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IIDA is 20 Years Young

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of IIDA and look to the future, we are reminded that its core principles remain the same.

By Felice Silverman, IIDA

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of IIDA and look to the future, we are reminded that its core principles remain the same.

It’s been an exciting year—and a fast one, with my term as IIDA international board president coming to a close. I feel honored to have been chosen to serve as president of the Association as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. As my term winds down, it’s a time for looking back to some extent, of course, but it’s also time to assess where we are as an organization, and to bring the future into focus as we continue our mission of elevating design worldwide.

Earlier this year, I issued a rather succinct statement to our membership detailing the strategic position of IIDA as the preeminent association for the commercial interior design profession. As IIDA and its membership have grown over the years, it has become important for us to acknowledge this fact and to emphasize our continued meaningful support of commercial interior designers and their clients. Simply put, it’s what we do at IIDA. Through our many initiatives, events, and competitions, we promote the value of interior design throughout the world, demonstrating its importance to business decision makers and the public at large.

To that end, IIDA continues to take a proactive, leadership role in design, creating opportunities and forums for discussion on the issues that affect the industry. For example, this year, our Industry Roundtable, “People, Place, and Work,” brought together industry leaders to talk about how the workplace environment has evolved over the years and decades. The resulting brainstorming session touched on everything from the importance of one-to-one interaction in the office and its impact on the design process to changing priorities in firms’ hiring strategies, as well as evolving concerns for HR personnel. (A synopsis of this discussion can be downloaded at It’s a dynamic event each year, and one that underlines the value that IIDA brings to its members and the industry.

Value is a constant topic of discussion at IIDA, since value can be so different for each type of member. The student, the educator, and the professional each have different expectations of what they should get out of their respective memberships. To address those concerns, at the beginning of my term we introduced what we call The Value Manifesto, a trim booklet that clearly articulates the answer to the “What’s in it for me?” question that members often ask. (A download of this publication is available as well, at the same address as above.) It’s a simple and succinct answer to what can be a complex question—an answer that’s well-supported by the variety of initiatives that IIDA offers.

At the time of this writing, for instance, IIDA had just concluded a tremendously successful 2014 Student Mentoring Week that saw us pair more than 700 students with experienced industry professionals to introduce the next generation to their field. This is one of my personal favorite IIDA activities each year—not just because it’s the best way to introduce a design student to the industry, but because it’s such an invaluable learning experience for both the student and the mentor.

IIDA took that experience a step further this year with the creation of the Wilsonart Student Education Fund, made possible by a new partnership between Wilsonart and the IIDA Foundation. Its first initiative, the sponsorship of the Wilsonart Essay Competition, offers students the opportunity to write about their Student Mentoring Week experiences for a $1,000 cash prize.

Competitions are one of the principal strategies that IIDA employs to celebrate design worldwide, and this past year has seen IIDA recognize a wealth of international commercial interior design through programs such as the IIDA Best Interiors of Latin America and the Caribbean competition; the inaugural Best of Asia Pacific Design Awards; the Healthcare Interior Design Competition; the Global Excellence Awards; the biennial ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Awards; the 41st Annual Interior Design Competition; and the 22nd Annual Will Ching Design Competition—the winners of which will be presented and celebrated at the COOL Black-Tie Awards Gala during NeoCon.

NeoCon will also find IIDA presenting the results of a joint research study with the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), intended to establish measurable indices for workplace design. I’m particularly excited about this study, because it so strongly conveys how important interior design is, and does so with measurable, quantifiable results. It’s a tremendous contribution to the international design conversation, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

That passion for thought and design leadership resonates throughout IIDA. I’ve been invited to many chapter events in this past year, and had the opportunity to connect with chapter leaders at our Chapter Leaders Conference. It’s gratifying and inspiring to see the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and consistent forward-thinking about the future of the profession taking place among IIDA chapters. When I reflect on how they are able to take the universal issues facing designers everywhere and address them at the local level, it becomes apparent that that’s precisely how IIDA affects change. I couldn’t be more proud to have led the Association this past year.

As we look forward to the next 20 years and beyond, it’s easy to imagine that a lot will change in both design, and the manner in which IIDA elevates and celebrates it, but certain variables will remain constant. IIDA will, as always, remain relevant to our members and eager to receive feedback on how we can best support their professional ambitions. And IIDA will, now and in perpetuity, remain positioned to support the profession at that intersection of passion and strategy where designers create exceptional environments that encompass every aspect of the human experience.


IIDA President Felice L. Silverman, IIDA is president and a principal at Silverman Trykowski Associates Inc. in Boston. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at