A team of designers, researchers, and creatives at global architecture and design firm Perkins&Will has released a podcast about the power of design to enhance the human experience. With insights from an array of health and design experts, “Inhabit” addresses large, complex issues at the intersection of design, policy, and research. The pilot podcast aims to empower everyday people to ask critical questions and make informed decisions about the places in which they live, learn, work, play, and heal.
“Telling people-centered stories about design is embedded in our firm’s ethos,” says Casey Jones, a principal and director of Perkins&Will’s Design Leadership Council. “A podcast is a natural extension of our approach to design excellence; It embodies our commitment to research and equity, and it enables us to share the positive potential of design to an even wider audience.”
A limited series of content “collections”—each thematic collection comprises three episodes—the Inhabit podcast will focus on critical issues facing the design industry and society at large through an interdisciplinary lens. The first collection, titled Design Is a Public Health Intervention, is hosted by Dr. Erika Eitland, a public health scientist, and Monica Kumar, an interior designer. Together, they draw on their respective expertise in public health and material health to unpack how buildings influence well-being, for better or worse. Future collections will welcome new hosts, steadily building a cast of thought leaders in a variety of disciplines and areas of practice.
“Part of what drew me away from academia and into the design field was Perkins&Will’s interdisciplinary approach to design—the opportunity to apply leading research to current projects,” says Eitland, who holds a doctorate in environmental health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is the director of Perkins&Will’s Human Experience (Hx) Lab. “It’s exciting to be able to share research-informed design knowledge with people inside and outside our profession.”
Three 30-minute episodes in the podcast’s pilot collection explore how the surfaces we touch and the air we breathe have direct and lasting impacts on individual and community health. Eitland and Kumar speak to leading experts inside and outside of the design industry, including Dr. Joseph Allen of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Alison Mears and Jonsara Ruth of the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design, and Tracy Washington of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“As designers, it’s imperative that we look to leading researchers and experts in other fields to inform our work,” says Kumar, whose design research focuses on material health and transparency. “More than just the experts, though, it’s important that we hear from people outside of the design industry—the everyday people who occupy our built spaces—to understand what’s working for them, what’s not, and where we as designers can do better.”
In addition to interviews with experts, the podcast pilot features voices of everyday people interacting with—and trying to understand—the built environment. Each episode concludes with ways to take action based on the hosts’ “love languages” of research, policy, or design. Episodes will be released on a bi-weekly basis and are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Pocket Casts.