Perspectives 02.11.2020

Conversations with Colleagues: Kathryn Lawrence

Kathryn is a junior interior designer in our Toronto studio
A portfolio piece from Sheridan College application.
Pastel, pencil, charcoal and acrylic painting, 2014, Kathryn Lawrence.
Q: It’s Black History Month – and the first BHM of a whole new decade. What message about design’s positive influence on the world would you most like to get out there?

A: I believe many people take the impact and intricacies of design for granted. It seems as though good design has become an unspoken necessity in our day-to-day lives. I commonly find people unaware of the massive positive impact that it has, while, on the other hand, people are very vocal when they experience bad design. Simply put, outside of the design world, good design isn’t celebrated enough.

Design affects every single aspect of our individual lives and good design, especially, contributes to a more enjoyable life experience. It has the power to influence our physical and mental health, behavior, and emotional responses. It’s a powerful tool!

As designers and architects, we impact our communities in a substantial way–we act as environmental psychologists. We empathize with users and work to create dynamic spaces that unite use and positively influence productivity, happiness, and comfort.

Kathryn graduated from Sheridan College in 2019
Q: What drew you to the design profession and what’s keeping you here?

A: I grew up with a rich passion for the visual arts, and the arts in general. For the longest time, I wholeheartedly believed that I was going to study fine arts, and I remember–clearly–when I was in the 4th grade, telling my parents, “I don’t want to go into a traditional field, I want to study in a creative field!”

As I grew older and became exposed to new career opportunities, while my love for art remained, I began to take an appreciation for built form and interior environments. Consequently, when the time came to choose a path toward a profession, I searched for opportunities that would allow me to exercise my creativity while also allowing me to explore the built environment. Early on, I was intrigued to learn how design can work to influence users in a positive way. For this, I specifically have my high school technical drawing professor to thank for enlightening and introducing me to the interior design profession.

Back home in Jamaica, interior design is not offered as an option for post-secondary education. I evaluated options overseas, and decided to select Sheridan College in Mississauga, Ontario.

Today, and every day, I am thankful that design remains the perfect blend for me. One that allows me to use both the left and right side of my brain. It’s creative yet technical. I feel privileged to be part of a design community, where I learn something new every single day, and my curiosity is continuously sparked. As my career progresses, I’m excited to pursue opportunities abroad where I can provide my skills to give back to developing communities.

Interior Designers of Canada PROpel Competition while at Sheridan College, 2018
Q: What role does diversity, inclusion, and engagement play in the design profession at large?

A: I believe diversity, inclusion, and engagement produce informed, dynamic design. When we commit to accommodating individuals, we are open to making spaces work for a diverse range of people. We design environments that complement the one, while connecting the many together in flexible spaces which support a variety of needs. This allows our built environments to better represent our communities, making them accessible to all.

Sheridan Design Studio Peer Crit, 4th year, 2019
Q: As a member of the design industry, what steps do you take to expand professional design opportunities to members of the black community?

A: Helping people who are in minority groups and who want to pursue creative fields has always been something that I have been passionate about. In 2018, I started an initiative back home, in Jamaica, The Ubuntu Creative Arts Project with the aim to provide support to emerging creative professionals. This platform gives them a chance to share their stories as well as provide funding, mentorship, and scholarship opportunities to pursue their own passions for the creative arts.  

“Ubuntu” means “I am because we are” and it is a philosophy that I have personally used to guide my life. I believe that life is cycle of giving and receiving knowledge, wisdom, and support and it’s imperative that we make it a mission to continue that cycle and instill it within others who follow