Welcome back to another exciting edition of Feature Friday. This week we share our in-depth conversation with Diane Karner, Design Manager at Insightful Environments; one of the UK’s largest office furniture and workplace design consultancies.
WOD: Thanks for joining us. Let’s start with your background and how you initially became involved with the workspace sector?
DK: “I grew up in Austria where I also studied Architecture in a city called Graz. Graz is famous for its beautiful historic city centre but also for its vast amount of contemporary architecture. It has a vibrant arts and culture scene, and a high density of great architecture practices responsible for many cutting-edge architecture projects built across the city and decades. I was very immersed in the architecture scene and stayed in Graz for another couple of years after graduating, to work in two well-known practices on a couple of large-scale landmark projects. The project teams were small, and I was involved in all stages from concept design to project delivery and really learned the ropes of the trade.
During my last project in Graz I got involved with the interior design of the office spaces in the multi-functional building we designed and I realised how much more I enjoyed working directly with clients on shaping their new workplaces, rather than designing the shell and core of the building.
After arriving in London 2008 I dipped my feet into workplace interiors and worked as a freelance designer for different interiors practises before taking a role as Architect again. I spent three years working for the fantastic dRMM Architects on several educational projects but also the 2012 Olympics athletes’ village. dRMM sparked my passion for sustainable design, but with a heavy heart I left the practice in 2013 to make the final plunge into office interiors. I started a role at the London based workplace design & strategy team of a global office furniture manufacturer (Steelcase). Their user centred and research-based design approach really resonated with me. It was an exciting time in workplace design, a real shift from designing desk-based offices to activity-based work hubs with technology finally advanced enough to work truly mobile and globally connected.
Besides the above I had a decade long side career as a VJ duo (live visual performance & production) with my partner @_rlndnr_, performing in clubs and at festivals around Europe, but that’s a story for another day…”
WOD: How interesting! And how about your current role? Could you tell us more about it?
DK: “In my role as Design Manager for Insightful Environments, a Steelcase owned dealer, I am responsible for the design and regular update of the company’s offices. Our studio in London is a real testbed, not only for new products but also different work modes. We have a flexible area we change regularly, and we hold so-called client pilots where we re-model the space to a client’s need so they can test and try products and settings before purchasing. I am also the lead designer for a number of our larger accounts and my project involvement can vary from working with external design companies on product specification to working directly with clients on different design stages of their project.”
WOD: And what does a typical working day for you look like?
DK: “At the moment my work day evolves around online meetings and spending the remaining time working on different projects. My days used to be very varied, spending time in the office collaborating with colleagues, meeting clients or attending project meetings and site visits, visiting suppliers to see new products or going on showroom tours with clients and other designers. This has obviously changed due to the pandemic, I really miss those days…
On a typical day, I am usually involved in quite a different selection of projects. For example, I work with a team from Gensler on several UK projects for a large financial institution. The client is aiming for WELL and BREEAM certifications and I advise the design team on product selection but also liaise with over 40 suppliers on our side to evaluate their products and review their submitted information. Another project I’m involved in with the Steelcase applied research and consulting team, is working with a client in the very early stages of their project. We explore how their work styles could evolve over the next 5 years and how to implement these new work modes in a future office space.”