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Four Years as Design Director: A Captivating Interview with Maddy Mackin Freeman

Her deep belief in the power of design and its ability to impact our daily lives fuels her approach to interiors.

Rose Wilson

Marketing Manager

With over 12 years in art & design, Maddy's broad expertise in workspace design is driven by a desire to foster community. Her deep belief in the power of design and its ability to impact our daily lives fuels her approach to interiors. Maddy's work strikes a balance between form and function thanks to her passion for aesthetics and extraordinary appreciation of detail. She approaches each project as a unique opportunity to engage, empower, and inspire people.


Q: How has your role as a Design Director evolved over the past four years?

A: My role has grown as our team and projects have grown. We started out as a one-person design department (hi!) working on 5,000 square foot refresh projects. Now we’re a growing robust team across multiple states, and our projects have become so much larger and more design intensive. With such an amazing growing team I’ve been able to step back from the day-to-day project design work and do more high-level creative direction.


Q: What have been the most memorable moments of your four-year journey as a Design Director at DESIGN+BUILD?

A: Anytime we finish construction on a project is so exciting and special. It never gets old, to see something you conceived of and worked so hard on getting built and being used as it was intended. But the most memorable moments are when our team really comes together for a big client deliverable and we get to fully take advantage of the expertise each department represents: Client Partnerships, Design, furniture, Preconstruction, & Construction.


Q: As a female leader in the design industry, what unique perspectives and experiences would you like to share?

A: I start every project in a position of empathy, trying to understand how it would feel to spend time and work in the spaces we design based on what we understand about our clients – which leads to more comfortable & functional space. I also give my team a lot of trust & recognition, and actively work against some of the more toxic industry stereotypes of designers' egos. When people feel safe to be freely creative, we do better work. I know these perspectives aren't necessarily unique to my gender experiences, but are certainly influenced by my personal experience of being a woman in the world and in architecture & design.


Q: How do you approach balancing creativity and practicality in your design work?

A: The classic fight between form and function! One thing I've learned very deeply is that if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter how it looks. This relates to letting go of our egos as designers from the previous question; if a client insists that they need a space to work in a certain way, who are we to question that? They are the experts in how they work. Once we have established that baseline of functionality, we can begin to address the aesthetic decisions and continue to balance these two principles throughout the remaining design process.


Q: How do you foster a collaborative and innovative work culture within your design team?

A: The best thing we did to improve collaboration post-Covid was go back to 100% in-office work. Some of our younger design staff had never worked in a traditional in-person office after they graduated, and it has been so good for them (and all of us!) to learn from all of those spontaneous conversations around finding design solutions. We also hold weekly workshops where one member of our design team presents something they care about, or a design problem they want help solving. This keeps our team working together and aware of each other's interests & specialties, even as they are assigned to separate projects.

Q: What excites you about the future of design and your role as a Design Director at DESIGN+BUILD?

A: Seeing our company continue to grow into new geographical markets is really exciting, and I can't wait to continue growing our team and adding even more experience & expertise to our company.


Q: What elements of design are you most passionate about?

A: I care deeply about equity and sustainability. Every client is different, but there are always opportunities to make decisions that make space more accessible to more people and include sustainable practices and materials.


Q: What advice would you give to aspiring design professionals aiming for a leadership role?

A: Keep your eye on the top client goals. It's easy to get lost in the details but stepping back to see how the smallest decisions affect the overall look, feel, and function of the space is vital to a successful project.

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