Behind the Mic: Get to Know Tiffany Rafii of ‘The Design Board’ Podcast

The SURROUND Podcast Network is home to the leading shows from design’s greatest storytellers. One of those storytellers, Tiffany Rafii, is host of The Design Board and CEO of UpSpring PR. We spoke to Tiffany about why podcasting is so relevant to our industry, where she finds unexpected inspiration, and one bold prediction for the next 10 years.

Tiffany Rafii Talks Podcasting, and More

SURROUND: Can you share the story behind The Design Board?

Tiffany Rafii: When we started our PR and marketing agency, UpSpring, we promised our staff and clients that we would always look to innovate. The firm has seen a lot of growth in the past two years, and when it came time to set our intention for 2023, we knew that it needed to be focused on supporting and further developing our community. For us, community starts with our team and clients and reaches everyone they work with and are inspired by.

We launched The Design Board to leverage the knowledge of our internal community to build an even stronger and more dynamic one. We are having so much fun sharing and learning, and we can’t wait to see how this grows!

SURROUND: Who is your show for, and what do you hope they walk away thinking/knowing/feeling after listening?

TR: Our show is meant for everyone, from the designer, architect, developer, or engineer to product manufacturers, designers, marketers, and sales representatives in the built environment.

Tiffany Rafii in a black dress
Tiffany Rafii.

We hope to provide our listeners with actionable strategies and information that will better their understanding of various skills, opportunities, trends, barriers, and more that face the industry. The episodes drop weekly and surround a certain theme every month, so our listeners have the opportunity to explore various layers of topics we feel are most relevant.

SURROUND: The design world is so visual—how does that translate in audio? Why are podcasts valuable to our industry?

TR: Even though the design industry is incredibly visual, so many layers of technical knowledge are required to get to that visual outcome. Podcasts, and The Design Board specifically, can be a helpful resource for those in the architecture, design, and real estate industries to share their process, experiences, techniques, insights, etc on a more personal and detailed level.

For me, listening to a podcast on a topic allows me to process the information differently and broadens my community by giving me access to people I may not have associated with being experts on a given topic.

Want to learn more about the latest design trends? Listen to The Design Board podcast.

SURROUND: What’s something new you’ve learned through your podcast?

TR: I have learned so much! I’ve been inspired by women leaders in our industry, I’ve decided to work towards b-corp certification for UpSpring as a result of my conversations on the podcast, dived into understanding the world of design as it relates to neurodivergent individuals and explored commercial to renovation conversions. The topics are endless, and I have so much fun learning from our guests.

SURROUND: Where do you find ideas and inspiration for new episodes?

TR: As a PR and marketing agency with 100 or so clients, we have inspiration coming to us from every direction. Our clients are innovating and sparking ideas through their visions, their products, the spaces they ideate, and the future they want to influence.

SURROUND: What is your number one tip for an aspiring podcaster?

TR: Have fun with it! Go off script and ask questions you didn’t anticipate asking; the best moments are organic.

SURROUND: What are your favorite podcasts, in and out of the A&D world?

TR: Dr. Becky’s Good Inside podcast helps me stay on my toes as a mom of three, and I think ThinkLab’s Amanda Schneider is brilliant, so Design Nerds Anonymous would have to be my A&D pick.

The Design Board podcast group
The Upspring team.

SURROUND: We know The Design Board is one part of your current work—what else are you up to? Tell us about your other projects.

TR: UpSpring is growing and changing every day. Earlier this year, we launched a client community called The Circle, where our clients can network, share ideas at roundtables, and attend various sessions that promote their professional development on everything from maximizing trade shows to how to promote DE&I initiatives in their companies authentically.

SURROUND: Looking back, what are your earliest memories of architecture and design that led you to your current career?

TR: The truth is, landing in the architecture and design space was a happy accident for my business partner Sarah Terzic and me. We started UpSpring as seniors in college and, at the time, we were taking on anyone and everyone in need of PR. We had the opportunity to work with a few design clients and immediately fell in love. The industry is this perfect mix of creative and strategic thought, we feel grateful every day that our path led us here.

SURROUND: Name an unexpected source of design inspiration and how you translate that spark into your work.

TR: I never thought I’d say this, but my kids have become my greatest source of inspiration. I am constantly amazed by their creativity, imagination, and resilience. From transforming Amazon boxes into spaceships to experimenting with color combinations and cooking up unique solutions, their ideas and outcomes significantly impact my work as a design enthusiast. I have learned to tap into their natural curiosity and energy and apply it to my own business by staying open to new ideas and possibilities and embracing failure as a learning opportunity. Through their example, I have also learned to remain persistent and keep pushing forward, even in the face of setbacks. My kids have taught me to approach my work with a sense of playfulness and joy and never to stop learning and growing.

SURROUND: What’s one bold design prediction you’d make for the next 10 years?

TR: It goes without saying that technology will rule the next 10 years. We will greatly see haptic design’s evolution and development in the coming years. Haptic design has the potential to transform the way we interact with our environments, offering a more immersive and engaging experience. With advancements in haptic technology, designers will be able to incorporate touch-based feedback into their designs more easily. As technology advances and users seek more engaging experiences, haptic design represents a significant opportunity for designers to enhance the user experience and create more intuitive, ergonomic, and engaging products and spaces.

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