Through Design Eyes: My Summer as a Contract Magazine Intern


"Oooh look, a Louis Ghost chair!" I squealed to a friend as we strolled past Design Within Reach on Broadway in New York City. A few blocks later, we passed the popular Pinkberry frozen yogurt chain. I asked, "Did you know that the chairs used by Pinkberry were designed by Philippe Starck, the first French designer to be featured in the French national wax museum?"

When I started work as an intern at Contract magazine in May, I knew next to nothing about design. While I looked forward to practicing my writing talents, I never anticipated that the subjects I wrote about could affect me so profoundly. As I expected, my months interning at Contract have honed my professional skills in many ways. I've learned to write news and interview professionals, to work in an office, and wear office attire. But I've learned so much more than this: in writing about design, I have learned a new way to see the world.

New architecture and contract design spaces are no longer a closed book to me. They have become personal. Now I find myself noticing the sleek design or sustainable elements of the skyscrapers surrounding my New York City apartment. I can comment on the superiority of Carrara marble and flaunt my insider knowledge of NBC studio's newest Jim Henson exhibit. I researched a few articles that actually educated me about literature and the written word, my favorite fields. I can even direct you to the best architecture festivals and contests worldwide, from the London Architecture Festival to the American West Coast. But more than that, when I see a well-designed building or a tastefully crafted interior, I think of the design professionals responsible.

One of the great pleasures of my internship has been my interactions with many talented, caring design professionals. I've spoken to many of you for interviews on the phone and corresponded via e-mail with many more. Time and again I am astounded by the generosity and commitment of A&D professionals. For a recent story on the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library in Washington D.C., I asked an architecture firm for a photo of the library they had just designed. They didn't have one readily available, so they actually sent a photographer over to the site for an image. They were able to send me a beautiful shot within hours.

Other times, I've been privileged to attend press events and meet the passionate, committed designers responsible for creations like Hacienda textiles or the Museum of the Moving Image. Design professionals continue to astound me with their eager generosity in e-mails, sending me a plethora of press releases and photos, or in interviews where they reveal their deep love for their work (like these Q&A's with Karen Franck, Teresa von Summaruga Howard, and Curtis Fentress).

From my earliest articles, about the Ghost House at Franklin Court and Dallas' Wonderview project, to my most recent writings on the design of Cormorant Park in Jacksonville, Fla., I have been privileged to interact with inspiring design professionals. Now when I see a well-crafted building or interior, I wonder: How long did this take the designer? Was he/she happy with its success or community impact? Does this designer read Contract Magazine, and know my articles? Did he or she imbue this design with the passion and hope that I've seen in so many design professionals?

Thanks to all of you, I know some of these answers. And while I'll return to college in the fall (entering my senior year at Notre Dame) and no longer think design on a daily basis, I've learned long-lasting lessons about the powerful impact of design. I know I'll see campus buildings differently, from the design of my dorm to our iconic golden dome.

Whether in planning the interior design of my own apartment in upcoming years, continuing to practice journalism and writing at the school newspaper, or simply admiring the structures around me in a new way, I know that what I've learned this summer will stay with me always in some way. Thank you.

–Lillian Civantos

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