Oct 05, 2020 By IIDA HQ
Each Generation Has its Own Issues
Intergenerational shifts impact design needs from workplace to healthcare design—our Industry Roundtable addresses designing for an aging population.
By IIDA HQ Oct 05, 2020
Published in

The following is an excerpt from IIDA’s annual Industry Roundtable report, Industry Roundtable 23: The Future of Place, Experience, and Worklife. The roundtable took place at BMW Designworks in California. Read the full report here.

Design is a key mechanism for addressing changing workplace demographics. Intergenerational conflicts and shifts are impacting our clients’ organizations on every level. “What’s most affecting our own company right now is people retiring: the older generation moving out and the younger folks moving in,” says Kirt Martin, the chief creative officer at Landscape Forms. “With that changeover comes new ways of thinking about everything, new expectations, and different types of social interactions. Our physical space is changing because of that.”

At Netflix, the change isn’t so much age-based as skills-driven. “We are now hiring engineers, Hollywood writers, marketing folks—new types of employees with different needs,” says Elizabeth Christopher, design manager at Netflix. “This creates tension. Our challenge is to acknowledge and solve for difference: to listen to and absorb individual feedback and then try to make things better for everyone.”

George Bandy, Jr., Ind. IIDA
, chief sustainability officer at Mohawk Group concurs: “I work in the oldest industry in America, and when we say things like, ‘we’re doing that because younger people want it,’ we get a lot of pushback. The real struggle is when different generations ask for different things.” Designers can help massage these conflicts. They know how and when to use influencers and when to poke the C-suite in order to enact change.

The clash between age brackets is the dominant generational issue in the workplace. But elsewhere, it’s the plight of the aging population. This growing demographic will require innovative design solutions, and many practitioners and manufacturers are innovating the growing senior living category. “Addressing the aging population and how they live and receive healthcare will be top of mind,” says John Otis, IIDA, founder and principal of O|A Object Agency. “We need new models for housing and interiors.” He envisions wellness as “an inclusive idea that gets considered and designed into every environment.” It might just be the young, idealistic, and enlightened professionals of today who successfully democratize wellness.

“Clients want to collaborate with a design team whose values align with their own.”
Susana Covarrubias, IIDA, Gensler
Susana Covarrubias, IIDA, Gensler
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