Four years ago I was called to serve on a new national council for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) by one of my interior design idols. Little did I know the Emerging Professional Advisory Council would lead me to connect with so many amazing interior design professionals.
Recognizing that the design industry needed an event exclusive to emerging professionals, the council created the Society’s popular GO PRO program. ASID developed GO PRO’s educational program around core topics — PROduct, PROcess, PRO Bono, and PROject — to engage and inspire future design leaders.
Four years later, ASID hosted its fourth annual GO PRO event in New York City, Sept. 18–19, delivering a program that not only left attendees inspired but also poised to take action. Regardless of your career stage, GO PRO builds knowledge, creates connections, and inspires you to better serve the interior design industry.
That’s a bold statement, I know! But I have attended every GO PRO since 2011, and the connections to be made at the event are unparalleled. Let me give you some examples.
I also met Elisabeth Croy, a Floridian who had just moved to New York three weeks prior to GO PRO to start an internship at Gensler. Elisabeth and I connected over our shared love of dance. I asked her if interior design was a backup career to her first love (she left dance due to an injury). Her reply was poignant and candid. I’m paraphrasing, but she told me: Dance is about creativity and movement of your own body. Interior design is similar because now I get to choreograph how multiple people move through spaces.I met Morgan McDonald, a Detroit native, three years ago at GO PRO 2011. Morgan had finished design school in Detroit and was working in the nonprofit sector. Fast-forward to GO PRO/NYC 2014, and Morgan has branched out on her own to revitalize a city that’s poised for a comeback. She is focusing on implementing community-based design via adaptive reuse of the city’s plethora of historic buildings.
I also met Evelyn Portillo from Guatemala City. We discussed the lack of interior design companies in her country. She was frustrated with the male- and architecture-dominated make-up of the design industry in Guatemala City. So I challenged her to change her thinking. I pointed out that she operates the only female-owned interior design firm in the area. Capitalize on that! She smiled and invited me down to Guatemala.
Jason Woods had to refresh my memory, but he and I had met six years prior when I was in college. A rising star at Robert AM Stern, Jason and I shared our portfolios over lunch via iPhones. We discussed how we weren’t the best students in design school, but our passion for design craft and presentation is what carried us through. We agreed it’s invaluable to know your own personal strengths and what sets you apart from everyone else.
Then there was the dynamic duo of Iwona Petrov and Alex Petrov. They connected with me before GO PRO via Twitter, so the introduction was effortless. Iwona expressed her love for design and culture, but she didn’t fancy the business side of things. I asked her how she found her balance and, right on cue, Alex walked up. His practicality and business savvy merged perfectly with her passion for design. Their partnership has successfully helped them grow Iwona Petrov Design.
I’ve now surpassed the emerging professional category, and I attended this year’s GO PRO/NYC as director at large for the ASID national board. Two years into having my own interior design firm and after connecting with these future thought leaders, I left the event wondering: What areas or communities closest to me need to be revitalized?
Here are some insights I gained from my GO PRO experience. Start with your community to make the most impact. No matter where you started, your passion will translate through design. Designers can create spaces that move people in different ways. Look at your challenges as opportunities. Changing your perspective often is the key to success. Never compare yourself to others. Knowing your strengths and developing them is paramount. Finally, design is a collaborative effort and, if you create partnerships that are holistically beneficial, success is inevitable.
Kia Weatherspoon, Allied ASID, is president of Determined by Design and ASID director at large.