Q: What inspired you to get into architecture/design/engineering/the work that you do?
Textiles. They were everywhere when I was growing up – my mother was a dressmaker, and my godmother was the design director for a well-known textiles manufacturer. I spent weekends with my mom in fabric stores going through hundreds of bolts of fabric, exploring textures, and learning what fabrics, trims, and notions were used for what. My love for fabric spawned into a passion for color theory, finishes and materials, FF&E, and in the long run, the impact of good design on the human experience.
My shift to brand marketing and strategy was a happy accident. Working for a small company early in my career as a retail design consultant, I was exposed to the inner workings of the business, including the marketing and sales process. As a result, I immediately gravitated to the balance of creative and analytical thinking and how brand positioning, SWOT analysis, audience segmentation, content development, and more could impact brand perception and the bottom line.
Q: Where did you grow up?
I was born 25 miles outside New York City and relocated to the Midwest with my family when I was eleven. At this point in my life, I consider myself 75% Chicagoan and 25% New Yorker, but proud to have been influenced so greatly by both cities. For the last 18 years, I’ve called Chicago my home, where I reside with my husband, son, and newest family addition, Dutch, our rescue pup.
Q: Have you ever been disappointed by something that happened at the time, but ended up being really good for you?
During my FIDER (now CIDA) portfolio review, a pipe burst in the room where student work was reviewed. My portfolio sustained catastrophic damage, and I lost two years’ worth of work. Additionally, I wasn’t selected to continue in the program. Not knowing what was next, I went home that summer, rebuilt what I could from my portfolio, and looked to apply to other schools. Ultimately, I returned to the school I attended previously where a semester later, I was invited to rejoin the interior design program.
Yes, it was disappointing, but through it all, I learned to manage crises, muddle through, and make difficult decisions. It also forced me to evaluate where my creative talents were best suited. I wasn’t the best at sketching or rendering, but I could absolutely sell a concept. Nearly twenty years later, I still love working in the A&D community and continue to thrive by collaborating with creatives.
Q: What is a song or album that helps pump you up or get excited?
First, this is a loaded question for someone who grew up in a house with an extensive collection of vinyl and music piped into every room. Second, I’m a hockey mom, so “hype music” is a big topic in our house. However, a solid single for any day would be “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones. As for albums, there are just too many great ones, and I’m always up for discovering new ones.
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– Amanda Smith