February 1, 2019

Four NYSID Alumni Talk About Designing For WeWork

NYSID alumni at the WeWork headquarters in Chelsea, New York City. L to R: Catherine Ward ’15 (MFA-1), Matthew Giampietro ’14 (MFA-1), Ilona Birnberg ’09 (BFA), and Alicia Cargo ’16 (MFA-1). Photography by Matthew Septimus, courtesy of the New York School of Interior Design.

For over 100 years, the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) has prepared students to tackle the big design issues of their day. Back in the early 20th century, these issues predominantly revolved around home décor, but the emergence of commercial interior design right around that time opened up one of the most significant segments in the industry. Today, the top design segment by volume is workplace, with 83% of designers working on an office project in 2017, according to Interior Design’s Universe Study. Students emerging from NYSID’s undergraduate and graduate programs are just as prepared to tackle today’s commercial design challenges as they were over 100 years ago. The secret to their success lies in the foundational skills and perspectives that they learn at NYSID.

To illustrate this point, four NYSID alums offer their insights into how these foundations allow them to thrive in their careers and in the rapidly evolving field of interior design. These former students are all members of the US Design Team of WeWork. Read on for their thoughts on why a NYSID education is the key to their success at WeWork and beyond.


Alum Alicia Cargo is the interior design lead for Powered By We, WeWork’s white-glove product for enterprise clients. Because Alicia’s work is very client-facing, she says the skills she learned in communicating her design ideas to others have really been a boon to her work with corporate clients.

“The most important thing I learned at the New York School of Interior Design is how to explain the thought process behind my designs during presentations. People are hiring [Powered by We] because we have a grasp on how to connect people. . . Every day I have to explain to clients how design decisions are going to affect work culture, and that’s a skill I learned at NYSID.”


Ilona Birnberg is the interior design manager for WeWork’s West Coast team. She graduated in 2009, working at a variety of firms and sectors during the worst years of the Great Recession. This variety of workplaces and styles she worked in made her a perfect hire for WeWork.

“The type of work we do at WeWork welcomes varied backgrounds in design. [Our spaces are] commercial, residential and hospitality hybrids. We want designers who are flexible and agile, not set on one design style. We need designers who can adapt to change, to the research we are getting and feedback from members.”

Essential Skills

Catherine Ward is WeWork’s interior design lead on the East Coast. She says NYSID not only taught her how to use indispensable computer programs proficiently, but it also educated her on the value of fundamental skills like sketching. Armed with both skill sets, Ward was able to create a portfolio that landed her a job at WeWork upon graduation in 2015.

“I think it’s important to understand how people used to design. Once you know how to sketch, you can capture ideas in the moment, and this ability also helps you understand the history of design and older structures.”


Matthew Giampietro is the interior design lead for WeWork’s Tri-State area sites. He says NYSID taught him how to think ahead about client needs and really consider the purpose of a space when shaping its aesthetic.

“NYSID prepared me to create a spatial experience, rather than just apply materials to surfaces. [At WeWork, we design] collision points, places, and opportunities for people to interact. [For instance,] when I put a coffee-table book down on a table, I want to make sure it’s something people are going to talk about.”

Click here to learn more about how an education at NYSID can help your career. 

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