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Aug 01, 2023 By Vasia Rigou
In Memoriam of John J. Nelson, Sr.
From humble beginnings to greatness: The life and legacy of John J. Nelson
By Vasia Rigou Aug 01, 2023
Published in Articles

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of John J. Nelson Sr., founder and principal of Nelson Worldwide—and a true trailblazer in the field of commercial interior design. His mission was to transform through design all dimensions of the human experience and rethink the environments in which we live, work, and flourish, the distinguished founder did not hold back.

Since its founding in 1977, NELSON Worldwide has grown into an award-winning firm providing services in architecture, interior design, graphic design, and brand strategy across the country and the world—with Nelson at the wheel.


Community and equity was extremely important to Nelson, who was committed to furthering education, broadening opportunity, diversifying the industry, and uplifting the next generation of design and architecture professionals through mentorship, scholarship, and career-readiness support. Namely, through The John J. Nelson Sr. Legacy Scholarship Fund, created in partnership with the IIDA Foundation specifically with students of African American Descent in mind—a great source of pride and a cause close to his heart.

​​“A visionary designer and a true pioneer in the world of commercial interior design, John J. Nelson Sr. had a profound influence and dedication to his craft that paved the way for countless projects and left an indelible mark on the industry,” says IIDA EVP and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, EVP and CEO of IIDA. “John's approach to design was nothing short of revolutionary—but it was his warmth, sincerity, and authenticity that resonated deeply with clients, earning both acclaim and affection,” she adds.

“As we bid farewell to a remarkable man, his legacy is sure to continue to inspire and shape the world of design for generations to come, most especially through The John J. Nelson Sr. Legacy Scholarship Fund at IIDA, established in 2019. His generosity reveals a staunch supporter of equitable access to design education, a committed advocate, and a friend to IIDA and to us all. Let us continue the work he started, nurturing, and empowering the designers of tomorrow.”

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