep and moving. Steach opened the dialogue by proclaiming, “Buildings are a conduit, a vessel for energy…for all of us”.

When asked what design elements are considered invisible in her area of design and how have their purposes changed during COVID, Sarah Crutchfield, Store Design Manager for Starbucks, said “People returning to something that felt familiar…for Starbucks it’s a feeling of safety and community and if our customers don’t feel that, then we’ve missed our mark.”

Steach asked the panel about dealing with tough clients when it comes to explaining the need for ‘unseen elements’ in a project. Riz Walker, LA Studio Lead for Blitz!, answered “I think it’s really important to know why you’re doing it…not just programming, but a discovery of what it is and who they are. And all of that builds into this concept – that initial big idea – its so solid and already ingrained in your own heart…you feel it. If you feel the design, your client is going to feel it through you.”

The group was asked how the pandemic might change design for the future, Jessica Cooper of IWBI said “This pandemic has shed light on how impactful our environment is on our health and wellbeing.” Casscia Murray, Senior Project Designer for Pacific33 architects, said “I think if we only focus on planning for the worst, we’re going to lose a little bit of why we design and the creative process. We try to be pro-active, but sometimes we will need to be reactive.”

Walker closed out the conversation by saying, “It allows us as thought leaders to talk about this in a bigger way and actually have a bigger voice now because people are going to hear us and hear these new ideas based off of what’s happening.” To which Steach replied “No matter your role, no matter the size of your world or your bubble, we are all thought leaders in our own right. I hope that everyone here…can go out and lead and effect some positive change in their own world, no matter how big or small.”

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