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5 Questions for Tina Manis

May 16, 2018

What’s the experience been like working on the CannonDesign team after leading your own practice for more than 10 years?
On fundamental levels, the experience is similar. You’re delegating, you’re collaborating, you’re directing, and generating ideas and concepts and helping people execute them. I led my practice democratically. I focused on transparency, and I made sure everyone had a voice. That experience pays dividends now as the teams are larger at CannonDesign and so many individuals can contribute unique perspectives to enrich our work. You have to embrace that diversity of thought and empower it. So, I love it. I love my newfound challenges and opportunities. Our firm is so richly diverse, I am able to work with teams across healthcare, education, workplace, and public spaces to elevate human experience. I see so many dynamic possibilities for our team; it’s my job to help us seize them.

What trends do you see in healthcare, workplace, and education spaces? 
People are understanding design in much more sophisticated ways. They expect better experiences at the hospital, in a college residence hall, and in their workplace—they expect immersive experiences that make their lives more enjoyable. Borrowing ideas from hospitality design and embracing them allows us to push other industries to achieve competitive differentiation or bolster recruitment and retention.

Hospitality has long been delivering valuable immersive experiences and that’s what makes today rich for cross-market ideas and engagement. These touches and moments positively impact the human experience and can make all the difference. Today’s generation values experience more than its predecessors, and in many cases is willing to pay for them. This means hospitality design will have more opportunities and more impact informing projects in other markets moving forward. We should be designing to create memorable impressions in as many places as possible and ensuring equity across all cultures and economic boundaries who experience those spaces.

You’ve been a professor at and visited numerous institutes such as Columbia, Parsons School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. How has this impacted your design perspective?
Teaching makes anyone more open-minded and more inclined to think outside the box. That’s what I love about the experience of teaching and mentoring, it keeps you fresh and energized. They’ always say it’s important to hire people who are smarter than you. Today’s students are so sophisticated, I feel like they’re all so intelligent. That reality pushes me to be more curious, more informed, and always prepared for new ideas. I haven’t taught in a couple years, but working at CannonDesign mimics the experience. There are so many bright, talented, and intelligent young people here. Immersing yourself in this expertise echoes the teaching experience and yields similar rewards. It enriches the culture of our workplace.

What current projects are you working on? 
We’re working on a large addition with Northwell Health Advanced Surgical Pavilion that allows us to truly rethink how hospitality design can influence healthcare. Most of the space is programmed for clinical use, but we’re trying to ensure the various spaces for public interface are united and help soothe and calm users there for treatment or to support loved ones. There’s a fireplace in the lobby, natural materials throughout, deep access to natural light—it’s allowing us to advance design ideas that will make a difference for people in some of their most challenging moments. This carries through to the staff as we create an anxiety-free work environment that supports their long shifts and challenging tasks to improve outcomes and staff retention. I’m also part of a team at CannonDesign focused on refining our experiential design approach and platform. We’re studying our processes to ensure we’re inviting everyone to the table as early as possible who can make a positive impact on human experience via design. It’s what we do best: integrated design from the start.

Where do you find inspiration?
It’s the city I live in and the people that surround me. Sometimes, I’ll take 10-mile walks to clear my mind and I’ll experience this flood of creative ideas. It’s those times when my mind is free of constraints that I’ll see and hear things to inspire new ideas. I’ve lived in many countries and experienced many people and places, which allows me to look at my surroundings in different ways. Because I’m able to work across so many sectors, I’m able to think outside of tired paradigms and connect ideas from disparate places. That cross-contamination of work and thinking is a great source for new inspiration.

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