Industry Insights – Part I

Industry Insights – Healthcare Design


Four designers. Four specialties. One industry.

This summer, Corporate Design Interiors will be giving you some insight into the interior design industry through four very talented designers. Each week, we will be featuring a new designer and specialty. Not only will you have the opportunity to hear about recent trends in various aspects of interior design, but you will also have the opportunity to get to know four distinguished, seasoned designers in the Milwaukee area.

Jessica Dellenbach

Company: Kahler Slater
Favorite Materials: Bringing exterior materials inside or interior materials outside
Favorite Kimball Office piece: Villa is great for creating seating zones. Hum is a great solution for staff collaborative work areas.
Advice to young designers: Ask a million questions. Never accept “no” or “this is how we’ve always done it”. Push the envelope which results in a richer design and better solution.
Interesting Fact: I loved science – biology, nutrition, human anatomy.

KahlerSlater
Senior Designer at Kahler Slater, Jessica Dellenbach has over 15 years experience in healthcare design. She is one of the leading healthcare designers in the greater Milwaukee area and was named to Milwaukee Business Journals’ “40 under 40” list in 2008.

Tell us a little about your hometown and family?
I grew up in Rockford, IL. I spent lots of time as a child playing with Barbies. I was definitely way more interested in setting up Barbie’s house around my bedroom than I was actually interacting with my Barbies. My mom is very creative with arts/crafts, sewing, and cooking. My dad can fix anything and is very curious about finding creative ways to fix things or make things better. My biggest creative influence was working at a party store where we did everything from balloons for a child’s birthday party or graduation to wedding invitations and wedding reception décor. It was a fun job where I could really see where my creative strengths were.

What was your first job in the industry?
I got an internship with Kahler Slater’s Madison office while I was still in school.

I loved the firm, I loved the people, I loved the opportunities and challenges I had and after 15 years, I still feel the same way.

What led you to go into healthcare design?
As early as my internship, I worked on Healthcare projects. When I was hired full-time, the position I filled was as an Interior Designer on our Healthcare Team. Healthcare design never was the area of expertise I thought I wanted to get into. I thought that all the cool design happened in the Corporate, Retail, or Hospitality design studios. I worked with another designer early on who really showed me that designing for Healthcare enables you to design all of those spaces in one project: Hospitality, Retail, Corporate office, Wellness, Liturgical, and even Higher Education- all in one facility. Changing my view of Healthcare Design has given me a passion for this market segment. I also love that designing Healthcare spaces greatly impacts those who experience the spaces I design. I feel like I can make a difference with the work that I do.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing in healthcare design?  Is one of them your favorite?
Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, clients are very focused on higher patient satisfaction scores as that directly relates to hospital reimbursements. More focus is given to creating environments that allow patients and their families to have control over their surroundings, to have choices, and to have a personalization of experience.
There has also been a strong shift to an outpatient wellness focus. I have seen many clients over the past number of years focusing on different models of care, like the medical home. In general, healthcare operational staffing is based more on maximizing efficiency and removing redundancy of work roles. Outpatient spaces need to be more flexible to account for this shift in work flow.

I love the challenge that comes with creating efficient space plans for new outpatient models of care. This inspires new ways of thinking to create the most efficient, cost effective solution that satisfies the new model of care and patient experience.

Additionally, project budgets are much more modest than they were even a few years ago. As a designer, it is fun to create unique design solutions for clients while balancing the practical use of materials for cost effectiveness. It’s motivating to think about how traditional materials can be used in simple creative ways to enhance the experience, without significantly adding cost to already-tight project budgets.

What are some of the most requested furniture pieces you are seeing in your projects?
Products that support flexibility are so critical in design today. Integrating bariatric furniture into all patient spaces, whether that is a Waiting space, Inpatient bedroom, or Consult room is a consistent request. This ensures that the dignity and variety of needs of the patient population are met. Additionally, durable, easy to clean, and intuitive to operate furniture and materials are all important factors too.

How has the millennial generation impacted your design and your client’s needs?
The Millennial generation has a passion for design that is palpable in our design teams. They embrace the newest technology, live and breathe social networking, and are the customers that my clients need to understand and target. They are driven to take design to its purest, most honest form, and I love how that enriches the design teams to come up with something better than we did the day before. Technology is ever-changing and our clients are expecting creative solutions that keep design flexible to accommodate these changes. The Millennial generation, having grown up on technology from a very early age, inherently understands the evolution of technology and helps integrate the flexibility into our design solutions.

How do you stay current and ahead of your competition?
Staying at the forefront of design trends, healthcare reform, and the new ways healthcare is being delivered are definitely differentiators for design firms. Kahler Slater stays ahead of the trends by participating with the Advisory Board, the Center for Health Design, and the Planetree Visionary Design Network, to name just a few. We pay attention to what others are saying, and we also work to add to that knowledge base by writing and speaking. I collaborated with one of our Architectural Designers to deliver a webinar last year on Ambulatory Trends.

Our ability to constantly evolve our approach and delivery of projects for our clients keeps us in the driver seat. Design can always be better and we seek to raise the bar every time for our clients.

If you could design the interior of any healthcare space, what would your dream job/client be?
I would love a client with a clear very lofty vision of designing a Net Zero hospital and the supporting budget that would make this possible. This would be an amazing challenge to design a unique experience with unconventional materials and systems in order to accomplish this goal.


Join us for Industry Insights – Part II when we discuss Corporate Design with a local area designer.