contributed by Lisa DiOnne, Allied ASID, LEED AP [project administrator – ForrestPerkins / student symposium co-chair / stained glass artist]
Every year the ASID Texas Chapter hosts a multi-day Student Symposium in order to expose students – whether or not they are members of ASID or live in Texas – to the breadth of the industry. Last year’s event took place October 13-15, 2011, in Dallas and attracted participants from 16 colleges and universities. The symposium’s organizers chose the theme Interior Design Boot Camp as a platform to enlighten students about the fact that the industry can be a stressful, competitive obstacle course made up of long hours, quick turn-arounds, and difficult clients. Similar to how the physical demands of military training prepare recruits for service by toughening them up, this event achieved its mission to show students how industry challenges will ultimately strengthen them and their careers. Since the event was so successful, the committee wanted to share its ideas with others who might be planning student-focused interior design events of their own.
Students began their experience Thursday evening with a Boondoggle through Slocum Street Style, a festive showroom crawl along one of the Dallas Design District’s most well known streets.
The students’ ultimate stop – designated Chop Chop – was the Ellen S. Holt showroom and workroom, where they mingled with ASID leaders and listened to the legend that is the establishment’s owner. In her energetic fashion, Ellen entertainingly lead everyone through her winding journey through the industry from technical artist to textile designer to nationally recognized designer of original and historic reproduction passimentre. Despite the unexpected supply challenges of creating her amazingly intricate, hand woven tassels and fringes, Ellen still has an unwavering passion for textiles and happily answered all questions posed to her regarding her singular niche within the industry.
The morning started off with a bang during the Call to Arms breakfast where Herman Miller, the morning’s host, got the students off to a spicy start with breakfast tacos and lots of strong coffee in their incredibly spacious showroom.
Students were then grouped into three units for Declassified Information, which consisted of three 45-minute rotating sessions full of practical knowledge and the kind of honest, real life experiences that the students would most likely never be exposed to in the classroom:
 Carole B. Steadham, SDA/C, Hon. AIA, is President of Placement By Design, a placement consulting recruiting firm. During her presentation “Learning to Market Yourself to Employers” she shared her expertise with new ideas and tips for résumés, portfolios and business cards. Carole is in constant connection with those hiring within the industry, and she explained exactly what employers are looking for in the current marketplace.
 Interior designer Lisa Barron, Allied ASID, of Dallas Design Group Interiors and Rick Smotherman, Managing Partner of Precision Delivery Services, spoke together on the topic “Project Installations: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. They entertained and shocked the students with true-life stories about what really takes place behind the scenes to get all the furniture, furnishings, equipment, art and accessories fully installed in both commercial and residential projects.
 Kelley Barnett, ASID, owner of Kelley Barnett Interiors and the 2011-2012 ASID Texas Chapter President, encouraged students during her presentation “Harnessing the Power of the Intangible”. She shared the details of two recent pro bono projects in order to demonstrate to students the powerful benefits of doing volunteer work. Her most recent endeavor has been helping an 18-year-old high school senior who was paralyzed from the neck down in a tragic accident. Many shed a few tears after Kelly explained why she rallied industry colleagues to completely redesign his family’s home, making it accessible for his new physical needs and allowing him to move home after months in the hospital.
Next, students were shuttled down to the Dallas Arts District for Tour of Duty where, alongside practitioners and industry partners, they explored the largest urban arts district in the United States. While on this architectural walking tour, docents exposed small groups of students to both historic and cutting-edge buildings designed by the likes of I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas with Joshua Prince-Ramos. The tour definitely whetted the students’ appetites for future visits to investigate more of the area’s architecture and the arts housed within.
After the tour, it was definitely Chow Time, and hungry students were treated to a hearty lunch provided and hosted by Renaissance Collection in their beautiful showroom. While they ate, representatives from BuyLEDs presented new insights to the constantly evolving lighting world via their presentation “LEDs: Innovations & Applications.”
Soon after, students worked their way through an Obstacle Course of diverse showrooms in and around Decorative Center Dallas, exploring and learning various topics on how to work with them. From the commercial fabrics of DesignTex and the tile, kitchen, and bath products of Porcelanosa to the high-end appliances of Miele and the luxury goods of Fendi Casa, participants ran the gauntlet of products.
The symposium’s featured speaker, Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP, Assoc. AIA, was up next on the roster. During her Active Duty presentation, which was hosted by Poggenpohl in their sleek showroom, Charrisse entertained the troops by sharing stories from her incredibly circuitous journey – from Wall Street manager to high-end wedding planner to interior designer – that has let to her current position as an Associate at Gensler in Los Angeles. Her genuinely warm, informal manner and candid conversation inspired many students in the room to dream about where their careers would lead them in the next 10 years. Needless to say, Charrisse was a huge hit.
Those who wanted to pick Charrisse’s brain in a more intimate setting had the chance to do so at the day’s final gathering appropriately called R&R. The cocktail/mocktail party hosted by and within the tony showroom of Mody & Mody was the perfect setting for everyone to talk about their favorite aspects of the day and to gear up for the next day’s activities.
All events on Saturday took place within the spectacular showroom of Wilson Office Interiors, a turnkey source for contract furniture products and services to all types of facilities including the corporate, healthcare, educational, municipal, and hospitality markets.
To get the troops going, Sherwin-Williams generously sponsored the C-Rations breakfast of bagels, fruit, orange juice and plenty of coffee to get the students ready for the big challenge of the day: the Basic Training Speed Charette.
The committee divided the students into twelve groups, creating teams made up of students from many different schools. Just like they’ll have to do when they start their careers in the interior design industry, the students were tasked to work with strangers of different knowledge levels to quickly create a cohesive team.
Going along with the military theme, the teams were asked to design a “third place” for wounded veterans. Neither a work place or a purely leisure space, this third space could be used for a wide range of activities, such as working, reading, meeting with friends and associates, surfing the internet, or relaxing. The floor plan they were provided was located within a community center building in a complex of military housing for wounded soldiers at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Each team had two hours to come up with a concept, plan the space, choose materials and furniture, and create a presentation board that could stand alone with no verbal explanation.
Both the committee and the judges were impressed by everyone’s efforts, but they ultimately awarded 1st Place to a team of seven students representing five different interior design programs for their conceptual design, “Breathe.” GO HERE to see all of the entries, as well as the winners.
After a fast-n-frenzied morning of work the students were definitely ready for the calmer Mess Hall round-table luncheon sponsored by Kravet. During small, informal discussions over a selection of sandwich wraps, chips and cookies, a variety of practitioners and other industry members shared their knowledge and perspective of the industry with students. Though attendees were encouraged to move around from table to table, most ended up not wanting to leave their in-depth discussions with their tablemates.
After lunch, students assembled for the USO Show, an anything-but-boring panel of diverse practitioners. Sponsored by Walker Zanger, the entertaining panel featured two interior designer mentor/mentee sets, one from the residential field, the other from the commercial world. The former – John Phifer Marrs, ASID and Derek Alan Vanlandingham – have worked together for years, while the latter – Jason Buckner, IIDA and Elizabeth Stanfield, ASID – only worked together for a relatively brief period.
Each professional provided his or her unique history within and frank viewpoint of the interior design industry, providing words of wisdom and encouragement with a dose of reality to the knowledge-hungry audience. As much as she could, Charrisse Johnston tried to moderate the discussion, but it was a (fun) challenge to keep the enthusiastic bunch on track.
The symposium culminated with an awards ceremony, where both the talented student winners of the 2011 ASID Texas Chapter Student Design Competition and recipients of the 2011/2012 ASID Texas Chapter Student Scholarships were announced. GO HERE to find the names of these students.
In addition to all of the sponsors listed above, the committee would also like to thank the following sponsors who were so integral to this event’s success:
Camp Sponsors: Elegant Additions | PLiNTH & CHiNTZ
Additional Scavenger Hunt Participants: Artemide | Bulthaup | Dahlgren Duck | Kisabeth | McGannon Showrooms | The Rug Company | TKO Associates, Inc.
Materials Contributions for the Speed Charette: Cantoni | Emser Tile | Kravet | Sherwin Williams | Vector Concepts | Wilson Office Interiors
Lastly, this year’s event would not have been such a success without the following “commanding officers” leading the charge:
- Co-Chairs: Aaron Duke, Allied ASID, LEED AP | Lisa Dionne, Allied ASID, LEED AP
- Committee: Kelly Barnett, ASID | Lisa Barron, Allied ASID | Peter Dedek, ASID | Allen Hart, ASID | Kathryn Nelson, Student ASID | Laura McDonald Stewart, ASID, IIDA, LEED AP | Lori Watkins, Allied ASID | Melissa Keathley, Haven Rock Productions
The committee has already started building on the success of this year’s event and has new ideas in store for next year. Visit asidtxstudentsymposium.org for photos and additional information. We invite you all to join us in 2012!