Cheryl Durst: From School Teacher to CEO of IIDA
Today in The Lounge, we have a special guest. She’s not a designer… but she is one of the biggest movers and shakers in the interior design world. Welcome Cheryl Durst: savior and CEO of IIDA. Find out how Cheryl went from school teacher to CEO and how she saved The International Interior Design Association (IIDA).
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Getting to Know Cheryl
Cheryl joins us from Chicago but she’s usually on the road and travels about 35-40 weeks a year. Cheryl grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and went to school at Boston University for Journalism and Economics with a minor in Art History. Her lifelong dream had either been to work for the Wall Street Journal or to run a museum. What Cheryl loved about journalism and economics was taking untranslatable concepts, like finance and econ, and translating them into easily understandable, readable and relatable content.
After Cheryl graduated she moved to Washington, DC where she became a substitute teacher. One of the parents of her students liked the way she managed her class, as well as her level of enthusiasm, and asked if she ever thought about a career in sales. Bada bing bada boom, he hired her at Westinghouse Furniture Systems where she wrote product literature and worked as the showroom manager. This is Cheryl she became very involved in the commercial side of design. Afterwards, she was whisked away to work in marketing at the Washington Design Center. Additonally, interior design legislation was coming to the forefront in DC and Maryland so Cheryl was in charge of putting together curriculum and continuing education courses to satisfy those jurisdictions and requirements for designers. Later she was transferred to Chicago with her husband who worked for the Merchandise Mart as a trade show specialist. By now they had their first child, so Cheryl decided she could take a part-time job with IIDA, which at the time was only two years old. She was hired to be the Director of Education and little did she know, 3 years later Cheryl would be CEO.
Cheryl loves vacationing anywhere from Northern Wisconsin to Iceland. She really just loves traveling with her family and is currently planning a summer vacation with them to four different cities in Europe. Cheryl absolutely loves seeing new places so she can absorb and observe their culture.
This is Cheryl’s 20th year with IIDA and her 17th as CEO. Her quick transition to CEO was brought about beause of financial issues with the organization. The Board of Directors came to Cheryl and asked if she wanted to step into “fix it.” They needed a complete financial turnaround, IIDA was essentially bankrupt and was going to cease to exist. So Cheryl worked to make big changes like instituting an annual audit – nothing sexy at all- but all necessary to build sound infrastructure for an organization. Cheryl had always intended to go back to school for her MBA but ended up having on the job training for a real-life MBA AND she did ALL OF THIS while she was months PREGNANT.
IIDA is a professional membership organization that has created an international network to connect members worldwide and most importantly, advance the profession of interior design. IIDA connects and creates a community to educate designers about the incredibly complex profession. Cheryl says that interior design is growing evolutionary leaps and bounds, as humans demand so much from the spaces we inhabit: from hospital rooms to homes, to hotel rooms. The people who create those spaces should be and be seen as utmost professionals.
When it comes to creating a physical space there are so many choices: Do you use an architect, a contractor, a decorator, or an interior designer? IIDA promotes the profession of interior design by talking about its value. Interior Designers have the challenge of explaining their value to clients. Cheryl relays that we live in a world that loves design, without being able to articulate the value that design brings. We know that people feel better in a well-designed place and children learn more effectively in a well-designed classroom so IIDA works very hard to create materials to explain WHY. This includes continuing education programs, publications, and the book series: What Clients Want. A client might go into their project wanting a beautiful efficient home, but will come out on the other end with a better understanding of themselves, their culture, their business or value proposition. That is the goal. “Design is a strategy, not just an end to a means” Cheryl shares. “Many people do not have the vocabulary for design beyond its aesthetic.”
IIDA has 15,000 members in 58 countries worldwide, 300 of which are corporate.
IIDA just debuted their new space in Chicago at Neocon in June. The goal of the space was to encourage collaboration amongst their staff, give them mobility within the workplace, make it beautiful, and offer flexible choice to their employees. They had to keep in mind that they are a huge representative of contemporary commercial interior design, so IIDA wanted to exhibit the best practices in the world of workplace design.
They have an Idea Studio, which is a revenue-generating space (which is important as a nonprofit organization). It is open to be rented out by groups and organizations for assembly, gatherings, training, focus groups, social events, design awards programs, panel discussions and so much more. Anyone who needs a meeting space can rent it out, as well as their conference rooms.
Why Join IIDA?
IIDA allows immediate access to a worldwide community of design professionals and networking. No matter how you attach (via the publications, the website, or joining in your city) there are a multitude of opportunities to connect with other designers and learn more about where the profession of interior design is headed.
They run about a dozen international design competitions including regional and specialty competitions (such as healthcare and hospitality)
Healthcare is currently one of the most intriguing and complex arenas in the world of design. Good design directly correlates to how people heal. The time people spend in hospitals has grown shorter due to design considerations such as exposure to daylight. On the coin, a hospital is also a workplace so ways that hospitals can be more efficient have to be taking into consideration as well. This looks like conducting motion studies such as the time it takes a nurse to move from a nursing station to an ICU bed. Designers MUST collaborate with the doctors and nurses. Interior Design is a multidisciplinary practice, it requires collaboration with the professionals that inhabit the space the designers are designing.
Cheryl relays that research is an inherent part of design. Design is about what happens on the receiving end and can’t just rely on anecdotal evidence. It has to rely on metrics, and qualitative and quantitative data, as there is a level of accountability to increase performance in a space. Cheryl tells us that people tend to think design is just about beauty (and beauty is a very important part of design) but it is also about effectiveness and efficiency. There is an entire intellectual side that slowly the public is becoming aware of. Every single entity and organization is a consumer of design, so forging those relationships and having those higher level conversations about the goals of design is integral to IIDA. They have conducted research to study happiness and satisfaction in the workplace. Is indoor air quality, access to natural daylight, mobility and choice just as important as a 401K and vacation days? The answer is yes.
Cheryl’s Advice to Students and Industry Newbies:
“Study people, study human beings, they are the art and science of design. While you may be proficient at sketching, Revit, and CAD, the tool that enables design at the end of the day is human beings. Be observational, be curious, ask great questions, but also observe people in place and in space. You need to be a student of human beings to be a successful designer.:
Learn more at www.iida.org
Chaise Lounge Updates
Make your travel plans for Highpoint now!!! Each day at 2:30 Nick will be doing an interview with a different designer in a different showroom. He will also be having breakfast at 8:30 at the Universal Showroom on Saturday the 14th. His talk Passion Sucks It’s All about the Money will be at 11 am at Universal Furniture. To RSVP click here!
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IDS – Oct 13 – 16
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