Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Miami, Florida for the GATHER conference put on by the American Society of Interior Designers which was a fantastic educational and networking opportunity. As someone who has been a part of the professional organization of ASID for over 30 years it provided many opportunities of continued learning but also reflection. It reinforced how much I love being a part of a Professional organization. I remembered how when I first came to ASID, there were so many more experienced people who took me under their wing and championed me. That was such a gift!

My first significant recollection as an ASID designer was going to San Antonio, Texas for the Convention some 30 plus years ago. I took the city tours because I love to travel, experience different environments, soak up visuals & meet like minded people. We come from all walks of life and our outlooks are all unique, yet there is a fundamental acceptance and camaraderie underneath. Many of us are still connected today and they are still energetic supporters of mine.

At that convention BJ Peterson was the National President & she spoke openly about her life. An ACOA and a Rolls Royce Driver! I loved that open honest communication. As a newbie sitting in the audience, knowing all my own flaws & not having much of a portfolio I was moved beyond measure how everyone was welcome at the table. I decided right then and there to put one foot on the next and learn all I could about being a great design professional. It was my avenue to learn so much more than just making pretty spaces!

While at the GATHER conference this year,  I was reminded about another aspect of this work that I love which is a sense of connection. Camaraderie is defined as “mutual trust and friendship among people who have something in common”. There was immediate acceptance and a basis for conversation from the opening night party when I spoke with designers of every age (20’s through 70’s), multicultural backgrounds (Ukraine – South Africa), and every level of being in business. Including new start ups, transitioning from another field (one woman I met had not even transitioned yet from a finance career, however she knew the value of mentorship) and many who were in the industry over 30 + years). The feeling of connection and camaraderie is also such a huge component of the designer client relationship.

As a team we are working toward the common goal of creating beautiful, functional, and life affirming homes or a commercial space that visually articulates your business’ mission and values.  Just as I learned from the variety of designers at GATHER, part of what we love about what we are doing is growing and learning and bringing it to our clients. 

While at GATHER there were seemingly endless opportunities and events for continuing education in design.  I got to dive into new or deeper thoughts on many subjects. Some highlights included Trauma Informed Design, Empathy in Design, Designs role in climate change, Clearing the Air and the Future Role of Design in Living and Working. We were able to discuss design from a holistic perspective in conversations focusing on specific case studies that used deeply researched  concepts to create spaces that initiate connection, celebration, community and discovery.  We also discussed how the physical experience of the built environment can be shaped to simultaneously create a positive impact on the world and the users of the space. 

One thing that stood out from a sustainability perspective is when I spoke to a window treatment company which employs local residents of the Caribbean islands as opposed to contractors from far away. As someone who has done projects in that region, like in Aruba (so much fun!) this really resonated with me. Instead of flying someone to measure and install window treatments for projects in that region of the world, connections are made with local craftsmen.  This is a gift that is twofold as it decreases the amount of waste produced by excess travel for non-local installers as well as helps clients in terms of budget as long distance travel will be a lesser expense while maintaining jobs for residents of local communities and so economic opportunities are not lost.

After an amazing trip this experience has helped me realize that In a world where so many think they can click their heels together 3 times and become a designer, a professional organization helps you remember who we are and what we bring to the table!  I feel reinvigorated and am so excited for all of my current and upcoming projects. I am so happy that I can almost immediately translate the wealth of knowledge I was exposed to into my everyday design practice.

 Joanne and All of Us at The Interior Edge