Mary-Jean Eastman | Principal, Executive Director and Founding Partner, Perkins Eastman
How would you define a master of design?
Being a thought leader or a “master of design” means knowing the rules well enough to know where to break them.
Describe the design philosophy at your firm.
Our firm mantra is that design is a team sport and every aspect of what we do is design. Excellent design is consistent in the quality of its concept and planning to its detailing and construction. Collaboration is essential.
What do you see as the future of design?
I believe the future of design is the intersection of mega and boutique. Clients are looking for both breadth and depth. They want residential/hotel/retail/office or higher education/healthcare/research, and they want the design informed by real expertise in each area with a hospitality perspective.
Project teams are becoming more diverse every year—what’s your advice to designers looking to create an effective team?
Recognize your strengths and collaborate with others who have the strengths that you do not. For instance, very few people are strong conceptual and detail designers. The easiest problems to solve are those with the fewest solutions, i.e. the most constraints. It’s more difficult to lift the layers of constraints, but that is the path to innovation.
Do you have any advice for fledgling designers?
Be an advocate for yourself and what you want to learn. To understand the design process, take your earbuds out and listen to the other members of your project team.
What’s the one piece of furniture you can’t live without?
My magenta Jacobsen egg chair and ottoman—it is the ideal laptop environment.
What interior space really wowed you and affected your perspective of design?
The Monet “Water Lilies” room at MoMA.
What’s the most recent book you couldn’t put down?
Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” is an important and influential read right now. Although our firm is extremely diverse, the senior leadership is not nearly as diverse as it should be to capture the talent we need. We have to recognize that most women (including myself) were not raised to be leaders and lack the self-confidence of their male peers. We must identify potential leaders early in the careers and give them the encouragement they need. [Read more on Sandberg’s book in I&S’ November 2013 issue, “Leaning In and Pushing Forward”]