Upon entering into the workforce, the first project that landed on my desk was a new middle school. While this was a different type of design than many of my past projects, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to design something that would actually be built, so I dove in head first trying to learn as much as I could about designing for an education client. From start to finish, it was apparent this type of design was making a difference in the end users life. The community was getting a new state-of-the-art building that would be used to teach their next generation, school employees were getting the chance to voice their opinions about what their new workspace would be like, and students were getting fresh tools and innovative spaces that would prepare them for their future. It was great to be a part of something so significant.
While I’ve added more education projects to my personal portfolio of work, I’ve also been given the opportunity to work on projects outside of this such as corporate offices and a restaurant. Four years and many projects later, I’ve come to notice common threads in all of the designs as the boundaries between design sectors become more blurred. In a market once perceived to be square box designs and institutional finishes, we are now developing educational spaces that include cafés and lounges, outdoor classrooms, and collaboration areas you’d see in a new age corporate office. Corporate offices, on the other hand, are including technologically advanced training rooms that pull ideas from higher education and cafes that look more like something you’d find in a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks. The healthcare industry’s designs continue to push into the hospitality sector as research shows the benefit comfortable spaces have on a patient healing, and the idea of branding is spilling over into all markets rather than residing solely in a retail design.
Many commercial designs are even breaching into residential territory as projects and leaders understand the importance of making an end-user feel comfortable enough to linger. Within a recent higher education project, we included a fireplace as a design feature within a room that was also outfitted with comfortable lounge furniture and a variety of adaptable features. The idea was to encourage students to stay and study in a space that didn’t feel like a school but more like home. More and more campuses are adopting similar ideas as they use their buildings to attract students and keep them engaged in campus life.
While it’s always been encouraged to stay up to date on what other design markets are up to, now it’s more important than ever as market boundaries continue to get crossed. Even in a firm that primarily works in the education market, you never know what the needs of the next project will be as participants continue to find inspiration in other markets. For me, this “design crossover” makes every project that much more interesting and exciting, and it’s a balancing act that often makes for a better project in the end.