Interior Design: The Essential Profession" Symposium

In celebration of NYSID’s 100th anniversary, on Friday, October 7, the College hosted “Interior Design: The Essential Profession;” a one-day symposium that explored the work of interior designers today and in the future and made the case that interior design is essential to human health, wellness, and happiness.

Keynote speaker and educator Aaron Betsky kicked-off the symposium by addressing the gendered nature of architecture and interior design and how the relationship between interiors and exteriors is critical to the success of any design project. ”The wonder of light entering a room caressing velvet, bringing to life the wrought silver, finding the beauty in everything that is all around us,” said Betsky, “This is the beauty of what interiors can do!”  

A discussion with John Zeisel, president and co-founder, Heathstone Alzheimer Care, Ltd, and Patrick Burke, principal, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, moderated by Randy Fiser, CEO of ASID, focused on design’s impact on spaces designed for the aging population, wounded veterans, and more. A conversation with Contract magazine's editor-in-chief John Czarnecki and Contract’s Designer of the Year Todd Heiser, principal, Gensler, explored how new ways of working—and new workers—require environments that support interactivity and collaboration. Heiser focused special attention on pushing the limits of his projects: "It's my job to get people to embrace more progressive interiors.”

The afternoon keynote was presented by behavioral economist and author Dan Ariely, discussed the problem of self-control, resisting temptation, and how we make everyday decisions based on our environment, from having a well-design refrigerator that will prevent food waste to the best ways to encourage people to save money in the slums of Kenya.

Metropolis editor-in-chief Susan Szenasy moderated a rapid-fire discussion with experts from the worlds of design, politics, and education, including Susan Nagle, principal at Bentel & Bentel; Edna Wells Handy, counsel to NYC Police Department Commissioner; architect Jack Travis; Scott Baytosh, head of Alexandria Country Day School; Susan DiMotta, principal at Perkins Eastman; and Andrew Dent, vice president, Library & Materials Research, Materials ConneXion; who spoke about their passions inside and outside the field of design and addressed pressing issues for interior designers today such as biophilia, space-age materials, education, and culture and context. Also included on the panel was Kate Wood, president, Landmark West!, who addressed the preservation of historic interiors and encouraged the audience to consider "why aren’t interiors of the past protected like exteriors of the past?” Rosalyn Cama, CAMA Inc., tackled designing for healthcare saying that “the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's injury." Darris James, global professional manager and design strategist, Gensler D.C.,  also passed along sound advice, "find the North Star for every project, the nexus between creativity and analysis." This panel was followed by interactive, group discussions led by the panelists and provide guests the opportunity to push the conversation about the role of interior designers even further.

Finally, Denise Guerin, principal at Martin & Guerin Design Research and author of the Interior Design Body of Knowledge studies, concluded the symposium by summarizing the day’s conversations and looking at the role and responsibilities of the interior designers of the future. She provided insight on how interior designers must define and document how interiors change lives, improve the human condition, and add economic value to society.  She reminded attendees that as interior designers, “We are the essential professional. We are the ones who create the spaces that we use. We design for people."

Phyllis Greer