Article originally appeared in Laboratory Design on April 19, 2017.
Laboratory Design spoke with Michelle Yack, NCIDQ, LEEP AP, Senior Interior Designer with TRIA in Boston.
How did you get into your field?
I have a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Cellular Sciences, but I was envious of the tactical and creative nature of my college roommate’s homework as an architect major. This sparked an idea of going into design, so I went to graduate school and received a Master of Interior Design. Now, I love being an interior designer for the corporate side of lab spaces and working with science and technology clients. I find it funny how life has brought together my science-related past with my current design trade.
What do you see as a challenge or opportunity with your role?
Companies today are seeking work environments that integrate lab space into their overall office design. Labs are no longer isolated spaces, but rather, part of the company’s workflow. In my role, I work at that intersection of commercial interior design and lab design, and it’s exciting to take a holistic design approach of both for a project.
As an interior designer, I have advised clients on company visioning and change management, a process that can be stressful for employees yet one that can yield increased engagement and productivity for a company. Change is hard for a lot of people, and I really enjoy helping employees understand the need for organizational change and how an integrated workplace design fits into that. Creative and thoughtful design can make the process of change more fun and enjoyable.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your career?
I’ve learned to always think positively. There can be a lot of stress in the design industry, but I have found that problems that arise ALWAYS seem to work out.
What do you consider the highlight of your career?
Winning the 2016 IIDA New England Interior Design Award for a client’s Boston office is definitely the highlight of my career to date. This project was the first of my career to be entered into an awards competition, and it was competing against amazing projects by respected design firms. I am STILL in shock that my project won the award!
What was your favorite college class? Was it related to your current career?
My favorite classes were biochemistry and organic chemistry. I loved that these courses were very visual. Rather than memorizing chemical reactions, these courses taught me what molecules and their structures look like, and how their shapes promote how they will react with other molecules. For example, I could “see” why certain chemical reactions happen on one side of a cell membrane, which then change the cell’s shape and force it to the other side of the membrane. These classes really helped me discover how much of a visual learner I am.
I don’t use my chemistry knowledge in my current role, but my entire design career has revolved around “seeing” properties that others normally do not see. I have to be able to visualize space and design, and then find a way to help others see the vision before the space is built. I love this part of my job.