Home > Publications > Steelcase, NYSID & The YWCA-NYC Are Expanding The Pipeline To Design

 

 

 

 

 

Authored and posted by NYSID (photocredit: nysid.edu). Original Post >

By Jennifer Dorr, Freelance Writer NYSID | August 11, 2021

 

How a Pre-college Program Brought Interior Design Experience to Young Women Who Might Not Have Considered the Profession 

This is the first installment of a series on how NYSID is partnering with nonprofits and corporations to expose diverse communities of high schoolers to Interior Design through its Pre-college program.

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“This experience made me think about all the rooms and restaurants I have walked through and realize, Wow, someone designed this in order to make me feel a certain way. It’s someone’s pride and joy, and also, their plan.”

Iris Seal, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-College student

On July 23, at the YWCA of the City of New York’s headquarters in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, ten high schoolers presented their plans for re-designing the interiors of the YWCA Family Resource Center, which due to the pandemic and the YWCA’s online programs, most had never seen.  Each team of students presented a plan for redesigning one of two rooms or the main reception areas at the YW (aka YWCA), spaces they came to know well the prior week. They used mood boards to show their color palettes, furniture and art selections, and perspective drawings and layouts to communicate new member-focused uses for the spaces. NYSID Dean and VP for Academic Affairs Ellen Fisher attended the presentations and said to the young women, “You should be proud. What you tackled is the equivalent of a first semester assignment in a BFA interior design program. This is college-level work.”

 The presentations were the culmination of a 3-week, hands-on, summer immersion into the work and culture of interior design made possible by the Steelcase Social Innovation Fellowship, which Ellen Fisher won on behalf of the New York School of Interior Design. The concept was to create a pilot program at the YW of NYC through the mechanism of NYSID’s Pre-College program, a model that could be extended to other nonprofits that work with diverse populations of high school students. Says Ellen, “There’s a crisis in design practice today: students from underrepresented and/or underserved communities often do not pursue a career in interior design because they may be unfamiliar with the field, and do not see themselves included in the design profession. Our communities and clients suffer because important viewpoints are missing from the design process.” This program is designed to address this problem by exposing high school students from many different backgrounds to the practice of interior design early in their lives. When you reach students early in their academic careers, you can have a tremendous impact on their futures.

As a result of the Steelcase Social Innovation Fellowship, these YWCA members were enrolled in the first session of NYSID’s virtual Pre-College program. At NYSID, Pre-College students learn the basic how-to’s of interior design from professional designers who teach in NYSID’s undergraduate or graduate programs. Participating students design for a theoretical client, providing drawings, layouts, mood-boards and selecting furniture, fixtures and textiles. The introductory session challenges students to design a one-bedroom apartment and present it to their teachers and peers. The students of the YWCA NYC participated in NYSID’s PreCollege I, and then, for the third and final week of the program, they put their new skills to the test in a special workshop, working on designs specifically for the YWCA NYC. Ellen Fisher led them on tours of Steelcase, where they could see and touch materials to use in their designs; and brought them to the offices of the interior design firm Pembrooke & Ives, where they talked to interior designers about the day-to-day of the profession. Along with instructor and NYSID alum Ajaee Shepard (BFA ’17), Ellen taught the students how to apply what they learned in a basic residential design project to the YWCA’s community spaces. They measured, sketched and designed intensively for four days, leading up to presenting on July 23.

Says Mary Crawford, Interim C.O.O. of the YWCA NYC, “This program has opened a world to them that they weren’t really exposed to before. I was so impressed with the presentations, especially the fact that they got that racial and gender justice are part of our mission at the YW. They wove these themes into their designs to create welcoming and inclusive spaces.” The students were all participants in the YWCA Girls’ Initiatives, designed to empower young women.

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 Perhaps no one is better equipped to summarize the impact of this pilot program than the students themselves. Here are some examples of what they had to say:

●  “I’ve always wanted to understand how to do a floor plan, and learning how to do perspective drawing was eye-opening for me and changed the way I see space. I loved visiting the showrooms and design firms, because it gave me insight into what people really do. This was a lens into what life might be like as a designer after college.”- Alesa Spinella, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-college student

 ●   “I am a Muslim, and there is the expectation for one to have a profession like law or medicine. In fact, I am a rising senior in a pre-law program at my high-school, and there was always the idea I would go into law. But I wanted to understand the perspective of other careers. . .You can’t have a courtroom if it’s not designed first. This program showed me all of the options in design; you can go into residential or commercial design, for example. I talked to my parents about this. Maybe interior design might be my thing for my future.” ”- Ayesha Tirmizi, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-college student

●  “I’ve always wanted to understand how to do a floor plan, and learning how to do perspective drawing was eye-opening for me and changed the way I see space. I loved visiting the showrooms and design firms, because it gave me insight into what people really do. This was a lens into what life might be like as a designer after college.”- Alesa Spinella, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-college student

●     “I loved this program. It gave me an opportunity to explore what I really want to do with my life. I wanted to pursue baking, but this program has made me rethink that. This experience made me think about all the rooms and restaurants I have walked through and realize, Wow, someone designed this in order to make me feel a certain way. It’s someone’s pride and joy, and also, their plan. The visit to Steelcase was beautiful: seeing what it has to offer, getting to touch and see the materials.” – Iris Seal, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-college student

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“I know now that other career paths are possible for me…”

“I’m Middle Eastern, so many people expect you to become doctors or lawyers. When you go back to your country of origin, which in my case, is Egypt, that’s what’s expected. But I am artistic and I wanted to find my own path. From this program, I got a sense of people who followed their interests without being encouraged by others to do something more ‘useful,” like be a doctor. Keep in mind: a doctor’s office was designed. Without interior designers and architects to create the space, doctors could not do their jobs properly. This program opened a new space in my mind that made me think about how interiors are made. I know now that other career paths are possible for me…”

Aliaa Elkallini, YWCA NYC member & NYSID Pre-college student

 Look out for the second post in the series, which will explore how Kravet, NYSID & the Kips Bay Boys & Girls’ Club are partnering to give high schoolers early exposure to interior design and work experience through the Pre-college program