Design is democratic. It’s not exclusive, doesn’t have to be expensive and is, in fact, incredibly relevant to how ordinary Americans live, learn and thrive in their interior spaces. Spreading this message is a top priority for Kevin Mulvaney, new vice president of Marketing and Communications at the American Society of Interior Designers. ASID is a proud resource and advocate for its more than 28,000 members and the design community at large, and Mulvaney is championing the profession in creative new ways that demonstrate the power of interior design. He joined ASID in September after serving as vice president of Marketing and Communications at the Vinyl Institute. He responded to questions about his transition, ways in which the Society has evolved in response to changes in the design industry and how he plans to amplify the voice of ASID.
What attracted you to the American Society of Interior Designers?
Over the past five years of my career I have honed in on a passion for design. The human experience is made better by people who design our products, our streets, our hospitals, our schools. I also tend to find myself drawn to areas of practice that have a tremendous potential for impact and storytelling. My first job in D.C. was with The American Institute of Architecture Students. The association was paving its way in the world and needed a stronger voice to communicate its value. Before ASID, I was with the Vinyl Institute. Vinyl is a material that was sort of the underdog. There was a history that was certainly complex, but I believed in the impact of the solutions made possible through the technology. I worked to help vinyl have a stronger voice.
And is that what you are doing at ASID now?
Yes. People talk about design and architecture, and I think they forget that human beings spend 90 percent of their time indoors, and so the role of the built environment, as it pertains to interior design, is very powerful. I think that the profession needs to be prouder of that and insert its voice into more conversations.
Good design is really about helping people lead better lives, yet there are people who feel design is inaccessible or doesn’t relate to them.
I also think there is a notion that design is superfluous or considered a luxury, and I argue that it’s a human right.
What are your goals and priorities?
My goals and priorities are in line with the ASID strategic plan. They are to identify as many channels as possible to communicate the value of interior design and its impact on the human experience. We’ve begun to identify the channels and build the infrastructure, but there is a tremendous opportunity for greater saturation in the marketplace of our voice, message and point of view. There is an untapped wealth of information to be shared about design from our members and volunteer leaders. I want to spread their message everywhere we can — in print and on blogs and Pinterest, the whole gamut.
You oversee a full slate of activities that shape the public profile of ASID, from marketing and advertising to media relations and events, as well as content development for the website, ICON magazine and other editorial products. How will you utilize these platforms to communicate the ASID brand and the organization’s value?
Consistently. There are so many different channels and so many facets of the industry that we touch. There is certainly a complexity to the work that we do and the messages that we disseminate. It is my intention to help the Society and the profession to be more consistent in how it talks about itself and the work we do.
ASID is increasing its investment in research, how will the findings help with communications and storytelling?
We are working to provide timely and relevant data on issues related to the impact of design on the human experience — subjects ranging from the Affordable Care Act or the workplace of the future to evidence-based design in educational settings. We want to be able to provide metrics to prove that design outcomes have real numbers assigned to them, such as improved test scores and patient outcomes. There’s a financial impact, a productivity or health impact, to design that is important to consider, and the numbers will make that story even stronger.
Who is the ASID audience?
We provide deep and rich value not only for our members, but also for everyone who practices interior design or is affected by it. That means ASID offers resources for sole practitioners to senior partners in large design firms, from facilities managers to commercial furniture showroom operators. Our audience is the teacher who is trying to raise test scores and the nurse who cares passionately about her patient. We need to consider the impact of design on all of those people.
Grooming the next generation of interior designers is an ASID priority. How are communications assets being harnessed in this effort?
We are working to meet people where they are and, if you look at our investment in social media and digital content, I think that’s a huge example of what we’re doing. We are connecting young people with seasoned designers through Real World Design Week and using the digital platform to facilitate those relationships. We are certainly trying to be early adopters and frequent users of technology that is current and forward thinking. We are active on everything from Twitter and Instagram to broadly utilizing Facebook and LinkedIn to connect people to valuable information.
You’ve made frequent reference to change and giving ASID a greater voice.
While change is exciting it requires a bit of patience, and I think it warrants mentioning that we are not changing for the sake of change. The world and our industry are changing rapidly and we are working to learn more about that and to provide the content and tools necessary to prepare for and be successful in those changes.