Cheryl Durst on Inclusion in Design, Where the Industry is Headed, & Making Design Accessible to Students | Episode 6

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Welcome back to the Agati Video Podcast, a space where Joe Agati, COO & Director of Design here at Agati Furniture, hosts conversations with designers, architects, and difference-makers to bring inspiration and education to your work.

“You can’t design for the world if you’re not of the world.” – Cheryl Durst

Today we have a must-listen conversation to share with you. Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, is the Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). A long time friend of ours here at Agati, she has spurred progress, driven change, and encouraged the expansion of the interior design industry in some incredible ways.

In this conversation, Cheryl walks us through the unique development of her career from writing for Highlights magazine to teaching to sales to supporting IIDA, where she led the association out of significant debt. She also walks us through the long road ahead for the design industry in diversity and inclusion, how IIDA is supporting students through a program called Design Your World, how the industry is shifting as we look forward, and some of her best career advice.

Cheryl is an incredible leader and it is such an honor to have her on the show. This one holds a lot of value, and we look forward to hearing what stands out most to you!

(P.S. Be on the lookout for IIDA’s “Design Your World” program video premier at NeoCon – Tuesday, Oct. 5, 4-6 p.m. at theMart: Marshall’s Landing and via LiveStream.)



  • “Design and how we talk about design is always a challenge that’s in front of us as an industry.”

  • “It’s been interesting to be part of an industry where I look like less than 2% of the people who are design practitioners.”

  • “Part of the challenge for our industry is having hard conversations and showing up where people don’t expect us to be.”

  • “You can’t design for the world if you’re not of the world.”

  • “If you think about it, design is such a powerful career. You’re able to change not only the environment around you, but affect the behavior and attitudes of others. Many of the kids we’re supporting have grown up feeling powerless.”

  • “In many ways, our industry has been slower than others to focus on inclusion.”

  • “All spaces will be community spaces. We need to rethink what community means.”

  • “There are so many second career professionals coming in to design because in their first career they were doing what they thought they were ‘supposed’ to do.”

  • “Trust your instincts… And you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Our Key Takeaways:

1) The design industry actually has a long way to go when it comes to accessibility, inclusion, and diversity. The insight Cheryl provided here was so helpful. How are we having the hard conversations and showing up in meaningful ways?

2) Design is a powerful career. First off, what IIDA is doing through Design Your World to help students see career potential in the design industry is amazing. Truly. Second, Cheryl’s perspective on the power of design is a real highlight from this conversation. “You’re able to change not only the environment around you, but affect the behavior and attitudes of others.”

3) You can’t pour from an empty cup. We all have lived through a crazy season of life. How are you prioritizing self-care? How are you caring for your heart and your mind? You can’t accomplish great things, especially not in a sustainable way, if you’re not working and leading from a healthy place.

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