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Thoughts from Designer Olivia Danielson: How Design "Moves" Me

May 31, 2017
  • A&D

Graduating from design school at Purdue University at the height of the recession in 2010 left me struggling to find my path among the layoffs and hiring freezing. My first job out of school was designing research laboratories. My career path then meandered through a myriad of corporate positions from facilities planning to a furniture dealer to working at a furniture manufacturer. Finally, I landed my dream job at a design firm!  I gained such a wide variety of knowledge along the way, and I felt like I finally made it!

However, I still felt like something was missing. I found myself searching for that elusive “balance.” I wanted my professional choices to align more with my personal life. I am a five time marathon runner and training for my sixth; I also enjoy cross training and am a yoga enthusiast. While running and yoga provide me both physical and mental outlets, I wanted the same for my professional life. I wanted to practice what I preach!

Then a few serendipitous opportunities presented themselves. First, I participated in an Active Design charrette with KI where we used their current headquarters as our mock project site to implement wellness and active design principles.  The goal was to improve the employee working conditions and create an environment that was beneficial for the mind, body, and soul. The second opportunity materialized when I attended a Biophilia Workshop at the Living Future unConference in 2016 where we learned how to incorporate design with nature and bring the outside into a living space.  One of my favorite Biophilic principles is using natural forms, patterns, and materials to mimic nature in the built environment. This could be using a pattern made of undulating wood to mimic water.

All of this knowledge empowered me to make some changes in my own life and career. I started by teaming up with my coworker in Seattle to restructure and revitalize our Sustainable Wellness Committee in order to showcase our services and resources both internally and externally. From a project standpoint, I began incorporating Biophilic ideals into my designs to affect change in how people work in their everyday environments. I also started fitness happy hours with reps and coworkers as an alternative to going out for drinks. It has been fun to discover new challenges such as hip hop yoga and get to know a different side of my peers.

Additionally, I take a lot of my meetings standing up at our community table as well as requested a sit to stand attachment for my workstation. One of the more difficult things I did was make time for mindfulness. We are constantly connected and have other people, work, and apps that demand our attention. My process began with reading for 15-20 minutes each night before going to bed. Secondly, I choose to not keep my phone in my bedroom at night as the harsh blue light convinces the brain that it is daytime and it should be working. This also prevents me from being woken up by email or text notifications. I now use an old school alarm clock, and my brain thanks me for it in the morning!

Wellness takes a different shape for everyone. I made a few simple changes along my path to align my passions in life and career in that quest for balance and have found that my life feels more complete as a result.

KI would like to thank Olivia Danielson of IA Interior Architects for offering her perspective on design and sharing it's impact on her personal and professional life. For more inspiration on how design moves KI's partners, customers and employees, check out our #designmoves Pinterest board.

by Olivia Danielson 

Olivia is a designer at Interior Architects who works on various corporate workplace and retail projects in addition to managing two retail design standards accounts. Her experience on the client side and furniture knowledge from working at both furniture dealer and manufacturing companies makes her a perfect match for helping clients create a big picture for design aesthetics that align with their brand and pushing it out to a multi project level. She also has a passion for human and environmental sustainability and is the co-facilitator of IA’s Sustainability and Wellness Committee that services all 20 of Interior Architects’ offices and ensures the modernization of IA’s resources both internally and externally. In her free time, she enjoys training for marathons, practicing yoga, fixing up her vintage condo with her husband, and volunteering on the associate board for Life Span, a nonprofit that provides free legal and counseling services for victims of domestic violence. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in interior design from Purdue University with a minor in Spanish and is a LEED Green Associate.


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