Abbie Clary speaks with Girl UNinterrupted in its newest Q+A conversation that touches on Abbie’s personal career path, challenges she’s faced, shifts in the design industry, education, tips for emerging designers and industry leaders, and more. Inspired by the current spotlight on women and initiatives by Equity by Design, Beverly Willis Foundation, WAGE Project, and various grassroots organizations, the Girl UNinterrupted project seeks to bridge the gap between young female designers and leaders in the architecture field. The project is rooted in an annual designers data survey, the conversation series, and the creation of a manual with actionable tips to help designers jumpstart their careers.
Abbie’s full Q+A can be read on the Girl UNinterrupted website. Here’s a key excerpt:
How has the culture of design changed?
There are so many changes; let’s focus on two.
When I started working in healthcare design, we approached it meekly. The client would tell us what they needed, then we’d go off and design it for them. The client established programming and we followed orders. We didn’t validate, analyze or challenge. We were the architects and we took what was given.
That’s not how it works today. Our design teams are now integrated with clinical expertise, LEAN Six Sigma, operational planners, data analysts, high-performance building engineers, and much more. Not only are we equipped to analyze our clients’ business models in a holistic way and then design accordingly, the clients now expect it. That’s a 180-degree evolution and a great change.
A not-so-great change is the commoditization of architecture and design. You may have recently seen that you can now buy prefabricated patient rooms on Amazon. It worries me that this can only further push our clients to see design as a commodity, which it isn’t at all. We are experts in ways you can’t buy off shelves or with free two-day shipping. We need to aggressively remind our clients and the public that design is a dynamic skill and expertise. Otherwise, we’re going to have even bigger problems with commoditization. I know we can fix it, but we need to take ownership and do everything we can to fix it ourselves.
What work-related policies would you like to change?
I’m a huge proponent of flexibility. I understand there are aspects of architecture where everyone needs to be together as it’s a team sport. But, I advocate for even more flexibility in how we do our work. Virtual meetings, multi-user virtual reality, screen-share – we should be using all of it to empower people to work how, when and where they can be most effective.
I’m never in the office for conventional 9-to-5 work days. I work very flexibly, I travel all over the world, but I’m still able to get my work done and most importantly be an involved mom (and hockey mom). I want to see that flexibility made more equitable in the profession.