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Big Things

With NeoCon just around the corner and the association's first book on the way, new IIDA President James Williamson discusses what members can expect to see in the coming weeks and months.

By James Williamson, IIDA, LEED AP

With NeoCon just around the corner and the association's first book on the way, new IIDA President James Williamson discusses what members can expect to see in the coming weeks and months.

Starting off my presidential term, I’m looking forward to the new adventures and challenges that come with steering an international association. I hope to help grow the presence of the International Interior Designers Association (IIDA) and enhance its mission throughout the globe.

Our world is changing rapidly. Economic conditions, globalization and technological advances continue to force our industry to grow, learn and evolve. As designers, we have both a huge responsibility and a growing opportunity to change the way people work, live and play across the world. As president of the board of IIDA, I seek to leverage my role and position in the industry to lead IIDA in meeting these ongoing challenges and opportunities.

In the coming years IIDA will expand its international and domestic presence with the opening of new chapters in Dubai, Milan, St. Louis and Honolulu. One of the association’s goals has always been to cultivate and connect designers who have a broad range of innovative talents and leadership skills to form a global community where they can collaborate, educate and lead the designers of tomorrow—we believe that these new chapters are a big step towards that mission.

We’re also committed to encouraging and honoring the designers of today. Most recently, we’ve seen creative and groundbreaking talent from more than 300 designers who entered the IIDA Global Excellence Awards, an annual, worldwide design competition that celebrates originality and excellence in international interior design and architecture projects. The entries were elegant, stunning and truly set the bar high for designers everywhere—which raises the question, how do designers and clients work together to achieve such amazing projects?

Through international travels, speaking engagements, online communications and member feedback, we’ve met and learned of some unusually strong relationships between clients and design firms, where the CEOs credit the firm with helping to lead change management, address brand extension and implement cultural change. We’ve put those stories into our first book in a limited edition series titled What Clients Want. Sponsored by 3M and debuting this June, the book will provide an insider’s look at how some C-suite executives have been able to alter their companies’ destinations by tapping the insight of design firms. Featuring real stories, interviews and images from across the world, What Clients Want identifies the value a designer/client partnership can lend every brand.

In addition to the debut of our first book, IIDA is excited to once again partner with NeoCon—North America’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors—for our 18th straight year. This event brings together 40,000 architecture and design professionals from around the world, and this year promises to be the biggest yet. The IIDA Keynote Speaker will be former Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley, and our Annual Meeting, scheduled for Sunday, June 10, will recognize some extraordinary designers and members. We especially look forward to honoring the recipients of four awards:

  • Educator of the Year, Liset Robinson, IIDA, interior design instructor at the Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Member of the Year, Amie Keener, IIDA, CDT, LEED AP

  • Star Award winner, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts' Corporate Offices, located in Toronto, with regional offices in Switzerland and Singapore

  • Titan Award winner, John Wells, president and chief executive officer of Interface Americas

The Association will also welcome two remarkable design leaders to the College of Fellows: Peter Conant, FIIDA, AIA, LEED AP and Margaret McCurry, FIIDA, FAIA, ASID.

These members and organizations have gone above and beyond in their hard work, dedication and outstanding service to the interior design field. We’re thrilled to honor their contributions and accomplishments, and can’t wait to see what great things they’ll achieve in the future.

IIDA will also be teaming up with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) during NeoCon for our Joint Fellows Meeting, where the fellows of our two esteemed organizations will join Susan S. Szenasy as she presents “The Game Has Changed: Now What?” on the state of the ever-changing design industry. And that’s not all. IIDA will host two association forums, “Power Think: The Who, Where and How of Work” and “2012 and Beyond: New Directions for Government Interiors,” where participants will engage with international leaders about the changes in the practice of design.

We also have a special line-up just for students including our Career Bootcamp, where recent grads will share their success stories, our first ever Student Design Charrette, and of course, Keynote Speaker Ian Schrager, creator of the boutique hotel concept.

In short, I’m excited to start off my presidential term on such a strong foot with IIDA, as it advances the profession of interior design through the progressive cultivation of innovative leadership across the globe.


IIDA President-Elect James Williamson, IIDA, LEED AP is a practicing interior designer and principal at Gensler in its Washington, D.C. office. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at