Clerkenwell Open

Q&A with Jane Clay, Principle and Strategy Director at Gensler London

Clerkenwell Open offers an incredible panel of experts from the Architect and Design Industry who have been supporting and advising throughout the development of the free showroom trail event, taking place on 9th & 10th September 2021. We are publishing a series of Q&A’s with our experts, giving you an insight into their career sectors, thoughts on the future of contract and interior design and why events like Clerkenwell Open are so important for our industry.

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We were so delighted to speak with Jane Clay about the way in which design is rapidly changing and becoming more human centered; the aftermath of the pandemic. We discover Jane’s view on the future of the contract and interior design sector, and how crucial flexibility will be in the workplace.

Please could you introduce yourself?
I’m Jane Clay and I’m a Principal and Strategy Director at Gensler London.

Could you tell us about your area of expertise?
Although trained as an Interior designer, I have spent the last 30+ years of my career focussed on workplace and design strategy. I have a passion for conceptualising, planning and designing spaces that can transform people’s experience of the world of work. In addition to Strategy and Change Management, I regularly work with our Design and Architecture teams to integrate strategic thinking and co-creation to ensure seamless translation of client purpose, strategic vision and design intent into the design solution. I also regularly advise Developers and external Architects and Designers on building development, selection, configuration and performance.

What does the future look like in your area of expertise?
Now more than ever design must focus on people, putting the human experience at the centre. I think for a long time much of the design and architecture business got complacent, assuming perhaps that we knew everything and had all the answers. The pandemic really woke us all up – it’s refocused people on what really matters in terms of who they work for and the places they work in, so as designers and architects we have had to rapidly unlearn and question some of our assumptions. For my area of expertise the potential is really exciting – how ‘work’ and ‘life’ are blurring has the potential for some major impacts on how we think about and design for the human experience and really does put the emphasis back on the importance of strategy and purpose. Above all else, it puts design for culture and human centric design back where it should be – in the spotlight.

What does the future of the contract and interior design sector look like?
My view is that it has to be about flexibility. The pendulum is still swinging on what the workplace will look like post pandemic, and it’s pretty unlikely to settle any time soon. Most organisations in the UK are looking at hybrid working or trialling variations of it, so still experimenting with what their offices will look like, how big they will be and how they will function. To that end it makes sense to focus on flexibility and ease of change. People want furniture and the spaces to do more than just one thing- it all needs to be very agile or transformable. Leasing furniture may be preferable to buying, keeping the office layout in a Beta or ‘pilot mode may be preferable to building out something fixed.

What is the importance of events like Clerkenwell Open to the contract and interior sectors?
These events are hugely important – knowledge networking is a critical factor of what we do as designers- knowing the products, knowing the people- it’s so important to our individual development and it’s part of the lifeblood of what we do.

What are you most looking forward to at Clerkenwell Open?
Being together with fellow creatives after so long will be a true delight – and being part of the energy and the spirt of Clerkenwell after so long.

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