Interview with Randy Fiser
Text by Anna Masello
What is ASID’s mission?
Four years ago ASID, the American Society of Interior Designers raised the question about the actual role that it should play in the world of design and what it could do as an association to bring added value not only to its own members but to other people in general.
We came to the conclusion that our main role is to inform and create awareness among people and professionals about the incredible impact that design of the spaces in which we live has on our lives.
This has been the organisation’s call to action during the last four years. Research, demonstrate, communicate and raise awareness of the fact that interior design is not merely an aesthetic exercise but rather a genuine tool which if used intelligently has the power to change human beings’ quality of life.
So what is the role of design in people’s everyday lives?
Over the past four years we have invested $500,000 with our foundation in research, studying how design impacts personally and physiologically on people’s lives. We studied the places where we live, work, look after ourselves and learn and we observed the performance of people in the workplace and increased attention in educational situations. We then focused on those groups of people who have special needs, such as people suffering from autism or who are of a certain age and we realized how their lives could be improved if the places where they lived were an opportunity and a stimulus rather than a barrier. This is the kind of role that design has in people’s lives: a social role.
But how do you carry out research of this type, where do you start a study of this kind?
First of all you have to carry out an analysis of the elements that make up the environment you want to look at, together with a sociological and possibly clinical study of the people involved in order to understand the status quo before starting on the new project. You interview all the users, you check the conditions, functionality and state of health of the environments, the materials used, the light sources and the presence of greenery etc.. Consequently you identify the weak points of the space concerned and then, you build the strong points on them on which to base the concept behind the new project. After creating it, you check to see if the strong points are effectively able to have an impact, to produce a positive consequence for the user.
Let me give you a very simple example: a hospital. When a patient’s stay in hospital turns out to be shorter than expected, it means that the change of environment has improved his or her quality of life.
Now this can be applied equally to the world of business as well as healthcare. If you as an interior designer are able to show that through what you do, you can help your clients to earn more – free spaces in a hospital, more productive workers etc. – you have every right to be paid according to the benefits that you have created.
Randy, tell us about this new WELL certification.
WELL is managed by the International WELL Building Institute, an Association that aims to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. They were the first to sit doctors, psychologists, architects and interior designers down around the same table and it was they who soon noticed as a result of tests and research that our bodies react differently at respiratory, neurological and dermatological levels to the environment in which they find themselves. To give an example, they noticed that our brains interpret artificial light as if it was natural, and that as an equally important consequence, it was essential that artificial light should copy the rhythms of natural light as much as possible so as to help our brains and therefore our bodies avoid the sensation of being in blazing sunlight for 12 hours, a feeling that has a negative impact on the natural sleep-wake cycle.
Thanks to WELL, 200 different elements were identified that go to make up a space (air, water, light, smells, etc.) and these were interrelated with the same number of human body reactions at a mental and physical level. As a result, a number of criteria emerged that if met, allow what is now called WELL CERTIFICATION to be achieved.
What really fires me up is the fact that WELL is not just about initial space design but that it analyses how space is used once the design element is concluded (food on offer, the physical activities that the space forces you to do if you have the chance, the physical posture that the furnishings force you to adopt). WELL forces the user to adopt a healthy and appropriate lifestyle so that the building in which the user finds him or herself can maintain its certification, which has to be renewed every three years. It is the building which has to be positively pro-active, both in terms of design and for those who use it. This is a fantastic driving force.
How long has WELL been around?
WELL was officially launched in October 2014, two years ago. We at ASID are proud to support it and also to announce that our new headquarters designed by Perkins + Will have achieved both BEN Platinum certification.
Randy, what are the next frontiers for Interior Design?
Looking to the future, I think that the next Interior Design step is not so much thinking just in terms of space but more focusing on the community level. I believe that future challenges will be more linked to designing spaces that are resistant, flexible and able not only to carry out their functions here and now, but to change and transform themselves according to the functional demands of an increasingly unforeseeable future.