Interview with Pam Neiman, IIDA, CID, President IIDA So Cal

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting newly installed IIDA Southern California Chapter President Pam Neiman, IIDA, CID and principal of Neiman Studio.  I asked Pam questions to discover her point of view about business and our industry, her vision and goals for IIDA during her watch, and what it is about her own work she finds most satisfying. What I discovered is that Pam’s vision for our organization closely parallels her values and experience in business in very significant ways.

Q: What is the underlying theme you’d like to see throughout IIDA programming in the coming year?

A: “We’re a part of a dynamic International organization, and we have the opportunity to tailor our programs to the needs and interests of our local members.”  Pam states SoCal’s mission: “IIDA is the voice of interior design. We serve our members, our profession and the public through education, advocacy, and outreach”. By focusing on professional member engagement and taking a participatory leadership role, Pam believes that design leaders have the opportunity to tap into their own passion for our business, and use it to inspire their partners and designers to become more involved by both attending and participating in the leadership and planning of events with colleagues, vendors and other industry professionals.

Pam believes that when leaders (whether in business or within the IIDA itself) become involved, mentor and inspire others to collaborate and find creative solutions to the issues we commonly face, then we “connect the dots” and create a momentum that is for the good of all in our community.

Q: How does professional collaboration play out in your own career? Let’s use the project you’re most proud of as an example.

A: The Caltech Jorgenson Laboratory; this was a renovation project where the research and scientists are solving the world’s energy problems. It involved creating a state-of-the-art laboratory and workspace for two new centers of sustainability research:

*The Resnick Institute for Science, Energy, and Sustainability, whose mission is the address challenges related to the creation and conservation of energy.

*The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a DOE Innovation Hub that seeks to invent a highly efficient photovoltaic panel.

What Pam says she found most meaningful about the projects was the effectiveness of the Design Build Team. They forged a collaborative working relationship to build the client’s vision, and make it a reality. The result was the exciting transformation of the original fortress-like space into a vibrant workplace for the researchers and scientists. It was also an award winning LEED project that combined design, sustainability, interiors, architecture and business excellence.

Q: What are the trends you see emerging or gaining prominence in our business?

A: There are really two kinds of trends that I’d like to discuss. The first kind of trends are business trends, the second are design trends.

I work with higher education, healthcare and government sectors mainly.  I see ever-increasingly sophisticated clients in terms of who they choose to hire to lead their project work. I see more complex approaches such as Design Build, Integrated Project Delivery and General Contractors taking the lead when building a team of professionals to deliver the required services. It’s all about building strategic partnerships with the client’s best interest at heart.

Some key industries that I see trending in Southern California include Transportation, with projects at LAX, the new Metro stations and the Ports of LA and Long Beach leading the way with interesting design projects.

Downtown LA is another key geographic area where business is booming, and our industry has embraced the area. The “Silicon Beach” start-ups in the High Tech market have produced another key area of LA.

Branding is a key Design Trend. It is critical for such clients as Hospitals and Universities as they are facing increasing competition for students/patients, staff professionals and community support; that last one is key as facilities within the institutions are often income producing or community serving spaces. New, integrated signage, FF&E and refresh projects are often effective ways that clients can streamline their marketing effort to create a positive image with the public.

Wellness by design and evidence-based design is another trend. Research, innovation and getting measurable outcomes are more important than ever with highly competitive segments of the market and high profile clients.

Design can impact the bottom line for many clients. The institution’s ability to attract and retain top talent or the best students, professors, doctors, nurses, administrators etc. is at stake, so offering an innovative and integrated working or learning environment can make a big difference, so the functionality and aesthetics of any facility matter even more today than ever before.

The type of environment favored by some of the new High Tech companies, sales organizations, start-ups, brain-trusts and advertising agencies are leading the way with innovative, flexible, collaborative spaces where creativity flourishes. I like to think of as “incubators” where seasoned business management and sales professionals can interact with maverick entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to create new products and fresh ways to go to market. They have influenced so much of how facilities today are being designed with a wide variety of niche work and social areas that are perfect for casual collaboration or intensive private enterprise, indoors and out.

Q: Final thoughts

A: Leadership is all about being the catalyst for change; being the change agent and leading the way for others by inspiring them to grow and change is key to our success as an industry organization but also in our own businesses. Whether design firm principals employ tribal or bottom-up strategies, they can both be effective.

Building quality projects, relationships and communities is in everyone’s best interest!

Susan Steinlauf, Industry IIDA
United Interiors

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