One-on-One with VODA sponsor, Teknion

IDC sat down with Teknion’s Vice President, A&D, Jennifer Busch, to talk Value of Design Awards and the future of interior design.

IDC: Why was it important for Teknion to support IDC’s first Value of Design Awards (VODA)?

Jennifer Busch: IDC’s Value of Design Awards will provide a platform for Teknion to communicate its leadership as a global design brand in office furniture while reinforcing its proud Canadian heritage and its commitment to supporting the Canadian design industry. We welcome the opportunity to celebrate, along with our industry colleagues, the important role that interior design plays in realizing organizational goals across all market sectors and creating a more positive experience in the built environment.

IDC: How does ‘Design Thinking’ influence the way Teknion’s products are created?

JB: Design Thinking is an iterative process that openly explores all angles of a problem on the way to arriving at a carefully vetted outcome. At Teknion, products are moved through each stage of development through a series of “design gates,” in which representatives from multiple areas of expertise within the organization evaluate each feature, benefit, detail and purpose of a new product based on market research, customer feedback and internal knowledge. And for us the design process does not end with a new product introduction. As a vertically integrated manufacturer that makes 80% of everything it sells, Teknion has the ability to tailor standard product solutions with a high degree of time and cost efficiency to meet individual client needs. We call this process “Creative Collaboration.”

IDC: What is Teknion’s role in the changing landscape of Canadian interior design?

JB: Teknion’s long commitment to sustainability has made us a leader among manufacturers providing furniture and designing space that minimize environmental impact. Three of our Canadian showrooms have attained LEED Certification − Ottawa Silver, Toronto Gold and Montreal Platinum. Teknion recently became the first manufacturer in the world to receive WELL certification at the silver level under WELL v1 for its Toronto showroom by meeting 100 percent of the WELL Preconditions applicable to the Project Type in all Concepts. More recently, we are also leading the industry dialog around human sustainability, through knowledge leadership and the thoughtful application of product solutions that support human health and well-being. Our recent research projects, “Ethonomics” and “The True Measure of a Space is How It Makes Us Feel,” focus on the benefits and methods of achieving physiological and psychological wellness for workplace occupants.

Toronto has just been identified as the most diverse city in the WORLD, and Teknion’s workforce solidly reflects those values of inclusion and diversity. Our manufacturing facilities employ individuals of 57 different nationalities (with embedded opportunities to celebrate together cultural holidays from each!) and in some cases multiple individuals and generations from single families. We believe in job security, we empower women in management, we present opportunities for physically and developmentally challenged individuals to join us in meaningful work, and we otherwise take our corporate social responsibility opportunities very seriously. At a time when nationalism and divisiveness are being sowed around the world, Teknion reflects the broader Canadian values of the good that can come of different types of people working together.

IDC: What has been Teknion’s most successful campaign or product, and why?

JB: The world of work is changing from a focus on individual output to a focus on collaborative productivity. As such, the furniture that is required to support these evolving ways of working is changing too. Teknion has traditionally been focused on the design of workstations, but in response to new ways of working more socially it has recently launched Studio TK, an ancillary furniture brand that combines high design with high function for the new office landscape. In 2013, Studio TK began with three product lines and now has over 30 seating products (including partnerships with B&B Italia, Artifort, Alki), 15 table collections, two screen products and a casegoods line, indicating remarkable growth the market. The addition of the Studio TK brand puts Teknion in the category of major manufacturers who can provide efficient furniture solutions for the entire range of work needs and styles, from focused individual work to collaborative group work.

IDC: Can you describe what ‘human-centred design’ means, and why it’s important?

JB: Historically, there have been various ways to measure how an interior space “works.” Too often, the metric may be the ability to fit as many people into as little real estate as possible (sq. ft./person), or the measure of “success” of a space may be reduced to cost/sq. ft. Such determinants have a rightful place among the principles of design, but it is certainly possible to reconcile economic necessities with design that’s intelligent, interesting and empowering.

Any space has practical determinants, but equally importantly, every space elicits a response, shapes an experience, and suggests behavior. Every element of interior design is laden with messages. Each speaks to certain values and gives cues for behavior. Taken together, they suggest and invite a way of working, learning or socializing.

As we strive to create healthier work environments, we are exploring more and more the emotional and psychological impacts of space. Organizations that seek to become skilled in leveraging the power of design, and use design to engage and inspire, often find workers a great deal more likely to exhibit creativity, commitment, and a spirit of community. Whatever the prevailing aesthetic model of design, and however complex the concerns and constraints that designers must address, we have a great opportunity to put beauty and meaning into the everyday work environment. We have a chance, and even a mandate, to improve people’s lives. That is human-centered design.