1652337715554 Women In Design

Improving Experiential Living Through Collaborative Paradigms

Dec. 6, 2018

Experiential design is always changing and fluid. Working together from anywhere is key.

There has been a lot of discussion around combining or sharing design verticals, merging of how we live, work, relax, gain access to services and interact. Interesting inventive terms include “resimmercial,” “resitality,” “healthitality,” “eduhealth.” I imagine there will be more terms evolving as trends continue to overlap in various design segments.

Overall, this is the opportunity to create experiential design by not assuming that old norms, design assumptions and previous modes of operating are relevant to today’s world. They aren’t – change is the constant.

PWP Studio. Courtesy of Emerald Expositions and Contract, Healthcare Design, Environments for Aging, Design: Retail, and Hospitality Design. From left to right: Margaret McMahon, senior vice president and managing director, Wimberly Interiors; Jane Rohde, principal, JSR Associates; Dina Griffin, president, Interactive Design Architects; Suzen Heeley, executive director of design and construction, facilities management division, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Robin Guenther, principal, Perkins+Will; Roya Sullivan, national director of window presentation, Macy’s; Ave Bradley, creative director and global senior vice president of design, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Lauren Geremia, principal, Geremia Design; and Cindi Kato, PAVE Board president and vice president and global retail business development director, CallisonRTKL.

Working and Living

Working women – per the 1980s movie “Nine to Five” with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda — identified the issues with diversity and equality in the workplace, equal work for equal pay and many ills with the inequality faced in business.

Fast forward to 2018 and the experience economy, an individual could be doing business while sitting in a coffee shop in New York working with someone in Shanghai that they had never met in person, but are working together because of expertise, similar ideas or collaboration that’s needed to bring about a successful business relationship that could change the world.

Flexibility, personal responsibility and trust are necessities for businesses to be successful. The intermixing of experience and generations brings about new solutions to address everything from housing shortages to social problems to delivery of services and products.

Embracing inclusivity and the crossover between work and living are no longer linear, but separations are blurred. Work and living overlaps and can take place wherever and whenever as long as the mission, project constraints, expectations and business outcomes are clearly delineated and met from the beginning of a project. If workers agree to this framework, then flexibility and trust can develop to create success.

Women in Design Award

During the Women in Design event held in New York on Oct. 30, 2018, I had the opportunity to accept my Women in Design Award at the end of the program and was simply dazzled by the stories of the 10 talented designers that were honored before me.

Two particular stories made me start thinking of how collaboration could be completed differently in the future – perhaps in support of person-centered initiatives that could create a tipping point for the future of designing for elders and vulnerable populations, and supporting experiential design for all people.

One was Roya Sullivan, the national director of window presentation for Macy’s. Her designs were colorful, fun and playful; the image of a chameleon with bright green Adidas sneakers stood out for me. Roya talked about the difficulty in retail and the balance between online purchasing and the tangibility of creating windows that provoked an experience.

The Women in Design award handcrafted by Kristen Bonnel and Christine Sheu from Eventscape in Canada. The bottom wood portion represents the percentage of women in leadership roles in design and white portion represents the percentage of men in leadership roles in design. The goal is for the wood portion to grow higher every year as more women raise up to take on leadership roles and provide innovative design solutions.

I looked at the images and thought: ’How could we take that energy and creativity of the wonderful window design and apply it to senior living so that experiential living was part of elders’ daily lives?’ Wow! This could be an absolute game changer.

Let’s no longer look at what we have done, but what could happen if we simply started from scratch, took a fresh look, and reinvented the thought process and framework for developing an entire new paradigm that meets housing, service, and amenity needs – not just for elders, but for all people. This would apply to the built environment as much as to product design.

The other designer that stood out for me was Lauren Geremia, principal at Geremia Design in the Bay Area. She has completed spaces for Instagram and Dropbox – based upon completing spaces that created an experience that was notable for those starting dot-com businesses.

This is the mixing of daily living with working as part of the culture and environment. Can this approach to design talk to housing solutions that mix with daily living experiences for older adults and younger children that have been traditionally institutionalized – not by choice, but by necessity? Is there a design solution that intermixes generations and can be openly supported by the community at-large? Is it true, if needs are expressed to the community, that they will raise up and collaboratively change the living circumstances for so many that simply need to be seen and heard, and need a bit of assistance to positively move forward with their lives?


The week before Thanksgiving, I went to visit my goddaughter and her daughter at Johns Hopkins University. Her daughter has a hereditary cancer that her grandfather had died from a number of years ago. She had successfully made it through surgery, removing portions of her thyroid and adrenals. Her simple request was for a Popeye’s 5-piece box of chicken tenders, so I knew she was on the mend. When I got there, the father of her 9-month-old son brought in the baby. We were reminiscing some, but then the conversation became more serious.

None of them, including the baby’s father, who lost his own dad in August, has stable, consistent housing. The two women have jobs and the young man is in technical school with the ultimate goal to work in construction.

The discussion revolved around the need for housing. The current conditions include couch surfing, kind friends and distant relatives as part of the network to find a place to sleep so that they can get up and make it to work, babysitters’ and school. In this small microcosm of safety of the hospital room, I could feel all of their concern, worry and anxiety. But for that one moment, everyone was safe, feed and knew where they would be sleeping that night, but not for the next nights following. The struggle was real, but the moment was peaceful as the baby laid on his tummy and started to breath heavy with sleep.

How is it that in our nation we don’t have decent housing that could support a working individual long enough to be able to become part of the larger fabric of society? Couldn’t these creative minds that come from all types of design experience and leadership positions come together to change this crisis?

Similar to different ways of living and working, individuals need to be able to build trust and collaboration to move forward and create opportunity for those aging out of foster care, those truly willing to work but know in their hearts that no one wants them when they lose a parent, and change the paradigm for success? The youth is our future and we have need to step up the pace of solutions. We’re losing generations of wonderful, caring and loving people that need to be welcomed into the world of success – supporting, providing and nurturing them; assisting to meet their needs; and believing in them.

On this Thanksgiving, I was grateful for being with my parents in the small town where I grew up. Cooking big pots of squash, beans and ham hocks, and homemade applesauce. All the senses are dancing with the smells and taste of food. My thoughts go to my goddaughter and her family, wishing for all of them to have a place called home. Safe, warm and comfortable, as a right that all people should be able to attain through fortitude and hard work versus being unattainable in a world that doesn’t see so many that are in need.

Moving Toward Person-Centered Living

Design leadership could move the needle positively toward creation of person-centered living. My congratulations to all of the Women in Design honorees – each one inspiring – amazing women doing incredible work. Let us come together as a community and bring about change – share the people and contacts that we have that can support person-centered living – creating a forum that can move the needle in a positive direction.

More Design News | Highlighting Equality & Diversity

About the Author


Jane Rohde, AIA, FIIDA, ASID, ACHA, CHID LEED AP BD+C & GGA – EB: Jane Rohde is the founding principal of JSR Associates Inc. in Catonsville, MD. JSR Associates Inc. celebrates 23 years of consulting services in 2019. Jane is the recipient of the 2015 Environments for Aging Changemaker Award and in 2018 she received the ASID Design for Humanity Award, was recognized as an Honorary Alumni of Clemson University’s Architecture + Health program, and has been honored as one of 10 notable Women in Design. For more information or comments, please contact Jane Rohde at [email protected] or “Chat with Jane” at www.jsrassociates.net.

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