February 10, 2016

Design Icon Eva Maddox Retires From Perkins+Will After 15 Years

On the Kalamazoo campus of Western Michigan University, Newell Rubbermaid has yielded a design incubator—with an interior by Perkins + Will design principal Eva Maddox. Photography by Tom Harris/Hedrich Blessing.

“I’m not sure this is the reason, but it’s a good reason,” says Eva Maddox, design principal of Perkins+Will and Interior Design Hall of Fame member, when asked why she decided to officially retire on February 1, 2016, after 15 years with the firm. Maddox is lauded for founding Branded Environments, a research-based design approach that identifies and integrates a client’s DNA into tangible brand expressions, experiences and environments. Under her leadership and vision, Branded Environments has redefined the way we experience corporations, hospitals, and universities across the country. 

> Watch a video interview with Eva Maddox

Here, she speaks with Interior Design design about why now and what’s next:

Interior Design: Why did you decide to retire now? What made the timing right?

Eva Maddox: You know, I have been in the design world for quite a long time. And I’m not sure this is the reason, but it’s a good reason! My first project in Chicago was for Mercury Records at the IBM Building in 1971 or 1972. So when we decided to move our own offices [from the IBM Buidling to the top three floors of the Wrigley Building’s north tower], it just seemed like the right time.

ID: What will you do next?

EM: I am interested in doing a few other things: painting, serving on various boards, working on books, and just really feeling the glow. I co-authored a book with Beverly Russell and Farooq Ameen called Fifty Under Fifty: Innovators of the 21st Century, featuring designers and architects around the world who are doing really innovative things. So that inspired me to do a monograph on my own career and some of the fun things that have happened. We’re hoping to get that out in the next year. I’m on several boards, one is for a school in Florence, which is SACI, an art and communications school, and I’m continuing to work with Archeworks of course. I decided I was going to see how design could impact the social realm and I have joined the governmental advisory commitee for the state of Illinois regarding design strategy and how it can have an impact on improving space.

ID: What do you think you will remember most about Perkins+Will?

EM: The 15 years that I was there were an incredible growth time, and I’ve been honored to be a part of that. The firm is going to be around for a LONG time! The most memorable part of that is the people—they are passionate about design and good work, and I think that is one of the hallmarks of the future of design. Perkins+Will is way ahead on the road to being a major player in collaborating.

ID: Can you pinpoint any talents at Perkins+Will that you are excited to see take on new roles following your departure?

EM: Eileen Jones[, design principal and global practice leader for branded environments at Perkins+Will,] has been my partner and a leader in the branded environments team for a long time, and she will continue to lead the group, so it’s not going to be a big transition. Keith Curtis[, branded environments southeast regional discipline leader,] in Atlanta is also another terrific leader.

ID: At this stage, is there anything you wish you’d done that you haven’t?

EM: Art. I love to paint. So I’m going to try to see if I can reignite my skill and see if I can do some fun painting. There are a lot of things I enjoy—painting, traveling, learning, education. I do watercolors, drawings, sketches, ink drawings, magic marker, and travel logs. Your hand and your mind work together. To do good design, you have to be able to put it down through your hand. You know, your hand can come through the computer or through a pen. Drawing is so important to creativity!

Maddox received her Bachelor of Science in Design from the School of Design, Architecture, Art + Planning at the University of Cincinnati. In 2006, she received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Cincinnati, the highest recognition given to Alumnae. In 1992, she was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Famenamed an IIDA Star in 2000, honored with the Dean of Design Award in 2002, and recognized with Contract‘s Legend Award in 2011. She is the recipient of more than 100 design awards, including Honor Awards from the National AIA and IIDA, and numerous Design Excellence Awards for Interior Architecture and Design from the Chicago Chapters of the AIA, ASID, SEGD and IIDA. In association with Stanley Tigerman, she co-founded and was program director of Archeworks, a socially oriented design laboratory and multi-disciplinary school established in 1994.

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