Helping Expand the Reach and Impact of Interior Design


Helping Expand the Reach and Impact of Interior Design

By Dana Nunn, Director of Interior Design

Involvement with professional interior design organizations is especially gratifying for me when I can learn from experts, share with students, and help other practitioners challenge themselves and grow in the profession. Admittedly, my perspective has shifted over the last 20 years and my “why” has evolved.

I joined ASID as a student member during my first semester in design school. My reasons for joining were appropriate for the career stage I found myself: socialization and camaraderie with peers and opportunities to interact with professionals, building my network as I sought my internship and then first post-graduate job in the field.

(See Dana, second from the right in the bottom row, during her first year on the ASID Chapter Support Team)

As an emerging practitioner, I found membership offered an immediate network of friends and colleagues when I was settling into my Alaska adventure, provided continuing education opportunities and support for NCIDQ preparation, and presented leadership development paired with extensive travel. Subsidized travel as a young designer with student loans was a huge perk!

Nearly twenty years into an exciting and demanding career, I continue my deep involvement in ASID for impact and legacy. More than simple affiliation, engagement in ASID presents opportunities to influence the direction of the interior design profession and gives me a platform to educate the public about the impact of design.

My service on ASID’s Advocate by Design Council (AxD) and the IMPACT Network connects me to resources, academic research, and an international inter-disciplinary network of experts. I can leverage these in my leadership of the interior design team at Bettisworth North and through design for projects here in Alaska, impacting our communities with thoughtful, evidence-based, sustainable, and human-centered design for projects including schools, housing, workplace, healthcare, and civic facilities.

Engaging with students (and sometimes their parents) in our local high schools allows me an opportunity to share firsthand insights about the practice of interior design. This is not just the HGTV spin on decoration and made-for-TV design and helps them understand design is a profession with significant career potential nationwide and especially in Alaska. My goal is to make sure Alaska students know they have a great reason to return home after obtaining a degree if design is their interest.

I recently enjoyed a great day with a Chugiak High School student. We shared with her insights into all the disciplines at Bettisworth North: architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and marketing. Together we reviewed construction drawings, virtual and physical models, and our materials library. We toured local projects in various states of demolition and construction, met with manufacturer reps, and she joined my team for an outing to a local trade show.

The freshest members of my team shared their own experiences as students, interns, and now emerging professionals, and we discussed the many paths to the profession and varied career options in Alaska and beyond. We look forward to having her again over the winter break!

Dana Nunn and coworker Caitlin Cunningham during an internal design meeting

I’m frequently asked to participate in studio courses as a mentor or guest critic, gaining exposure to university programs nationwide and especially those from which we most often recruit. Last spring I mentored a third-year healthcare studio at a midwestern university. With permission of my client and contractor, I leveraged Procore StructionSite, a tool we used to conduct virtual inspections during the pandemic, to take students on a virtual tour of projects in the Norton Sound region.

We were able to walk around and inside clinics at Little Diomede and in Nome with time-lapse and stitched-together 360-degree photography taken daily through the course of construction. Students spent the semester researching the region, climate, and Alaska Native people of Kotzebue and surrounding communities, and developed evidence-based concept designs for a hypothetical mother and baby unit at the Maniilaq Health Center.

Students applied their knowledge of human-centered, sustainable healthcare design best practices with their understanding of regional challenges (logistics, climate) and culture (subsistence activities, connection to place, importance of family and community, language). At milestones throughout the semester, I attended project team meetings via Zoom, provided insights and suggestions, and then critiqued their final presentations. It’s exciting to share Alaska with students through design.

As a Center for Interior Design Accreditation site visitor volunteer, I enjoy participating in the process of accrediting interior design programs at universities across the U.S. and Canada, ensuring a high level of relevance, rigor, and repeatable student outcomes. This work with students and university programs ensures we have a pipeline of talented, capable individuals to design our collective future.

So far I’ve visited six programs and been a peer reviewer of at least that many more. I’m currently preparing for another site visit in early December leveraging recently updated accreditation standards. Interestingly, on my very first site visit, I met an Alaska Native student from Nome in an interior design program in Canada. And several recent hires at Bettisworth North and other local firms came out of connections I’ve made with faculty at Utah State University and North Dakota State University.

Many are aware of my involvement with ASID Alaska’s advocacy efforts, advancing a legislative initiative for regulation of the interior design profession in Alaska. Professional registration for interior designers in Alaska ensures those that are designing our interior environments are qualified to do so and are designing with health, safety, and well-being at the forefront. Such regulation also allows interior designers to practice to the full extent of their education, experience, and credentialling examination, providing unimpeded access to market and allowing clients greater choice in their preferred design profession.

Design impacts lives. Americans spend, on average, 90% of their time indoors.1 After two years of significant disruption, now more than ever people are attuned to the impact an interior environment can have on health, well-being, productivity, healing, and learning. With that knowledge, it is important to me that I invest my time, energy, and expertise to increase the reach and impact of design, especially as it pertains to community-building in Alaska.

The legacy I’m building is the network of new and future design leaders, improved public facilities state-wide, increased awareness and emphasis on evidence-based, human-centered design. In short, an Alaska marketplace that allows interior designers access to practice freely and fully.

1 | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989. Report to Congress on indoor air quality: Volume 2. EPA/400/1-89/001C. Washington, D. C.

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