Design Connections Awards 2 Chief Disruptors and 5 Innovative Products

02/21/2019 By Adrian Thompson

The themes of disruption in design and the importance of developing the next generation of design leaders were top of mind when planning this year’s Design Connections, held in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, Feb. 11-13.

Steven Sloan, publisher for interiors+sources, and Jane Rohde, conference chair and principal for JSR Associates, hosted this year’s two-and-a-half-day event, comprised of group panel discussions, boardroom meetings, networking events and one-on-one meetings for designers and sponsors.

Throughout the conference, both Sloan and Rohde, along with Robert Nieminen, interiors+sources’ editor-at-large, surveyed over 50 designers and dozens of sponsors throughout their group sessions and private meetings, searching for two individuals to be named Design Connections’ Chief Disruptors.

“Our disruptors are questioning the status quo, pushing us to ask why we do what we do. And is there a better way,” says Sloan on the characteristics of what a Chief Disruptor holds.

Kyle Berry, designer II for AECOM, and Jacquelyn Hunter, an associate for Corgan, were announced by Sloan as this year’s Chief Disruptors during the formal awards ceremony on the final evening of the conference. Sloan notes that both looked at challenges with different perspectives to help advance the field of design.


The Chief Disruptors with Steven Sloan

“In today’s industry, disruptors are the people willing to ask uncomfortable questions in a way that challenges the status quo in order to bring value to the design community as a whole,” Berry says. “Whether it’s encouraging your clients to explore alternative workplace design strategies in order to improve their corporate culture, or spearheading mentorship programs between designers within your own firm, I believe it’s important for disruptors to ask questions in a way that incites positive change.”

Berry adds that fellow designers can be disruptors by pinpointing challenges faced by themselves and others within the industry and working in collaboration with those to promote change. “It’s important for disruptors to be able to understand and process criticism and pushback they may receive for speaking up, for it is often in those uncomfortable moments that we are able to better understand the viewpoints of others and work towards an amicable solution.”  

Design Connections Winners

Along with announcing this year’s Chief Disruptors, Design Connections also awarded multiple companies for their innovative products that were on display throughout boardroom and one-on-one meetings. The following were awarded in the respective categories:

Product Innovation Healthcare/Medical: Visa Lighting, located in Milwaukee, WI, and represented by Steve Clark, regional sales manager, and Laurie Emery, healthcare market development manager

Product Innovation Healthcare/Senior Living: Altro, located in Wilmington, MA, and represented by Susan Drew, market segment manager of Senior Living and Residential Care

Product Innovation Education: Creative Edge Master Shop, located in Fairfield, IA, and represented by president and CEO Nate Weaton, along with business developers Jim Belilove and Ron Treister

Product Innovation Hospitality: wakaNINE, located in Austin, TX, and represented by CEO John Cook

John Cook from wakaNINE

Product Innovation Workplace: aceray, located in Wheat Ridge, CO, and represented by Katarina Robinson, executive manager for emuamericas (originally Nick Christensen)

Katarina Robinson from emuamericas

“Product Innovation awards were selected by designers in attendance,” says Sloan. “They had the opportunity to see products firsthand and hear from manufacturers about how they are pushing the design industry.” 

Each of the Product Innovation winners and Chief Disruptors were awarded a custom-engraved plaque generously donated by Kirei. For more information on Design Connections 2019, visit here.

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