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Design Talk: Q&A with Design Director Komel Saeed

Design Talk with Design Director Komel Saeed

Design Talk: Q&A with Design Director Komel Saeed

RI is excited to introduce to you, Komel Saeed, our Design Director. An award-winning workplace designer, Komel believes passionately in creating spaces that inspire a meaningful human connection. We love the energy she has and can’t wait to see Komel bring your dream office to life with her creative talent.

In the first of our Design Talk series, you’ll learn about Komel’s experience and where she sees the future of workplace design heading.

What inspired you to become an interior designer?

I had originally gone to college to study international business but very quickly noticed how much trouble I had in staying motivated to pursue something that just didn’t feel right. I ended up taking an art class in my second semester and knew my passion was being creative.

Being in well-thought-out spaces and having experiences that are driven by beautifully curated architecture and interiors was something I wanted to create. Growing up, I’ve always been inspired by architecture – colors, textures & lighting and attending art school really proved that I was in the right place. I followed my intuition which led me to my career.

I think that is what truly helps me design beautiful spaces: my intuition of what spaces should look like and feel like.

Why did you decide to delve into workplace design specifically?

The workplace is the place where people spend most of their life (40+ hours a week). Most offices did not inspire a human connection or create spaces for people to take mindful rest. I decided to design workplaces because I wanted to bring both the human experience and the office experience together, in order to curate more purposeful spaces based on employees and business needs.

I also decided to become a WELL AP because it was another layer of factual information that supported a human’s need to function in the healthiest way. I really enjoy workplace design because you get to challenge the way a corporation has been thinking and show them new solutions that would make their workplace more efficient. When a space is redesigned,  you can really see how much businesses can flourish and attract top talent.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

I have designed for every niche: hospitality, education, performing arts, public design and now the workplace.  My passion for changing the way we think about a space – regardless of the function – is truly my motivator. 

I have received two AIA awards for workplace projects I have designed, which I think was a real highlight for me because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s so nice to see people appreciate well-considered design and space – and not just for how beautiful it looks!

How do you approach your work as a Design Director? Talk us through your creative process…

Merging conceptual design and the human experience is one place I truly lose track of time. I think as a Design Director, I’m looking for ways to inspire others around me to see things from different perspectives.  Part of my role is to help our clients and my colleagues see design in ways they have never imagined – through finishes, space planning, scale and lighting.  

My creative process always begins with a blank sketch. From here, I start to brainstorm inspirational imagery to create concepts based on my client’s needs. Then I create a visual aesthetic by pulling fabrics, stone, metals and color together to create a base palette, which grows eventually to be larger and more detailed. By looking at the project as a whole, I get to grips with the day-to-day activities in the workplace, and evaluate how I want people to use the space to navigate their tasks. With this grounding, I’ll go into detail about what each room or space will start to look and feel like. But I can’t do any of this without sketching its potential:  I feel like the best skill I have is to draw and share with others what is being created in my mind.

Also as a Design Director my goal is to constantly inspire my team to think outside the box by sharing new platforms and tools with them: new projects, design trends and any workplace insights I receive while researching.

Project management is a critical component of successful workplace design and build-out projects. Do you have a signature approach? 

Yes, having well detailed sets of construction documents demonstrates that design has been properly thought-out and every last detail has been considered in order to build a successful space. I really take pride in developing the finer details of a project, as they are what makes a design so unique. I work closely with my vendors during the design development phase of the project, ensuring all materials are specified correctly. By leveraging their expertise in how the design could be executed, crucial time can then be saved in the field during construction.

What do you think will be the defining workplace design shift following the COVID-19 pandemic?

Technology. I believe leveraging technology to be used in its most efficient way will allow people to have the flexibility of working from anywhere – inside the office and outside.

Expertly-designed spaces that support all worker persona types will define the new landscape of a workplace. Your workplace can be anywhere in the office that allows you to plug in and work – meaning more collaborative areas, both open and enclosed.  When thinking about supporting spaces, these aren’t your copy room or storage closet, they’re wellness rooms, respite rooms, meditation rooms, virtual fitness rooms, faith/prayer rooms: spaces that support an employee’s daily needs that can be met while in the workplace. 

Moving forward, I think employers will change the way they select new office locations. Being in a building that has amenities that their employees can benefit from will be a game changer. Things like dry cleaning services, daycare nearby, a grocery store in the lobby are just a few examples of how we can merge this gap that currently separates us from thinking we can’t do both during our workdays.

Which workplace design trends excite you the most? 

I always felt that workplace design was a little too cold of an approach for where people spend most of their time. It’s definitely a welcome change to see the high standard we associate with hospitality and residential aesthetics now merging with workplace design. There’s never been a better time to be at work: companies want you to work for them, you have great options to choose from and you get to really decide where you want to spend your work life.

Now more than ever, companies are stepping-up to change their office landscapes to reflect what employees have always longed for. This trend of providing employee satisfaction is what I’m most excited to see develop into the future! It’s been fascinating to see companies change their initiatives, realizing mental health is a part of daily life (including worklife) and striving to find initiatives on how their office can support that.

Create your flexible workplace with RI today 

RI designs and builds functional spaces to foster productivity and build innovative, forward-thinking spaces for your business. We’re here to help you make the right choices and build a platform for future business growth and prosperity.

Get in touch to discuss the future of your workplace.

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