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Past VODA winners reflect on the importance of the awards

Last year, 11 Canadian design firms from coast to coast were honoured at IDC’s inaugural Value of Design Awards. The program was established to shine a spotlight on innovative work that pushes the interior design industry forward.

This year’s awards will be announced at the IDC Design Symposium in Vancouver on September 12 and 13. The final entry deadline is April 26 at 12 p.m

Ahead of the deadline, we spoke with two past winners, Allan Guinan, principal of Toronto’s Figure3, and Geralynne Mitschke, principal of Vancouver-based firm, Geralynne Mitschke Design.

Figure3 scooped up three awards in 2018, including Award of Excellence in the Innovation in Workplace Design category for OMERS and Innovation in Design Thinking for Freedom 55, which also won the Award of Merit in Innovation in Workplace Design.

Geralynne Mitschke Design won an Award of Merit in the Innovation in Residential Single Family category for Modern View Home.

Below, Guinan and Mitschke reflect on the importance of the VODAs, how winning has impacted their careers and tips for submissions. 

Why do awards like the VODAs matter? 

Mitschke: The profession needs to advocate for itself and educate the general public about the value professional interior design brings to projects. Showcasing award winners and finalists are a very appealing way to accomplish that goal.

Guinan:
As a long-standing member of the design community, it is important for the public and potential clients to know that design is not driven by aesthetics alone. It is important for us to be able to demonstrate that our services can help uncover and articulate a business need. It is also important for us to be seen as a team member to help organizations successfully leverage space and consider long-term planning.

How has winning a VODA influenced or impacted your career?

Mitschke: It has been an incredible marketing tool and because of the award name, Value of Design Award, winning has initiated many conversations about the value of design. It is a great way to start the conversation, and thus provides the opportunity for education. Clients are savvy and they want great value.

Guinan: To me it is an affirmation that the work we do every day is recognized by our peers. It also demonstrates that our investment in design thinking, including offering services such as generative design research, client facilitation and strategic thinking, can go deeper and result in more fulfilling client engagements.   

Why would you recommend designers early in their career apply for the VODAs? 

Mitschke: This is a great way to showcase projects, so why not take the opportunity?

Guinan: As the profession of interior design evolves and the value of what we do for business and the community at large becomes more recognized, I believe it is important for young designers to consider participating in these types of awards. This enables young designers to learn how to become more proficient in articulating the value proposition a design process can provide to clients. It is above just making decisions based upon what a designer thinks is the right solution, but draws upon their understanding of how design can influence human behaviours.

Any tips or advice for submissions?

Mitschke: Submit what you want the world to see. And don’t overthink it – just do it! You never know what will resonate with the judges.

Guinan: Learning to write a succinct and compelling business case takes time and experience.  Ensure that you fulfill what the submission requires and that your examples are clear and concise.  

Tell us a bit about your projects that won last year. Why did you decide to submit these? 

Mitschke: Modern View Home was a favourite project as it started with problems with the “interior bones” that had to be resolved before we could even consider the aesthetics of the space. It was a tricky three-dimensional puzzle. We love ambitious renovation puzzles like this and sometimes the design answers cannot fully be realized even when we solve them. In this case, the client had the will and the contractor had the talent to ensure that our design was fully executed. The result was inspiring!

 

Guinan: OMERS was a fascinating project. It involved developing a strategy to co-locate five distinct business units, totaling 1,500 people who had previously resided independently, into one new facility. The executive of the organization wanted this relocation to be a catalyst for change in the way people work and interact. Locating groups over 16 floors, we needed to develop a comprehensive workplace strategy, where work styles and different types of work settings were provided to give people multiple options. Building specific spaces for groups to work and play together was another key goal. The response to the space following the move has been incredible.


Interviews have been edited for clarity

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