A Tribute to Mentors

Lauren White

Tell me who you run with and I’ll tell you who you are. This was one of many words of wisdom from a group of highly successful business men and women who spoke on a panel at an American Marketing Association Atlanta Chapter event moderated by Interface’s own CMO Jo Ann Herold.


From left to right: Jo Ann Herold, Kate Atwood, Steve Behm, Ken Bernhardt, Julie Bowerman, William Pate and Shannon Harlow

The topic? “A Tribute to Mentors.” It was fitting that all of the participants were mentors or mentees of Jo Ann. And, wow! What great company she keeps! The panel included Kate Atwood, executive director at the Arby’s Foundation; Steve Behm, president of Edleman South; Ken Bernhardt, professor at Georgia State University; Julie Bowerman, vice-president of ecommerce at Coca-Cola Company; William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Shannon Harlow, vice-president at 22Squared.

Jo Ann learned early in her career the value of seeking out mentors to help her along her journey. “You’ll be surprised at how honored people will be when asked to be a mentor,“ she told the group. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance.”

How do you find a mentor?
Shannon suggested starting your search with “people you admire,” and Julie added that it’s important to “have a few different types of mentors.” Ken also advised that, when seeking a mentor, “it’s important to have people you trust to tell you the truth, like your own personal board of advisors.” He added, “When faced with difficult decisions, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. Just like professional sports players have a coach, we all need a coach.”

Who can be a mentor?
As it turns out, we all can. Mentors can be those who already hold advanced positions in your career field, people who are in a different career field that you aspire to enter, college professors and other educators or even someone who is just getting started. Steve reflected on a time when he received some great advice from a junior member of his staff and the importance of having a relationship with people at all career levels. Kate said, “Don’t under value how powerful you [as a mentee] can be for a mentor.” The panel explained that mentors should be humble leaders, have integrity and be willing to tell the truth with kindness because, as Steve noted, “Words matter.”

mentor lunch

Members of the Atlanta AMA and friends gathered to learn about the importance of mentoring programs.

Advice from a mentor
Mentors offer real-life examples of challenges and lessons that may help you find the answer in one of your own challenges. One of William’s biggest lessons learned was a time he “almost got fired” over an advertising campaign in the mid-90s for a product that integrated emails, fax and pagers (oh my!). After the initial pitch, the CEO didn’t like the campaign but William believed in it. “He told me ‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll give you the money for it, but if it doesn’t work, then you’re fired.’” The campaign ended up being successful and William learned to “believe in what you’re doing.”

If you don’t have a mentor, seek one out. And be available to mentor others. We can learn a lot from one another.

Posted in Category Culture & Play | Leave a comment

What Does ‘Beautiful Thinking’ Mean?

Jean Nayar

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. But when we see beauty—whether in a glorious sunset, a majestic mountain, an inspired building, or a fellow human being—we know it. Visual beauty is tangible.

When it comes to thinking, though, how do we know when our ideas are beautiful? The people at Interface have been dwelling on this question a lot lately—particularly with respect to how it impacts a sense of well-being in sustainably designed spaces. They also recognize that visionaries both past and present—from the legendary architect, R. Buckminster Fuller, to the brilliant founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, to the CEO of the International Living Future Institute, Jason McLennan, one of the most influential individuals in the green building movement—have pondered this question, too, and have applied their theories to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems with transformational results.

beautiful thinking

What is “beautiful thinking?” The people at Interface have been dwelling on this question a lot lately—particularly with respect to how it impacts a sense of well-being in sustainably designed spaces.

To give shape to the idea of “Beautiful Thinking,” we asked some thought leaders “What does ‘Beautiful Thinking” mean to you?” Their responses yielded some interesting common threads. Read on for seven of the most compelling of them.

Nature and beauty are inseparable—and humans are part of it. “Research has shown that humans have an innate love of and need for nature,” says Jason McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute and the founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most progressive and stringent green building program. “Our ‘biophilia,’ according to studies, is hard-wired,” he says. “We naturally seek out environments where nature is present and react negatively to environments that are sterile, cold, and without any connection to nature.”

Science and beauty are not mutually exclusive, but rather innately interconnected. “Buckminster Fuller would take on any challenge with a systemic approach to problem-solving,” says Elizabeth Thompson, executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. “For him, there was no greater source of ‘Beautiful Thinking’ than in the patterns of nature, and in how efficient Nature is with her use of materials. He was sometimes referred to as a ‘radical utopian,’ who relied on fundamental truths of science and research to uncover truths about how the universe is structured to get to the root of things, and it’s been said that if you’re at the root you’re touching the spiritual,” she adds. “Fuller himself once said, ‘When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty, I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.’” In other words, beauty may not be the goal of “Beautiful Thinking,” but invariably it emerges as a result of it.


“When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty, I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” -Buckminster Fuller

Nature has much to teach us about creating great human habitat. “In the same way that nature creates conditions conducive to life,” says Lindsay James, a certified biomimicry professional and vice president of restorative enterprise at Interface, “businesses can think of ways to create conditions that are conducive to life, both for the larger ecological system and for the well-being of the people in the company. One step we can take is to create spaces for our people that promote health and wellness. One of the pitfalls we seem to be running into is to define health in buildings purely in terms of the absence of potentially hazardous chemicals. This has the potential to allow fear of chemicals to overshadow other ways that we can make buildings ‘life-friendly.’ The increasingly robust research on biophilic design shows us how better designed buildings produce some of the proven physiological and psychological benefits of spending time in nature. Our current value-engineering practices don’t take this kind of benefit into account,” she explains. “But when companies see health-care costs of employees declining in biophilically-designed spaces, then there’s an economic argument for good design.”

Variety is the spice of stimulating spaces. “We should strive to create places where we fit and where we belong; places with both prospect and refuge that appeal to us on a deep psychological level,” says McLennan. “There is additional emerging evidence indicating that we also crave beauty in the form of order, proportion, texture, color, and localized symmetry. I refer to this instinct as ‘’ The pleasure we experience when we witness symmetry in nature—as in sacred geometry or the elegant layout of the human face— demonstrates this powerful force.”

Holistic environments inspire creativity and innovation. Spaces derived from “Beautiful Thinking” can have a ripple effect on people and the broader systems they’re a part of. “Interface is a carpet tile company that mimics nature in its manufacturing process and continues to develop restorative circular economy strategies to drive all industries to a new level of success in business,” says George Bandy, Interface’s vice president of strategic accounts. “This model considers financial profitability on the same level as environmental and social success on the balance sheet. It also involves the type of mental engagement that delivers a comprehensive positive impact on ‘tomorrow’s child.’ A space that allows people to be connected to nature while providing them with the freedom to push their professional and productivity limits creates a contagious spirit of environmental, social and economic success.’”

morning room

Spaces that allow people to be connected to nature while providing them with the freedom to push their professional and productivity limits creates a contagious spirit of success.

What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. “Biophilia implies humility on ourpart in and respect for the four billion years of life’s existence,” says Canadian environmental activist, Dr. David Suzuki. “We are a very clever animal but now our clever inventions are so powerful, that they can have immense consequences and we don’t know enough to anticipate them,” he adds. “When DDT was found to be insecticidal, we didn’t know about biomagnification until eagles began to disappear. When atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, we didn’t know about radioactive  When CFCs began to be used in spray cans, no one knew about their impact on ozone. Over and over, our clever inventions have unanticipated deleterious consequences. Biomimicry asks nature for solutions to problems and nature has had billions of years and a multitude of ways to resolve them. Chances are nature’s solutions will be far more benign than ours.”

We may not be able to improve on Nature’s beauty, but we can improve the quality of our lives by mimicking it. “When we think about biophilic design that’s evocative of the patterns, forms, and textures in nature, it isn’t limited to literally copying or using natural features in our spaces. We can strive to mimic the type of sensory stimulation our brains receive when we are in nature, including things as simple as flooring with variable hardness and texture, just as you would find underfoot in any forest,” James suggests. “Our brains have evolved over the past 200,000 years in natural settings, so if we want our spaces to bring out the best in people, Nature is where we should look for design inspiration.”

human nature

We must look to Nature for design inspiration.

Posted in Category Biophilia, Greenbuild, Sustainability | Leave a comment

Join Us at Greenbuild 2015


Join us at Greenbuild in Washington, D.C. as we explore the relationship between design and wellness
18-19 November | 10:00 am – 6:00 pm | Booth 2729 | Washington Convention Center


You can also follow us virtually using #BeautifulThinking

Don’t miss these Interface experts and friends during Greenbuild:

Thursday, November 19
8:00 am – 10:00 am | C13 – Sustainability Leadership: Transform your Organization | Room 145AB

Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface Inc.
Elizabeth Heider, Chief Susstainability Officer, Skanaka USA
Leith Sharp, Director of Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership at Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health

1:30 pm- 2:30 pm | D05 – Biophilic Design in Context: Applications for Culture & Climate | Room 206

Bill Browning, Partner at Terrapin Bright Green
Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar & Company
Nicole Isle, Chief Sustainability Strategist at Glumac Engineering

Sponsored Track:
The Illuminate track at Greenbuild
Sponsored by Interface

The ILLUMINATE track at Greenbuild, curated with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), was developed with the intention to reinvent the traditional breakout session and bring the outdoors in. With floor to ceiling windows providing natural daylighting and a green wall adding to the biophilia throughout the space, attendees will have the opportunity to engage mind and body and connect with nature during their education session.

Sessions in the ILLUMINATE Track:
Wednesday, November 18
1:30 – 2:30 pm | The Science of Circadian Lighting
3:00 – 5:00 pm | Green Buildings and Health: New Frontiers

Thursday, November 19
8:00 – 10:00 am | Making Healthy Property Investable: Opportunities & Barriers
1:30 – 2:30 pm | Biophilic Design in Context: Applications for Culture & Climate
3:00 – 4:00 pm | Get Active – Implementing Active Design in Our Neighborhoods
4:30 – 5:30 pm | Measuring circadian light in buildings: findings and actions

Friday, November 20
8:00 – 9:00 am | Google’s Global Approach to Sustainable Operations
9:30 – 10:30 am | Impact of Green Building on Cognitive Function and Health

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Hospitality Carpet: A Design Evolution


The stereotype of the business traveler—middle-aged, white, male—has given way to a new demographic that is young, diverse and grounded in a culture of work that intersects with all parts of life. In response to this shifting landscape, the hospitality industry is coming up with subtler, more sophisticated environments and a more judicious use of color.


The trend in hospitality flooring is now for subtler, more timeless looks that emphasize pattern and texture.

“Where once we might have seen bold, vibrant colors throughout,” says Melissa Cranshaw, Director of Hospitality A&D Market Development at Interface Hospitality, “the trend is now for subtler, more timeless looks that emphasize pattern and texture.” With this shift, the floor has become less a feature element than an integral part of the overall aesthetic. Cranshaw cites developments at Interface Hospitality within the last year that are propelling this trend forward.

The introduction of the elongated Skinny Planks™ allows for much more fluid transitions, as does Urban Retreat™, collection of three products featuring a transition element along the edge of the tiles in one style that allows for gradual changes. The launch of the Portmanteau™ Collection expands greatly upon this concept, with patterns over a series of tiles that facilitate movement both horizontally and vertically and allow designers to choose which elements create this movement across a floor. This is the kind of versatility and creative license that is every designer’s dream.


The Portmanteau™ Collection of carpet tile patterns facilitate movement both horizontally and vertically and allow designers to choose which elements create movement across a floor.

Bree Dahl, the ForrestPerkins Vice President who leads the company’s San Francisco office, has watched the evolution of Interface Hospitality with great interest. “We work primarily with 4- and 5-star hotels,” she explains, “and up until recently carpet tile was not even an option for us because of its overtly commercial look.” But due to recent innovations in design, Dahl has used Interface Hospitality carpet in several different applications, including a hotel corridor, a meeting room and a restaurant—even putting in for a waiver from one client whose brand standards specified broadloom. She says her choice is based on what she’s able to do with the product from a design standpoint, not on more expected reasons like ease of maintenance or price.

Using carpet tiles in ways that were previously not possible is an exciting development for designers. “With so many of the new products from Interface Hospitality, you can’t even tell that they’re tile, unless you look really closely,” marvels Dahl. “I’ve chosen patterns with a very textural design that have no clear overall repeat and the effect is remarkable.” Clients, too, have been surprised and pleased. Dahl intends to keep her eye on Interface as it continues to innovate. “There are so many new possibilities that are now in play and we’re really excited about what’s coming next.”

Posted in Category Hospitality Design, Products & Services | Leave a comment

Small space, big impact

Kimberly Miller

Who said you can’t make a huge impact in a small space?

In downtown Akron, Ohio, “The Rubber Capitol of the World,” sits the former 1871 B.F. Goodrich complex and what is left of the once booming manufacturing facility. Within the remaining buildings is the headquarters of GPD Group, an interdisciplinary architecture and engineering firm that has called this historic complex home since 1988. Re-using and adapting 90,000 square feet in the complex over the years for all of our many disciplines brought us new design opportunities.

GPD Group

GPD Group designed a more open and creative environment for its marketing department while keeping in line with the company’s design standards and color palette of gray and purple.

The latest opportunity was a small remodel of a 3,000-square foot space for our marketing department that supports our 12 offices nationwide. Established corporate design standards with a grey and purple color palette and the angled walls for visual direction are very impactful for our associates and clients to know that they are in a GPD environment. The design is especially successful when we are occupying partial floors within a corporate building. Being tasked by the President of the company to address the needs of today’s work place and propose a more open and creative environment while keeping in line with our design standards were key. As a designer on the GPD team, I had the opportunity to be a part of taking a dark, isolated space and transforming it to an open layout with multi-functional furniture and fresh finish choices for our associates.

“I saw a big difference between the meetings that we conducted in the conventional college classroom type space vs. the ‘collaborative space’ ….  People relaxed more, put down their guard and spoke more freely.” –Darrin Kotecki, GPD Group President

With the limited space, we wanted to change the perception our company had about the modern work environment. The design scope needed to address six key requirements – private offices, a conference room, work stations, a production area, a flexible teaming space and a kitchenette. We started by eliminating walls within the space and constructing necessary walls out of glass to transfer the most natural light into the space, centralizing the private offices in the corridor with glass fronts to create the open plan. Offices and individual work stations are smaller than the typical GPD spaces, so multifunctional fixtures and furniture were selected to maximize storage and work surfaces. The large collaboration space has multiple seating options and large, moveable magnetic marker boards to encourage impromptu creative meetings. With so many functions required for each associate, we really focused on materials and furniture with multiple purposes. Our team looked to specify finishes and furniture separate from our national standards, which included open workstations with plenty of work surfaces and file cabinets, both mobile and stationary, have upholstered tops to function as seating and storage in one to allow for impromptu meetings.

GPD Group

Capturing natural light, framing pleasant views and specifying materials that are reminiscent of natural surfaces, like Interface’s Human Nature™ Skinny Planks™, were key parts of the vision of the space.

 “First thought, WOW, I can’t believe I get to work here! Feels like an upscale, modern office in a big city that you would see on TV.” Alexandria Reiter, Marketing Coordinator

We were inspired by how creative ideas flow more freely in an open space and how our minds and bodies respond to being in or around nature. Capturing natural light, framing pleasant views and specifying materials that are reminiscent of natural surfaces were key parts of our vision of the space. We incorporated research in key areas of ergonomics, biophilia and office well-being for our associates. This combines to create an open culture for the associates’ creative growth within their personal work and with others.

“… it holds all my things just great, and the space is so much more functional than my old office. It is a very efficient space!” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing

Almost every surface, whether horizontal or vertical, can be utilized for individual or group work, to pin up sketches, draw concepts and discuss designs. The workstations are equipped with the most ergonomic sit-to-stand desks, monitor arms, task lighting and task chairs. Some furniture selections were mobile to be flexible for the individual throughout their work needs but also could hold a group in any work exercise with a few simple movements. Private offices utilize every surface to be the most efficient and flexible space for the individual. The private offices furniture systems installed take advantage of every vertical and horizontal surface to create ultra-efficient offices. The moveable wall system gained better use of the space by having the ability to make sections of the wall magnetic marker board, tack board and a slat wall with the bonus of being able to reconfigure much easier than typical walls.

GPD Group

Before and after: The combinations of updated finishes and furniture helped to show the GPD Group associates, their executive board and their clients how to create healthy and functional work spaces.

Within the first few months, the associates noticed a complete 180-degree experience from their past offices and workstations. The initial thoughts were that it would be too open to complete tasks that need your full attention while others were meeting. Or that the space had too much glass and would cause distractions and not enough privacy when needed. One associate felt that there was too much natural light and it would cause work issues with the technology. Most, if not all, of these concerns never came to fruition after months of being in the space. In fact, the energy in the space is greater and more open to all the new creative ideas we were designing for.

 “It is easier to approach colleagues because you can see and hear them from your own seat. There are more collaborative spaces, so it’s easy to gather and discuss things on a whim.” Maria Krause, Marketing Coordinator

Each piece of the design, whether a finish or furniture, had a large part in how we could provide the most functional and inspiring space possible. Using well-designed products and materials took the interior to an inspiring level. The combinations of updated finishes and furniture helped to show our associates, the executive board and our clients how we can create healthy and functional work spaces. The team was able to incorporate the needs of the marketing department by meeting all of their requirements, which has led to a new and improved working environment and demeanor. The marketing space – though different in detail from other GPD spaces – can easily be identified through use of similar colors, angles and design details. All the standards exist in the new space, but they have been updated to reflect the more contemporary and open office. Being such a success, both aesthetically and functionally for our marketing department; many of these features will be implemented into remodels in our other offices nationwide and, while it was an upgrade in our Akron marketing office, it is now a showcase for potential clients.

“We are rocking!  It is way better to be creative in an environment that supports creativity and allows us to produce some great work.” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing

GPD Group

Floorplan of the GPD Group remodel project for its 3,000 square foot marketing department

Posted in Category Biophilic Design, Design Inspirations, Project Spotlight | Leave a comment