Why Staying Connected to the Design Community is More Important Than Ever

As design educators and students begin to navigate a challenging fall semester, becoming and staying involved with the design profession and community remains a top priority.

Students at the 2019 IIDA Student Design Charette at NeoCon.
Photo: Students at the 2019 IIDA Student Design Charette at NeoCon. Credit: Jeremy Witteveen

Before the pandemic halted in-person gatherings, IIDA convened two groups of designers and students in Dallas and Seattle in the fall of 2019 to examine the interconnectedness and diverse landscape of the design profession.

The resulting conversations have been collected in the 2020 IIDA Student Roundtable Report, sponsored by OFS, to serve as a guide for students on becoming active, staying involved and why it takes a village to bring meaningful design to life. (The full report will be available on iida.org in early fall).

The program explored a variety of topics, ranging from a thorough examination of the design process in the real world to practical tips when working with your first client—and though many things have changed since, the importance of staying connected to fellow design professionals hasn’t.

[Related: How Will Education Design Change in a Post-Pandemic Environment?]

“When I was just starting out, I wish that I had a forum like this so that I could hear how people went from degree to design, and to hear them describe the dynamics of their roles and relationships on the job,” says Timothy B. Jackson, PMO director of Cushman and Wakefield, describing the intended effect of these conversations.

Finding your role in design, especially now, can feel daunting for emerging professionals and recent design graduates. With the pandemic limiting in-person events and meetings, creativity and persistence can still help design professionals explore the industry and learn the range of jobs that make up the profession. Using professional networks like IIDA, students can seek out mentors and thought leaders in their area to answer questions and connect virtually to better understand where they may fit as they begin and progress through their design careers.

Being adaptive and responsive has always been critical, but may now be more important than ever. “Your inspiration or your goals may change as your career changes,” says Kaitlin Snow, Ind. IIDA, design sales manager at OFS. “You have to be prepared for that, and for potentially adapting your skills to fit new roles.” Doing the work of creating an expansive network has many benefits for students and young designers, and the report offers suggestions on how best to find those peers to lean on for support, guidance and expertise as they move through their journey as an interior designer.

This includes taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you. Tyler Hatton, the 2020 IIDA Student of the Year recipient, describes that time and time again, showing up to events—whether in-person or virtual—has had a positive impact on his career as a design professional. “Whenever I attend an IIDA event, I feel connected to my profession, empowered as a designer and an overwhelming sense of community of positive people who wish to make a difference in the world.”

The resiliency, flexibility and positivity inherent in design are the same traits emerging professionals can lean on to thrive through the remainder of the pandemic. “We are a group of competent, compassionate people, who love to work together to create positive change and great experiences in the world.” Hatton says, “We share a unique perspective and diverse tools to tackle challenges and cultivate community.”


Design is rarely completed in isolation. It is done with and for others, with each designer pulling daily from an emotional reservoir of empathy and understanding. This was true yesterday and will be true again tomorrow. It takes a village to bring a design to life, and it takes each of us showing up with our whole hearts to create and sustain that village.

To learn more about IIDA student membership and the programs and initiatives IIDA has created for educators and students, please contact Ryan Ben, IIDA student engagement and advancement manager at rben@iida.org.

Read Next: Create Community in Interior Design Education

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Lighting Designers Play Vital Role in Product Specification

COVID-19 has brought many unexpected changes to the world. The lighting industry—and specifically lighting designers—are helping America get back to work with products that monitor social distancing and luminaires that help to disinfect public spaces.

As such, it is more important than ever to work with a professional lighting designer, preferably one that is Lighting Certified (LC), when considering lighting specifications for commercial applications.

Outdoor amphitheater
Photo: Quality and reliability are critical in lighting specifications, particularly in demanding environments like this outdoor amphitheater. Look for products that carry the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Evaluation program that validates a company reliably stands behind its warranty.

Lighting for Health and Safety

Lighting companies are now offering lighting products for social distancing that can sense the number of people in an occupied space and send an alert if too many people gather in one area. Signify has a system called Interact Office that has this capability, and Acuity Brands has similar software with their Atrius Solutions. Keeping people apart is obviously important for health and safety but having technology that helps monitor the social distancing also makes workers feel safe and can improve attendance.

A second contribution lighting designers are making on projects is specifying products with UV-C light that cleans the air and disinfects surfaces. There are several types and applications for UV disinfecting, and the market seems to be gravitating to two types with very different uses. The first is a 222-nanometer wavelength product that can be used continuously, as it is safe to humans so long as it is filtered. Ushio recently launched this type of application, for example.

The other type of UV-C technology that is in demand is a 254-nanometer, which is more effective than the 222 nm, but it is dangerous as it can harm the skin and eyes. Therefore the 254-nanometer should only be used in unoccupied spaces or in occupied spaces where people and pets are not directly exposed. Professional lighting designers can help clients determine which type of product to use and where to use it.

[Related: The New Normal of Lighting in Interior Spaces]

Combining the various products seems to be the best approach. A designer will specify filtered UV-C 222-nanometer for continuous cleaning in occupied areas and UVC-254 nanometer for deep cleaning in high traffic areas at night when the spaces are unoccupied. In addition, 254 nm UV-C luminaires have been added to HVAC units near the coils to help kill viruses circulating in the air. Further, many manufacturers now offer 254-nanometer UV-C products in upper air fixtures. These luminaires will disinfect the air above eye-level so there is no direct eye-to-source contact. 

A typical maintenance person or purchasing agent won’t have the expertise or education to put this package together, thus the need for the professional lighting designer. In fact, incorrect specifications can do much harm in a few ways. First, the users can be injured if exposed to UVC 254-nanomenter product. Second, they may have a false sense of safety assuming the UV is disinfecting when the wrong product has been specified and not enough UV reaches the surface to properly disinfect.

Interface logoInterface Sponsor Break: 

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Ensuring Quality and Reliability

Another critical role of the lighting designer is to specify high quality and reliable products. This is when the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Evaluation program comes in. In short, this program validates that a company reliably stands behind its warranty. Products carrying the NLB Trusted Warranty logo come from companies whose warranty departments have been audited and approved by the NLB.

The Bureau was ready to launch the program March 1, but due to the pandemic, the launch date has been pushed out. It is currently processing applications from OEM’s, and will be conducting the audits beginning in the fall. 

Any company that sells products in the U.S. or Canada and that meets the objective criteria set by the NLB will be approved by the program. Seeing that the fixtures carry this logo gives the end user peace of mind, knowing the luminaires have met quality standards. What’s more, this logo tells users that the product meets at least eight of 10 criteria within five specific areas of interest.


The first set of criterion looks at the company’s formal warranty and evaluates three criteria:

  1. The warranty must be found easily on the company’s website within three search clicks from the homepage or within one click using search.
  2. The company should also have specific documented procedures for their warranty that keep its management informed of warranty issues.
  3. Either an employee, department or third party must be tasked with managing the warranty, and their contact information must be readily available.

The next area of interest examines the warranty language. The warranty must be written in a way that the average person can understand and follow it. Additionally, the warranty must specify its start date. Oftentimes, warranties are filled with technical language that the layperson cannot understand. These criteria ensure that the company’s client understands exactly what the warranty does and does not cover.

[Related: Must-Know Facts About Specifying Materials for Furniture, Fixtures and Millwork]

Next, the company must either a) have been in business longer than the length of the warranty, or b) possess insurance that covers its warranty obligations. This prevents companies from offering warranties which they don’t have the financial means to back. Furthermore, by offering the option for warranty insurance, newer companies are not discriminated against.

The fourth area includes a technical evaluation. Two SKUs (stock keeping units) will be chosen at random for reliability validation. A point will be awarded for each SKU that has reliability documentation. While the NLB does not conduct product testing, it ensures that the company has information that allows it to confidently stand behind the quality of its products.

Finally, the NLB will assess three claims for evaluation. Specifically, each of the claims will be assessed from first notification until when the claim was complete with the NLB monitoring the speed with which the claim was dealt.

Knowing that a third party, non-profit company has evaluated a particular warranty program should give the designer and the end user the confidence to move forward with the project worry-free.

Read Next: How to Specify: Sustainable Furniture

About the Author:

Randy Reid is the executive director of the National Lighting Bureau.

*This How to Specify article was sponsored by Interface Inc.

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i+s eHandbook Bookshelf

Welcome to the interiors+sources’ eBookshelf, a digital library of the latest guidelines for designing and operating commercial building projects.

These new eHandbooks feature a compilation of practical and reliable information from some of the industry’s most trusted sources and suppliers covering a range of topics and markets (with more to come soon).

Best of all, they’re free of charge!

Reopening and Re-imagining Educational Facilities Amid COVID-19 eHandbook

Reopening and Reimagining Educational Facilities Amid COVID-19 eHandbook

Get your copy here.

How can schools and colleges reopen safely while protecting students’ health and wellbeing?

What might the design of classrooms look like in a post-pandemic world?


This eHandbook explores these questions and more by providing guidelines and tips from some of the most trusted sources to help school administrators prepare their facilities for students’ safe return—whenever that may be.

Download now.

Reopening Offices Post-COVID-19

Strategies for Reopening Offices Post-COVID-19

Get your copy here.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down an unprecedented number of commercial office buildings for months in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many companies, building owners, and facility executives have been wondering when it will be safe to reopen.

More importantly, they’ve also been asking how to reopen their offices safely.

Download now.


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Get a Behind the Scenes Take on the VR Tour of Mannington’s Design Center

In this episode, Chief Content Director Robert Nieminen talks to guests John Higgs, Brandon Carmichael and Mark Starling of Corgan’s MediaLab about their experience working together to film the 360 VR video of Mannington’s Design Center in Atlanta, including the technology and approaches they used to create this immersive experience.

Listen now.

360 VR video of Mannington's Design Center in Atlanta

Meet Our Guests:

Brandon Carmichael, Executive Creative Director, Corgan MediaLab

Brandon Carmichael, Executive Director, Corgan MediaLabAs Executive Creative Director, Brandon Carmichael is responsible for evolving and elevating the creative story behind each of the Corgan MediaLab projects, whether a 30-min short film, a life-size immersive installation or a single VR experience.

Brandon also leads a team of highly skilled artists, who span traditional filmmaking, illustrators, designers and loves to teach/learn new ways to tell stories.

John Higgs, President, Corgan MediaLab

John Higgs, President, Corgan MediaLabJohn Higgs is the founder and President of Corgan MediaLab. He has honed his studio’s craft over the past 20+ years, and now the Lab is recognized as a regional leader in the field of architectural visualization. He has produced animations for a variety of architectural projects ranging from international airports, office complexes, data centers, transit projects, and hospitals. John has also done work in the broadcast, film, interactive, music, and video game industries for clients such as Adidas, Hyundai, Dell, Mountain Dew, Atari, Nokia and Chase.

While under his leadership, Corgan MediaLab has been honored with numerous awards and has been featured in many publications. John has spoken at AU and other conferences on the topics of technology and design visualization. He has also served on the advisory board at Full Sail University and acted as a visiting instructor at Texas Tech University for a graduate-level animation course.

Mark Starling, Video Production Specialist, Corgan MediaLab

Mark Starling, Video Production Specialist, Corgan MediaLabMark Starling is a Video Production Specialist with more than fifteen years of experience, which includes: news, sports, corporate video, commercial production, live production, entertainment and docu-reality.

Currently, Mark is a Senior Producer at Corgan MediaLab. He is responsible for producing video/VFX projects that support architectural clientele. Mark performs estimation, bidding, planning and scheduling of projects to include coordination of internal/external resources, applying quality control and ensuring that deadlines are met. Mark also facilitates client communication, including managing client expectations and working with other members of the production team to keep the workflow on track.

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Mohawk Group Donates Carpet Tile to Several Deserving Georgia Schools

With the new school year well underway, several Georgia-based schools have now had the chance to utilize their newly designed classrooms courtesy of a state-wide School Crashers program. 

Hosted by Georgia United Credit Union Foundation with donor partners like Mohawk Group, the annual program awards one deserving school a makeover grant funded by the foundation and runners-up with grants for specific projects. 

New Hope Middle School
Photo: New Hope Middle School was this year’s award-winning applicant for the Georgia-based School Crashers program. The school used the $20,000 grant to create a new sensory room for students that have diverse academic needs. Images courtesy of Mohawk Group.

Faculty and administration across Georgia apply for facility makeovers based on specific needs that would enhance their respective curriculum and campus. 

This year’s award-winning application went to New Hope Middle School in Dalton, who which used the $20,000 grant to establish an inspiring and engaging environment specifically set aside for a population of nearly 30 students that have diverse academic needs, ranging from autism, intellectual disorders, physical impairments, visual impairments and oppositional defiant disorders.  

[Related: How Will Education Design Change in a Post-Pandemic Environment?]

The new sensory room features floor-to-ceiling upgrades and will provide a designated area where these students can relax to calm and refocus themselves as they return to in-person instruction. Mohawk Group, located just down the street from New Hope Middle School, donated carpet for the space, which allowed the school to reallocate some of the budget to use on other items to fill and further build out the sensory room.

In addition to providing the carpet, Mohawk also supplied some of its own volunteers who, while undertaking certain precautions, helped install flooring, paint, put together furniture and set up each of the rooms. 

School Crashers program
Photo: As a donor partner for the School Crashers program, Mohawk Group provided 440 square yards of carpet tiles to Georgia-based schools. Images courtesy of Mohawk Group.

“As a Georgia-based manufacturer, we love the fact we’re able to make a difference in our communities across the state with carpet grants that allow the School Crashers monetary grants to go even further,” says David Dembowitz, senior vice president of sales for Education and Government at Mohawk. “Learning environments for students and workplace environments for teachers and administrators play such an important role in their respective day-to-day experiences.” 


Four additional public schools across metropolitan Atlanta and middle Georgia were the deserving recipients of School Crashers program grants with the addition and makeover of playgrounds and outdoor classrooms.  

“Various Mohawk Group 24-by-24-inch carpet tile styles were donated to each school based on special requests and availability–approximately 440 square yards in total,” says Dembowitz. “We worked with the administrators and grant applicants to pick collections that either had specific color palettes and motifs, and/or reinforced school branding depending on the spaces where they would be installed.”  

The School Crashers program is now in its seventh year and has provided 50 school makeovers totaling more than $1.5 million in improvements. Learn more and how you can help at GUCUFoundation.org/SchoolCrashers

Read Next: Why Staying Connected to the Design Community is More Important Than Ever

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