Discover how RV’s, a roof and awards figure into Jennifer Yeo’s very successful Interior Design career.
CAT: Tell us a bit about your career. Where did you train, how long have you been an interior designer and where have you worked?
JY: I have had the privilege to have had a wonderful and interesting career, working in a wide variety of design areas.
I began my career studying Interior Design at the University of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Architecture, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree. I then wrote the NCIDQ professional exams and I am a Registered Interior Designer, member of Interior Designers of Canada and the Interior Design Educator’s Council.
After graduating, I worked for Triple E, a manufacturer of luxury recreational vehicles and modular housing, then as a project manager for both the NWT and Manitoba governments, then with Number Ten Architectural (Design) Group in Winnipeg.
I have been a Principle of my own firm, Yeo Design Associates for over 25 years, first in Manitoba and later in BC. I have had the privilege of working on projects throughout Canada, both in residential and commercial design.
CAT: What made you choose interior design as a career?
JY: Both my parents were interior designers and very active in the professional association which meant I was exposed to it from the time I was young. They nurtured the wonder and love of design in nature and encouraged us to see patterns and design in the world around us.
I also had a deep love of music and science, and it wasn’t until I finally had to send in my application to university that I finally decided that I wanted a career that was dynamic, diverse, and one that gave me the chance to make a difference in people’s lives by creating spaces for them to live, work and play in.
The best part is seeing your client enjoy the spaces you have created when they are complete, to hear that the project delivered more that they imagined.”Jennifer Yeo, Advanced Interior Design and Technology, Department Head, Centre for Arts and Technology
CAT: Tell us about one of your career highlights?
JY: This is a hard one. There have been many projects which received recognition which often come to mind, but so do ones which are special due to the client, the project’s significance or the philosophical approach to the project.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to be the Interior Design lead for the first large commercial green roof project in Canada, ‘The National Headquarters for Ducks Unlimited’ at Oak Hammock Marsh.
It was a project Number Ten won through an international design contest. The centre consisted of site development, offices for research biologists, administration and executives, a museum, an educational interpretive centre, and a rooftop cafe.
We worked with materials which were regional, natural, sustainable and eco friendly, custom designed furniture, and a color scheme based on the colors of the ducks and the landscape in the region. An approach that is not unusual today, but not common 28 years ago.
CAT: What is the most challenging thing about interior design?
JY: There are many challenging aspects of design, from reworking existing interior spaces which are problematic, to clients who want more than their budgets will allow, or schedules which require projects to be delivered in shorter than normal timelines.
CAT: What is the most fun/rewarding?
JY: However, the same things which are challenges are also rewarding. Design is a problem-solving process and I personally find it satisfying to present great solutions to clients and see their excitement as they begin to envision what you are proposing.
Of course, the best part is seeing your client or their users enjoy the spaces you have created when they are complete, to hear that the project delivered more that they imagined. That is truly the mark of success in our profession.
CAT: What qualities make a really good interior designer?
JY: Envisioning and creating spaces within the built environment to address functional, aesthetic, and environmental issues while considering the health and safety of the people using the spaces, takes multiple skills. It is important to be a person who is fascinated by people, their lives, why and how they do what they do. To empathize with the human condition and society. To be energized by solving problems and the process of finding solutions.
Designers are detail oriented while also seeing the larger picture of how things fit together. There is a strong technical element to design as well as the aesthetic side which most people associate with the profession. To appreciate design and the visual arts in general is helpful, if not necessary. To be open to learning, as the practice of Interior Design is a journey of lifelong learning.
CAT: How long have you been at Centre for Arts and Technology?
JY: I have been at CAT 9.5 years, first as an occasional instructor, and then as the program Department Head /instructor for the last 6.5 years.
CAT: What do you like best about being an instructor?
JY: One of the best things about teaching is to see future designers eager to learn, to challenge and push the boundaries of their education, and then to emerge as designers ready for the industry. It’s an honour to share knowledge and experiences, to be part of their journey.
CAT: What are your top tips for students, both for their time at CAT and also for going into industry?
JY: Be open to learning and experiencing as many approaches, knowledge and experiences in your education but also in life. You never know where your career will take you, I never thought I would design RV’s, but amazingly enough, I won a ‘Premier’s Design Award’ for it and working at this company opened many doors for me in my future career.
Also, you can’t design in a bubble. The more life experience you have, the more you have to offer to your clients. School is demanding, one of the most value assets to hone is your ability to manage your time; of course, this is something that is required for success in your personal life as well as your career.