The Gibbs Spotlight: Melissa Park, Interior Design Alumna

GCA assistant to the directors, Camille Germany (C), sat down OU interior design alumna, Melissa Park (M), to discuss her career in the interior design field! Read on for highlights, or click the link below to access the full podcast. 

C: Hi Melissa, how are you doing today? 

M: Hello, I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here and have a chance to talk with you. 

C: I’d love for you to start off with a bit about how you arrived in the interior design program at OU and what really drew you to the profession. 

M: Growing up, I planned to major in mathematics, but as the day got closer to start scheduling classes, I started to really worry about leaving behind my creative side. I did some internet searching and I came across the architecture industry as a real compromise of my technical and artistic sides.Thankfully, before the first semester started, I narrowed in on interior design and knew that’s where I wanted to place my focus.After all those late nights my first year, I did still manage to fall in love with it. I just really loved how we place a focus on the people who use and experience a space. At the end of the day, no matter how beautiful a space is, if it doesn’t function for the user, then I personally don’t see it as a success. At each point in the design process. I’m asking, “How does this affect the user? Does this plan help with their workflow? Will. the layout keep them safe in an emergency? Will these finishes hold up to user abuse and maintenance?”. Now there’s an even bigger focus on cleanability and flexibility of spaces to adapt to changes in our society. These are all things I get to help oversee as an interior designer and has made me just really fall more and more in love with my profession. 

C: Sure, those are some important things right now. So, what are some current projects you’re working on? And are there any that you’re particularly excited about or proud of? 

M: I typically do have a hand in most of the projects in our office. The number of hours I put into these projects vary widely, depending on the scope of it, but right now, I’m working on a few saferoom additions, some gymnasiums, middle school renovations. I think my favorite is this wellness clinic we’re working on for Norman Regional. We’re still in construction document phase, but I’m just loving how the owner is wanting to go outside their norm. They want this clinic to not just be a typical exam room experience. The color palette is more engaging, and the space plan really facilitates a welcoming setting for the patients to be ready to discuss their health with a provider. I am really looking forward to seeing how this project plays out and what it looks like in the end. 

C: Yeah, sure. You touched a little bit on this already. But can you talk some more about the importance of design supporting the purpose of a space for instance, education, design, supporting learning and healthcare design, supporting wellness and healing? 

M: The space must function correctly. If we don’t design a space to work for teachers, we’re hindering their teaching possibilities and the students’ learning experience. If we don’t design a clinic that can be maintained well, or function for a proper examination of patients, we’re hindering the doctors and nurse’s ability to really help heal. In many cases, people decide where they want to live and spend their time based on the area’s amenities, like the schools and clinics. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone deserves a quality education and health care, no matter where they live. Through creative and thoughtful design, we can create these quality spaces that facilitate that. 

C: What are some of your hopes and goals for yourself in five or ten years from now? 

M: Most of my work experience so far has really been focused on education, whether it be K through 12 or Higher Ed. I’ve had some projects in healthcare and I know there’s a lot more for me to learn within that sector, especially within the next five or ten years. My personal goal is to become more confident in my knowledge of that sector and really improving my ability to help our owners and clients on creating the spaces that they need. 

C: What would you want other alumni and aspiring interior designers to take away from your work? 

M: I hope at the end of the day, they know that I did my best to put the people first. No matter the scope or the budget. My responsibility is to prove by functional and creative space that protects the health, safety and welfare of the users. Now, I do absolutely love the fun creative side of interior design, but I feel most proud of the role I get to play in the user experience. 

C: Melissa, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day today. I’m so glad we have people like you doing this important and impactful work. It was a blessing.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity