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Mar 05, 2021 By IIDA HQ
Talk, Talk: Screen Life
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In a socially distanced world, here’s how two designers stay connected to their community.
By IIDA HQ Mar 05, 2021
Published in Perspective
Brought to you by sponsor

Design never sleeps, even during a pandemic. So how do designers stay in the know sans in-person conferences or those quick, casual conversations that often spark the next big idea? It takes work.

“Maintaining connections now requires more purposeful planning. We’re all busy due to non-stop Zoom meetings with clients and project teams. As a result, it can be challenging to make space to stay connected with the wider community network,” says Lois Wellwood, IIDA, director and global interiors leader, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Los Angeles. “Developing and expanding social capital across the industry requires intentional focus.”

We asked Wellwood and Peter Wang, AIA, principal and design director, Gensler, New York, to share how they maintain their ties to the greater design community.

Lois Wellwood



Lois Wellwood:
Dealing with drift and the sense of isolation prompts creative solutions. I’ve developed a few experiments to engage with others in the industry, including weekly open mics, which are an open Zoom line that people can join; a group chat line that’s active 24 hours a day; and SOM Women’s Initiative virtual roundtable events with industry colleagues as guest speakers. Pre-pandemic we also hosted a weekly internal Trade Show in the Studio where the entire office could visit with manufacturers and their representatives to discuss research, new products, and innovations, and we have continued that virtually.

Connecting with a wider range of people has also introduced new learnings and perhaps even a few aha moments, like realizing it’s okay that you’ve never met someone in person and being open to fostering connectivity in new and interesting ways.

Peter Wang


Peter Wang:
Our industry absolutely thrives on collaboration and sharing ideas, riffing off of each other, and inspiring one another. However, the distancing and lack of contact due to the pandemic greatly limits that discourse and spontaneity. The lack of face-to-face contact also affects the ability to learn about the latest industry news and impacts creative thinking.

Now, it does take a concerted effort to check in with your network. Email, texts and online platforms have been my primary means of keeping in touch, and I’m now—more than ever—reliant on a wide range of online design and architecture publications for research and keeping up with industry trends.

I’ve also started to follow more design-focused Instagram feeds for inspiration. Prior to the pandemic, the accounts that I followed consisted of not only the usual friends and people I admire, but a broad smattering of my personal interests—art, music, fashion and travel. Today, I’m definitely leveraging my connections to these accounts to stay up to date with the industry and where design is headed post-pandemic.

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