i+s has a new look and a renewed purpose this year, and to help continue steering us in the right direction, we’ve revamped our Advisory Board and are honored to have so many talented design practitioners join us. Among them is Minah Yeo, senior associate and director of Interior Design with Berliner Architects. We recently asked Yeo to share her design philosophy with us, as well as what she’s excited (and concerned) about as we head into 2021 as an industry.
i+s: What motivates you to do the work that you do every day? Where do you find inspiration and purpose?
Minah Yeo: What motivates me to do my work every day is my perpetual drive to better something. Even though I have been designing spaces for over 20 years, not a single project is completed without my learning something from it and seeing how something could be designed and/or executed better. To constantly achieve this advancement is what drives me forward.
I usually try to find inspiration from sources unrelated to visual design, like music and literature. It may sound a little crazy but if I’m stuck on coming up with a design solution, I come to a full stop and listen to a lot of music until the eleventh hour and then the creativity tends to flow.
i+s: How would you describe your design philosophy and who are the mentors and/or colleagues that helped shape it?
MY: I used to say that minimalism is my design philosophy, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. Charles Eames once said, “Never delegate understanding,” and that’s the philosophy I’ve adapted over the years both in design and in life.
i+s: What are you excited about as we head into 2021? What are your major concerns for our industry?
MY: As with everyone else, I’m just excited 2020 is behind us! In 2021, I think we can hone the digital skills we’ve had to adapt to because of the pandemic and really advance the industry technologically. Of course digital advancement doesn’t replace in-person collaborations and the tactile nature of what we do. But digital collaboration tools and development of AR/VR can significantly elevate and enrich our practice.
The major concern for our industry in 2021 might be that we may have lost some really good talent as a result of layoffs and furloughs because of the pandemic. We’ve seen this happen in 2008 as well. I hope this doesn’t last too much longer so designers who have been displaced can come back instead of leaving forever in pursuit of other industries.
i+s: What design trends do you think we can expect to see in the next few years?
MY: I think the stress of the pandemic is making a lot of people be more aware about mental health and mindfulness. We’ve known for years that biophilic design can really help with that and I think we’ll keep seeing more biophilia consciously designed into the projects in general.
i+s: What’s next for you and your firm?
MY: Something our firm is strategizing for this year is to diversify our practice areas. Currently our firm’s primary focus is in designing education spaces, mostly in K-12. We’re looking to expand our higher education and creative office sector more and pursue more community based projects such as non-profit organizations and senior/affordable housing.
For me personally, I’ll be finishing my Master’s degree this year at USC’s Iovine and Young Academy in Design, Technology and Business, and I’d love to explore how the skillsets I learned in entrepreneurship can apply in intrapreneurial setting.
i+s: What’s your favorite Instagram account you follow? (Or, tell us another fun fact such as which city you hope to visit once it’s safer to travel, etc.)
MY: I follow Living Big In A Tiny House in both YouTube and Instagram. I used to live in a 460 SF apartment with my husband, my son growing from an infant to a Kindergartener, and my dog, for five years. I’ve been pretty obsessed with compact spaces ever since, even though our current house is double the size.
To meet more of our new advisory board members, listen to recent episodes of our I Hear Design podcast and check back here for more Q&A’s like this one.
Meet our other Advisory Board members: