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Over 250 IDC members and industry leaders from across North America gathered in Vancouver B.C. on September 12 and 13 to learn, engage, and network at the 2019 IDC Design Symposium – ‘Design Thinking: Exploring Human Connections.’

The two-day event expanded horizons and skills through a program of in-depth education, expert panel discussions, guided design tours, award presentations, emerging leaders programs, and inspiring keynotes. This year, participants dove deeper into design thinking and exploring the human connections to rapidly changing technology, environment and nature, and sustainability and wellness.

Highlights of the IDC Design Symposium include;

An Enticing Benjamin Moore “Art Battle” Welcome Reception

The Benjamin Moore team stirred up excitement with an East versus West showdown using the 2019 Colour Trends Palette to come up with self-inspired artwork. Participants battled it out for the top place, while enjoying the opportunity to network and have fun with the new Benjamin Moore “Aura” colour trend palette collection.

Three Breathtaking Keynotes

Each keynote provided a captivating presentation. Their stories and experiences inspired and educated.

Opening keynote speaker and award-winning blind architect, Chris Downey shared on designing with the blind in mind. “The blind experience is about utilizing all sensory experiences.” Downey said. “Listen to the environment around you; use this as a way of problem solving to get you to where you need to go.”

Paul Krismer, founder of Happiness Experts Company, delighted the audience in his playful yet practical application of positive emotions to achieve corporate and personal excellence. Krismer explained, “High performing teams need a 3 to 1 ratio of positive interactions to create high performance.” Further describing, that “no one little happy moment will be enough. We need many positive things to overcome negativity vibes.”

While visual artist Janet Echleman captivated through storytelling, sharing about her creations of experiential sculptures at the scale of buildings. Participants gazed is amazement as Echleman shared photos and videos of her artwork. “The art shifts,” she explained, “from being an object to look at, to a living environment you can get lost in.”

Three Engaging Expert Panel Discussions

Design thinkers, leaders, and experts from across North America came together to discuss the true value of design through a variety of topics and perspectives. Each panel brought diversity, knowledge, curiosity, and provoked thoughts and sharing.

“You need to have diverse perspectives in the room to think of things, and to have stronger voices,” expressed Charley Scull, visual anthropologist, ethnographer, and documentarian. Adding that “collaboration means we are designing for people of all abilities, all ages, all genders.”

Panel discussions also covered subjects of assumptions, innovation, and technology. Dr. Victor Martinez, award winner, academic, and independent industrial designer explained, that it’s essential for us to move ahead in order to “challenge ourselves to get to know the world and always be curious.”

Amy Santee, anthropologist and consultant added that the more you can learn upfront, the more information you’ll have to make better decisions. She encouraged participants to step back and ask, “What do I actually not know?”

Marcelino Alvarez, founder and CEO of Uncorked Studios also shared, “When you design something, it becomes the beginning of a conversation, always listening and incorporating feedback.”

These conversations were a glimpse of many engaging panel discussions that occurred. Throughout each panel, participants gained valuable information, new insights, innovative approaches, and community support.

Captivating Tours

Participants were provided the opportunity to join one of two Design Symposium tours; KPMG or the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (ABC). Both tours invited participants to explore modern and contemporary architecture through the lead of an expert interior designer and IDC member, Ricky Gruetz and Carol Jones.

 Motivating Workshops Presented by Happy City

Workshops explored two key aspects of design thinking; Part A (Day 1), focused on empathy. Part B (Day 2) focused on the process of Ideation. Both workshops were well received and winning workshop project groups were announced at the Design Symposium Awards Gala.

IDC FellowsRecognizing IDC Members at the Awards Gala

Each year, IDC celebrates outstanding IDC members, their work and innovation within the interior design community. The Awards Gala presented the 2019 Value of Design Awards (VODA), PROpel Emerging Leaders, the IDC Legacy Award for Distinguished Service, the Robert Ledingham Scholarship, IDC Fellows, BYU Design Bursary, and Wayne Thomson Bursary. Access 2019 IDC Award recipient list.


The 2019 IDC Design Symposium brought together leaders, experts, and game changers from the wider design, business, and media community to explore design thinking through human connections, and the crucial role of design in shaping a productive, healthy and inclusive society. The event encouraged collaboration, inclusion, growth, and opportunity. It was a true success and we look forward to capturing the spirits of IDC members and the design community again at the 2020 IDC Design Symposium!

Did you attend the 2019 IDC Design Symposium? Check out event photos on the IDC Facebook page.

2020 IDC Design Symposium details coming Winter 2020.