Trip of a Lifetime | SCALE 2020 Conference Report

Contributor: Ann Goldenberg, Allied ASID

ASID’s Oregon Chapter sponsored nine PCC students for a trip of a lifetime—to SCALE, the National Annual Student Conference in Seattle, Feb 22-23.  PCC Architecture and Interior Club President Kyra Littlefield said “[She] was very impressed with the quality of the professional speakers, and the amazing support that ASID gives to new students.”

The 250 student designers in attendence met with vendors, had one-on-one sessions with industry leaders, and attended workshops led by design luminaries, all of whom generously shared their journeys and their tips for success.

The Keynote Speaker,Primo Orpilla, founder of Studio O + A, shared a secret with the students: he’s a hoarder. According to Orpilla, “[His] own collection of this and that are the “stuff” that mixes together for his designs.” How you accumulate your own vision, Orpilla believes, is a direct result of what you notice. Orpilla’s words of wisdom: “Designers observe, they discover, they synthesize, they repeat it. Look and reflect. It’s not perfect the first time. Develop your own concepts and ideas. Be original!”

Elizabeth Von Lehe, Design Principal with HCR traced her evolution from a newbie designer working on plus size clothes at Land’s End to a globe-trotting designer of products, hospitals, hotels, bars, and cruise ships. Von Lehe attributed her success to hard work, daily networking, and always “raising your hand” for opportunities. Von Lehe said “we are in the thick of the design revolution that started in the aughts, which brought good design to the masses.”

Jimmy Shimoda, FAIA, said “Careers are built on relationships.” Meena Krenek, ASID LEED AP, of Perkins and Will said, “As designers, we are storytellers.” Caroline Robbie of Quadrangle spoke about the creative process and how she found her “formula” over the years, cultivating balance between seeing stimulating images and quiet nothingness.

The attendees heard the importance of storytelling over and over again. The designers emphasized that “design is a mind-set that can be applied in a variety of ways.” Today’s students have opportunities beyond the traditional scope of interior design careers arising from:

  • New technologies
  • Increased requirement for data supported solutions
  • Increased project complexity
  • Higher expectations for design to perform on multiple levels
  • Emphasis on wellness, occupant behavior, and well being

The type of new careers could include:

  • Research director in AD firm
  • Workplace analysis
  • Sustainability specialist
  • Health and wellness consultation
  • Blending environments consultant
  • Resource curator for quality items for clients
  • Subject matter specialty within design domain

So, how to get that first design job? ASID Vice President of Education, Matthew De Geeter, told students to “emphasize your process and your story in your portfolio.” Geeter added, “A good portfolio was not only aesthetically appealing but also effectively showed what problem you solved and how you did it.”

At SCALE, the students got practical career building advice seasoned with priceless guidance on how to greet the future.  Caroline Robbie challenged the students to “think young and keep yourself open minded.” Robbie said, “Radical creativity and irrationality--that’s the human special sauce--don’t fear the AI. Find your passion and commit to it!”

With those words echoing in their ears after the final session, the wide smiles, excited eyes, and animated buzz of the students told me they will taking up that challenge.