Dec 15, 2023 By Cindy Dampier
Converge Action Summit 2023
Our top 5 takeaways from Interface and IIDA’s annual gathering of designers and sustainability leaders Interface and IIDA’s annual summit
By Cindy Dampier Dec 15, 2023
Published in Articles

Designers aren’t known for sharing trade secrets or go-to strategies—unless you’re talking sustainability. At this year’s Interface + IIDA Converge Action Summit, our community of experts and designers showed up ready to give up the goods on everything from client strategies to unexpected resources.

As the Converge Summit marks its fifth year, the community has expanded to include the year-round Converge Council, and IIDA has been digging deeper into what designers need to foster greater sustainability in their practices and their firms. Two big-picture goals have emerged: Arm designers with actionable tools and insights that empower them to practice more sustainably; and spread those tactics and that shared knowledge to other designers and design communities.


Above Image: Converge Speakers, Joey Shea, IIDA (far left); Amy Trojacek, IIDA; Allison Smith, IIDA; Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA (center); Ana Pinto-Alexander, FIIDA; James Kerrigan, IIDA; Amie Keener, IIDA; and Paul Shariari, IIDA (far right). Image courtesy of Artistry & Light.

Experts in a range of sustainable practice areas and emerging design leaders convened in Dallas at the November event , and came away empowered with a fresh sense of community around sustainability and design, as well as those key actionable “nuggets.” Here are our top five takeaways from this year:

  1. Network up: Take advantage of the incredible transparency and desire to share best practices and ideas around sustainability. When you tap into a community of like-minded designers, you’ll find answers to questions, strategies that work, and resources you didn’t know you could tap—as well as that crucial peer support!

  2. Bake it in: You never have to make an argument for sustainable practices or products with clients, if you make it part of your design from the outset. “Frame sustainability as just being good design,” said Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, International Board member. Want to make this even easier? Work within your firm to set standards for products in your library, so that all choices will be sustainable choices.

  3. Find allies in unusual places: “A lot of companies have goals around sustainability,” said Allison Smith, IIDA, Sustainable Design Leader at HKS, “they have targets, so if you can help frame the work that you’re doing to show how they can help their business succeed, there’s a lot of power there.” Client employees who oversee corporate sustainability goals can be great advocates—look to bring them into your design process.

  4. Hold the checklist: Starting a project with a sustainability certification checklist doesn’t always yield the best or most satisfying results, in terms of actual impact. Start with a charette instead. Bringing all parties to the table as early as possible allows full transparency around the sustainability goals, gains valuable input and creative ideation, and increases buy-in for design solutions that have the biggest overall impact.

  5. Reconsider nature: Most of us are familiar with biophilic design, but biomimicry goes deeper. “Nature is an evolutionary design process,” said Kathy Zarsky, Biomimicry Design Researcher and Founder of Sustainable Strategy and Systems. “What we are witnessing is time tested recipes. These things work, so how can we apply them to our designs?” Taking a closer look at not only what we find in nature but how it works allows us to adapt both inspiration and concrete strategies from the natural world—a natural pattern for successful design with zero waste.
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