Running a firm takes a lot of energy, so how do designers squeeze in time for professional development? We asked five designers—Mia Brous, Kerri Goldfarb, Shannon Kadwell, Kristen Nix and Beth Diana Smith—how they prioritize opportunities for growth and inspiration.
“I'm big on education and learning, so professional development is a must. I keep an eye out for any panels, seminars or classes that would be valuable to my development, and I purposely search for classes to help with any goals that I set for myself for the year. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking myself, ‘What do I want to learn this year or get better at?’ When it comes to my staff, it depends on their personality—either I let them grab the bull by the horns, or I’ll tell them what I think would be helpful to learn in making them a better designer or asset to the firm.” —Beth Diana Smith, Beth Diana Smith Interior Design, Irvington, New Jersey
“We’re always learning, and I think some of the most successful businesses are ones where the team is growing and exploring ideas together. Our firm is a member of the Design Leadership Network, which has been a wonderful resource for learning from other designers and industry leaders about how they run their businesses and tackle challenges. We also make the time to get out of the office as a team, exploring new restaurants and hotels in Austin or traveling to places like the Round Top Antiques Fair. It’s all about constantly honing and educating the eye in our business.” —Kristen Nix, Kristen Nix Interiors, Austin, Texas
A digital age
“With a busy shop and design business, making time for growth and inspiration is always a challenge! Luckily, with Instagram, it is easy to stay connected with the latest trends and stay on top of the industry. Inspiration is always around in many forms! During the worst of the pandemic, it was amazing to sit in our own living rooms and be inspired by designers across the country via Zoom webinars and panels. Most fabric lines reach out to us to set up appointments to see their new collections. We always encourage our associates to participate in these meetings. We find that the more eyes and hands you have on deck, the easier it is to stay inspired and feed off each other’s creative energy.” —Mia Brous and Kerri Goldfarb, Madre, Dallas
“We take part in remote educational seminars, but it can be challenging to engage with them at times. The successful ones involve some creativity, foster participation and provide information beyond the product. For example, a kitchen appliance vendor sent us wine and conducted a virtual wine-tasting event, which encouraged group participation and good discussions.” —Shannon Kadwell, Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Cabin John, Maryland
Homepage photo: A project by Shannon Kadwell | Courtesy of Anthony Wilder Design/Build