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design thinkers

What Story Do You Want to Tell?

Every day, we’re inundated with content coming from all directions. From tailored ads based on highly personalized algorithms on our smart phones or computers, to quick-hit videos and images on social media platforms that we choose to ‘like’, comment or scroll past.

When I was working on my masters for Interior Design, Facebook had just launched and only college students used the platform. Then before I knew it, Facebook became the platform for us all to connect, reconnect and share our personal stories. Since then, other social media platforms have come on the scene, where storytelling and brand imaging has taken the form of beautifully filtered images or quick video reels dancing along our screens to the latest pop song playing in the background. But at the end of the day, what do they all have in common? They’re a form of storytelling. Personal storytelling. Storytelling to persuade us to ‘click here’ and ‘learn more’ about a product that is just right for us. Storytelling to compel us to support a cause or movement. Storytelling that creates and supports a brand’s image for better or worse.  I guess it all depends on how many likes a post receives or how many times it’s shared over time.

Now you’re probably wondering how this relates to interior architecture. Why is an interior designer discussing social media posts and storytelling? Well, it’s easy. I’ll tell you:  Architects and designers are storytellers. Storytellers of the built environment.

I’ve been practicing interior design for 15 years. But I entered the A&D world late after a stint working for a global advertising firm as an account manager. There, I helped launch the release of print, TV, and online ads that told their story within 30 seconds of airtime, through a quick click of the mouse or to a reader flipping pages of her favorite magazine. Now, as an interior designer, I’m still helping to tell stories.  Interior designers do much more than selecting paint colors and finishes. We are not decorating a space, we’re designing it to meet specific functions and user needs, complimenting the building architecture and telling a story about our clients in the process. Whether it’s a corporate client recreating their brand to attract fresh talent through the design of a new workspace environment, or a higher education institution that’s about to launch a new medical program to attract the highest caliber of faculty, researchers, and students. What story does the building tell that will be discussed years from now, decades from now? The building and interior design reflects a brand identity and represents the core values and mission of an institution, company, hospital, or school. These branded environments can evoke emotion, capture interest to learn more about a subject or topic or encourage another visit.

Above: Augusta University, “Science on Display”

In the last several years I have specialized in higher education projects across the country, with a focus on science and medical education buildings. The diverse building programs allow me to design a variety of spaces within one building. I love that.  On a few recently completed projects in Georgia, I had the opportunity to incorporate elements that celebrate the school’s mission and the work happening in the classroom and labs. For example, the new College of Science and Mathematics building at Augusta University features the design concept “Science on Display” to inspire and motivate undergraduate students to pursue a degree in the sciences. We worked with faculty members to curate over two dozen science and mathematics images to display throughout the building that not only represented the body of work and research taught at the school but also offers learning opportunities as one ventures down a corridor to Physics Lab or collaborate outside a faculty members office. The research-based scientific images became artwork and turned out beautifully. Each image includes a brief description and QR code for students and visitors to learn more about the image, creating conservations and dialogue (“what is that exactly? Wow, how cool is that?”) and in the process, the school is presenting their brand on full display.

Above: Emory University’s School of Public Health   

Another recently completed project in Atlanta is the School of Public Health at Emory University. Located in the “public health capitol of the world”, the School of Public Health is ranked 4th in the nation by US News and World Report. Making their mark on the global stage for innovative research and community-based outreach programs, the school tasked our team to develop a way to celebrate and highlight their accomplishments as well as tell the many stories of their staff, students and main benefactor, the Rollins family. We teamed with branded environments specialists, Zebradog, to help bring this highly dynamic and interactive experience to life. Deemed the ‘Pulse’, this branded environment is located at the main plaza level of the building, a highly trafficked space for students, staff, and visitors. As the entire plaza level is used for special events, lectures and programs, the brand glows and draws people in like a “beacon” for public health education. The glow emanates from motion sensor LED color lights along the path of travel with a digital interface that can be easily maintained and updated allowing the school to tell their story in real time. Pulse has become the physical embodiment of their brand.

Above: Emory University’s School of Public Health 

Have you thought about your physical space and how it can manifest into a reflection of your brand? What is the story you want to tell?



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