You’d think, from their matching polka-dot blouses and geometric necklaces, that designer Ghislaine Viñas and Interior Design Editor in Chief Cindy Allen had coordinated their outfits for their appearance on “Guests and Gusto,” the web series hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design over Zoom. But no—the design-world experts (and longtime friends) are just that in-sync. Together in conversation with Khoi Vo, vice president of SCAD Hong Kong, Allen and Viñas spent an hour earlier today reflecting on their careers and speculating on the future of design, especially at such a crucial moment in time.
“I think I found success early on because I was fairly fearless,” said Viñas, who established her New York-based firm in 1999. “When I look at something I’ve never done before, I say, ‘Oh my god, that’s awesome—I’ve never done that before!’ And I think that I genuinely did have a design voice that was different from what was going on in New York City [when I was starting out],” she continued. “I think there was something about being able to really work from what moved me in my heart that allowed me to put something out there that was different.”
Mission accomplished: “Ghislaine has an amazing sense of color,” said Allen. ( Viñas' projects and products are a testament to that). When the duo first met, Viñas was still a budding designer who had just finished an art-filled townhouse in New York, and Allen had just started at Interior Design. It was the project’s photographer who introduced them. “I saw something in [Viñas],” Allen recalled of that first meeting. “She really kept growing and growing, and is just an amazing talent. So I think I was right on that score.”
Allen also reflected on a pivotal moment in her career, as she related her early experiences at Interior Design to today’s events. “When something like [COVID-19] happens, it allows you to give yourself a different kind of perspective on life” she said. “My first issue as Editor in Chief was the September issue, which is always our New York issue. We sent the issue to press, and then 9/11 happened. It changed everything for me, and for the world. I grew up. I found myself really wanting to represent and care for a community.” For designers living and working through the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen said, “You’re getting experience as a designer just by going through this. Because what a designer does at the end of the day is solve problems.”
Later, the topic turned to the future of design, with the spotlight landing largely on the promising next generation of designers. “I think that activism is something, especially with young students, that’s going to change everything,” said Viñas. “There’s an empowerment of young people… I really think [people today] are being more sensitive. They’re working from a place in their hearts, trying to do the thing that feels good and feels right. I have a designer in my office who’s vegan. She and I are going to take a vegan design course together and learn how to show more sensitivity to animals.”
Other trends that Viñas and Allen predicted included a stronger emphasis on health and wellness and a return to handcrafted decor, objects, and installations. “It’s like the world stopped and people were like, ‘Oh, right, there’s hobbies!’” Viñas said, noting that less time spent at work or running errands has allowed many people to explore new crafts and talents. “Now is such an unusual time, and so unique,” she added. “You have to put your thinking cap on and do something that really takes this situation, turns it upside-down, so that something positive comes out of this. What are the opportunities right now? What do people need? What are some things we’ve never designed before?”