An Interview with BNIM Architects’ Associate Principal and Director of Design for Interiors

Katie Parker

An Interview with Scott Rice’s Corporate Senior Designer


Katie Parker has been a designer at Scott Rice for approximately five years and according to Ed Wills, President/CEO is considered one of our most dedicated designers. A few of her daily tasks as a designer at Scott Rice include space planning, providing insights into the workplace, specifying product, and packaging presentations. Her commitment to projects, attention to detail and creative talent are valued not only by Scott Rice, but her clients as well. We recently were able to snag some time with the busy designer to talk about design, creativity and the future workplace.

>> WHERE DID YOUR INITIAL INTEREST IN FURNITURE DESIGN BEGIN?

My Junior year of college at the University of Central Missouri, we had an Interior Design course where the semester project was corporate design. The summer before this course, I had interned with Amy Funk at Knoll Textiles, so I had an awareness of Knoll product and applications.  Therefore, I wanted to apply Knoll products to my project. This was the first time I began to understand that furniture design was a much broader category than our previous furniture design course covering joints and construction details. Coincidently, my first job out of college was with a Haworth furniture dealership. There I was able to pick up more furniture application and specification knowledge. As well as see how the world of architecture, which first interested me in this career, began to fit into the day to day work of a furniture dealer designer.

>> HOW DO YOU DEFINE CREATIVITY?

To me, creativity is about having an open mind and an ability to approach projects or processes from a new angle at any time.  It is important to never pigeonhole yourself into a specific thought process and to be open to pushing the boundaries.   

>> WHAT TYPE OF DESIGN STYLE DO YOU PREFER?

Me personally, I like things being symmetrical or linear.  I prefer clean lines on products and color palettes that are primarily neutrals with pops of color to add interest.  This allows me to accentuate items, but at the same time keep everything relatable and calmer.  That is my personal design aesthetic.      

>> IN THE WORLD OF DESIGN, WHAT DO YOU FIND TO BE THE MOST CHALLENGING?

Within a furniture dealership, I find that the most challenging aspect of the job is being creatively restricted due to specific product rules or specification guidelines.  For example, it can be limiting when I prefer to use well-designed legs, but they are bracketed only for a particular product line.  Often, I will request for a modification to the manufacturer based on my dream design, but there are reasons why that dream might not be approved. I prefer to push the limits and sometimes furniture design can be a bit limiting or challenging.   

>> WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT OF DESIGN?

I love working and building relationships with clients. As a furniture dealer designer, I get the opportunity to work with our clients throughout the life cycle of their building and continue with them as they grow into their next building. Working on these types of long term projects with clients eventually evolve our relationship from colleagues to friends.  When building a relationship with our clients we eventually get a good understanding on how the company functions. This then allows us to create very tailored applications for the end user.

>> WHAT EXCITES AND INSPIRES YOU THE MOST AS A SENIOR DESIGNER AT SCOTT RICE?

Overall, Kansas City has a great vision for design and it is exciting to see our industry apply the research that is being done in the corporate, educational, and healthcare environments to projects. This city is pushing the boundaries and being inspired by others’ great work is what drives me.

Scott Rice also excites me because our creativity is of value and we are encouraged to participate in continuing our education through opportunities like CEUs, Conferences and design community events. There is a lot of opportunity for growth and discovery as a designer in this atmosphere.

>> CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PROCESS FOR THE DESIGN VISION & DEVELOPMENT OF A PROJECT?

My ideal projects are those in which the client or architectural firm partners with the dealership at the very beginning of a project.  It takes time to develop trust and explore client needs through a variety of workshops.  In these cases where we are brought in early, I get the chance to explore and identify how the employees work or prefer to work as well as observe adjacencies between departments. After all of the data-collecting, I look at the schematic design processes and how the research data for a particular space can be implemented. Research is a really critical part that quite often gets overlooked. From this point, we implement the overall ideas and stories into the project. Outfitting the allocated blocks with specifics has now become second nature. This success process allows us to design a custom space with a story that identifies with the end user.

>> DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PRODUCT RIGHT NOW?

After Neocon every year, there are a few dream products that come to mind.  I have a few that I am waiting to apply to projects before the next Neocon. One is the JSI Indie product line. We actually have this product in the showroom right now. It sits a little low due to the design of the line, but it is a wonderful sit once one makes it to that low level. The softer hand on fabrics and curved corners on these pieces are nothing but comfort. My second product is Darran’s new benching system called Thinking Quietly. This is a benching system with personality. The details that went into this product make a workstation feel a little less formal. The third and last product I will throw out is a product line from Viccarbe called Common. These informal stepping stone ancillary pieces are becoming a big trend in the furniture industry and I think Common is a unique player with its organic shape and comfortable sit.

>> WE KNOW THAT SCOTT RICE AND STEELCASE FOCUS ON BRINGING INNOVATION AND RESEARCH TO THE WORKPLACE, WHAT DO YOU PREDICT THE FUTURE OF THE WORKPLACE WILL BE LIKE IN THE FUTURE?

I recently attended a CEU about current and future generations of the workplace. It was interesting to hear about what is trending for generation Z. It had me thinking about where the workplace might be heading. Right now, I see a lot of buzz over ancillary furniture and I am seeing it specified on projects more frequently. From what I interpreted during the CEU, it sounds like the future generation will be wanting choices and experience in their workplace. The focus will not be as much about the open office environment as it will be about creating spaces for employees to move about as they see fit for specific tasks.        

My thought on the future workspace is to create a variety of flexible spaces that can be manipulated to the users’ needs at any given time. These spaces are offered in a variety of postures and interfaces with technology.  I think the open office environment currently creates trust amongst co-workers, so a low to mid-range height on workstations will continue to trend.  However, my major prediction is that the future of ancillary furniture will not be as big of a deal in open office settings near work stations. Instead I see designers beginning to think through how a meeting or enclave space can incorporate ancillary components. I predict that semi-enclosed or enclosed spaces will become a more desirable space for employees to retreat to. Keep in mind that these enclosures do not mean solid drywalls. I predict they will remain transparent to again grow that trust and sense of openness in the environment. My final prediction, which is already trending currently, is the incorporation of technology into these collaborative spaces and the innovative interactions that are fostered by these smarter spaces.

>> WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR A YOUNG DESIGNER?

My advice for a young designer is there are applications for specific reasons.  With that being said, remember to keep an open mind and continue to push creative boundaries.

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WORK INSPIRED ISSUE 1

Our first issue of Work Inspired Magazine contains information on new products, the new SR Collective in the Crossroads KC, an interview with Gretchen Holy, associate principal and director of design for interiors at BNIM and an Interview with Katie Parker, Senior Designer at Scott Rice. We hope you find our tour of new products and the look in our new space at SR Collective as inspiring as we have.

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