Perspectives 05.27.2020

Conversations with Colleagues: Janice Cheung

Celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Janice is an Urban Designer in our Toronto Studio
Graduation from the University of Waterloo, Urban Planning Program (2017)
What drew you to the design profession, and what’s keeping you here?

Growing up in an immigrant family, I was only exposed to three possible career paths: engineer, doctor and lawyer. At the time, I was not aware that Urban Design was an option, let alone a profession I could eventually end up in! Although I excelled in math and physics in school as per my Asian family instructions, I often found myself drawn towards the creative and visual arts. I discovered Urban Design by chance, my first exposure through playing SimCity, a video game where players could assemble roads and build their own city. Fast forward to today, working in the design profession has been extremely rewarding; not only am I able to utilize both my creative and technical skills, but I am able to use these skills towards tackling problems that make a difference in our communities.

What role does diversity and inclusion play in the design profession at large?

Within the design profession, I believe that diversity and inclusion lead to innovative problem-solving. Diverse teams have the ability to approach the same problem from different perspectives, thus generating more ideas and ultimately better solutions. Aligning many perspectives requires patience and effort, however it is at the cross-section of these differences that the most meaningful solutions originate. In order to authentically embody these nuances, I believe that the design profession needs to openly embrace diverse staff at all levels and retain them through genuine inclusion. Only this way can diversity and inclusion evolve beyond just buzz words and become embodied in the way we interact, work and live.

4th Year Urban Design Studio Team (6 team members from 6 different countries!) (2016)
Janice Cheung and her Urban Design team at the CIP Conference in Ottawa, Canada (2019)
What message about design’s positive influence on the world would you most like to get out there?

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” —Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)

Jane Jacobs made this statement referring to the success of cities that could only be defined as a meaningful place when it is designed for everyone, by everyone. However, her approach to city planning is also applicable to all other aspects of design that have implications on everyday life. Regardless of whether it is navigating a busy urban street in a foreign country, wayfinding in a new campus building or checking daily news on a mobile device, many human experiences of the 21st century have been shaped by design. Ultimately, design is a tool that goes beyond the basic functions of usability or visual aesthetics, but has the power to create meaningful experiences for the individual, and move our society towards something better.

In what positive ways have your experiences at Perkins and Will changed you, personally or professionally, and/or your outlook on the world?

The main contributing factor to my growth professionally and personally has been from the incredible and talented people at Perkins and Will. I am extremely fortunate to work in an environment where I am empowered to have ownership over my projects, while receiving support and mentorship from my colleagues. During my time at Perkins and Will, I have had the privilege to work on neighborhood framework plans, develop campus master plans, participate in client engagement, guest lecture at undergraduate planning classes, and even present at the Canadian Institute of Planners conference. I have worked with incredible people, pushed outside of my comfort zone, and developed lifelong friendships, all of which would not have been possible without the support of my team and Perkins and Will.