Creating Connection Through Design
KI and IIDA are hosting a six-city panel discussion focused on Community as Strategy. The emerging topic centers around how the idea of community is shaping design in various markets and locations. Each event features a panel of designers, clients and academia and is hosted by Cheryl Durst, IIDA’s Executive Vice President and CEO.
KI and IIDA's Community as Strategy six-city series recently concluded with a banner event at the Merchants Exchange Club in San Francisco. Our final panel explored the role design plays in creating community everywhere from tech start-ups to colleges and universities. Panelists included:
- Shawn McLean-Bergel, head of design and construction at Twilio Inc.
- Amy Campos, founder and principal of ACA, tenured associate professor and chair of interior design at California College of the Arts
- Sascha Wagner, president and CEO of Huntsman Architectural Group.
Both panelists and attendees noted the importance of design and how it empowers people to identify with organizations and to feel a part of a larger community. Panelists characterized this feeling of belonging as a common thread across the organizations with which they worked.
Amy Campos highlighted how the design process encompasses more than textiles, colors and furniture. "Really, we make human culture. We make social conditions," she said.
Tech companies are renowned for creating vibrant, engaging work environments. Those environments help them attract and retain top talent -- and build distinct cultures.
Shawn McLean-Bergel presented photos of Twilio's company café, the hub for its community events. During Twilio's monthly all-hands meetings, global employees virtually join the café environment. "All our offices, at the same time, get to pipe into this space," McLean-Bergel said.
While the physical space may be designed for employees located on-site, it serves as a catalyst for connection for remote employees as well.
Tech start-ups aren't the only companies looking to design spaces that reflect their culture and create internal communities. Sascha Wagner shared details from his work with an advertising agency to design a space that "gave them a launchpad to be who they were going to be and define their culture."
When the agency moved into a former concert venue in San Francisco, Wagner's team kept the stage as a platform for employees to give client presentations. The office has custom steel desks, purposefully built for employees to stand on and walk across. "They'll deliver their pitches like it's a rock concert," Wagner said.
The panelists also discussed how design can welcome people into spaces they might otherwise feel hesitant to enter. Campos cited her work with a San Francisco food bank with students from the California College of the Arts. They collaborated with the food bank's volunteers and patrons to create a place where shoppers could have a dignified experience and learn about nutrition. "[Our goal is to] provide a setting where people can feel proud to be part of that community," Campos said.
There was a common refrain throughout the evening -- a place's purpose can vary. But it has to reflect and enhance the group inhabiting it.
"Community is often about scale," Durst said. "Spaces that enable and reinforce community can be vibrant and dynamic or quiet and intimate. Design amplifies and nurtures how and where community happens."
As we conclude the Community as Strategy series and look back at the dialogue exchanged, there is a common theme throughout every conversation and every city – connection. People crave places where they can forge tangible connections with one another.
We’d like to thank IIDA and our panelists and attendees who so greatly contributed to this important discussion about creating community through design. An executive summary highlighting the key takeaways from our six panels will be shared in early 2020. We look forward to continuing this conversation and encourage you to follow KI and IIDA to learn more about our events scheduled for the coming year.
Follow along on social media using the hashtags #ispyki, #kifurniture, #iidaiseverywhere and #iida_hq.