Carol Jones is one of North America’s most
influential designers and business leaders.
A partner with Kasian Architecture Interior Design
and Planning, Jones has been in the forefront of
expanding the firm across Canada with offices in
Vancouver, British Columbia, and Calgary and
Edmonton, Alberta; and internationally, with
an office in Doha, Qatar. Jones brings more than
40 years of experience working with corporate
clients and has led teams that have designed and
redesigned headquarters of major firms with
footprints of up to 200,000 square feet.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jones
is the recipient of a bachelor’s degree in Interior
Design from the University of Manitoba. She’s
a writer and teacher, holding the post of lecturer
at her alma mater, plus similar positions with
British Columbia Institute of Technology and
Kwantlen Polytechnic University. A member of
numerous professional boards and associations,
she has been inducted into the College of Fellows
of the Interior Designers Institute of British
Columbia, the Interior Designers of Canada, and
the International Interior Design Association.
i+D caught up with Jones at Kasian’s headquarters
i+D: When you look up from your desk,
what do you see?
Jones: Don’t be jealous. We’re on the 16th floor
overlooking the most beautiful part of Vancouver—
Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge, and the harbor
with ships waiting to be unloaded. We never take it
i+D: I read that when you were a little girl, you
didn’t play with toys or dolls, but were on the
floor sketching designs.
Jones: I’ve just cleaned out two storage lockers
I’ve been renting, and came across a whole bunch
of drawings I did at age 10. Drawn to scale, using
a ruler, of house plans, because they were the only
structures I was familiar with at that age.
i+D: What was your inspiration?
Jones: I have no idea where it came from. There
wasn’t anyone in my family who was involved in
design. I just always had this great interest in how
you deal with spaces, and wanted to arrange them
and place elements in them.
i+D: One focus of your career has been to bring
modern ideas to spaces employees inhabit, to
make them more comfortable and healthier.
It seems such an obvious concept. Why did it
take so long for employers to catch up?
Jones: The focus was once more on creating
spaces so it worked for the company, as opposed to
the employee. That hasn’t gone away, but an added
layer is now asking how can it be made to work for
employees. There’s recognition now that bottom
lines are directly affected by how satisfied the staff
is, and people are interested today in wellness and
variety for employees.
i+D: Before, was it just a question of
economics, to get a design on the cheap?
Jones: Getting it done as cheaply as possible was
not necessarily a driver. Employers always wanted a
space that functioned well so people could do their
jobs. But health and wellness have been a new filter.
i+D: Widening out on this, looking at cities,
you have an office in Doha, Qatar, which is
expanding rapidly. Are people there thinking
about progressive ideas in design?
Jones: The design aesthetic in Doha is a bit
different from North America. It’s not particularly
employee-centric. We do palaces, for example, and
there’s no question who the client is in that case.
We’re working on a bank building and there’s not
much user input in the facility, because design that
we’re discussing is fairly new in that part of the
world. But, they’ll get there.
i+D: How often do you travel?
Jones: Once or twice a month.
i+D: Any guilty pleasures to stay sane while
on the road?
Jones: A great hotel. It will make or break a trip.
But, I love traveling. I always want to get on a plane.
i+D: What’s the first thing you look for when
arriving in a place you’ve never been?
Jones: Walking to get a sense of residential areas.
The high-income areas, middle-income, and even the
not-so-great places. I want to see how people live.
i+D: What part of a résumé do you ignore?
Jones: Everything is important. I’m always
concerned if there’s misspellings or grammar
mistakes, that’s a level of detail that should never
be overlooked. I’m always interested in whether
they’ve traveled, and, if so, where, and other
interests they have, like photography or art.
i+D: Are you a collector?
Jones: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to de-collect.
I’m de-cluttering and downsizing, as I mentioned,
going through the storage lockers, getting rid of
stuff. It’s empowering.
i+D: Growing up, who was your inspiration?
Jones: Mrs. Ivanov, my English teacher. I still have
to watch my grammar to prevent her from rolling
over in her grave. She taught me wonderful things,
like “précis,” the ability to take a whole bunch of
information and distill it to its essence. When I’ve
taught communication in interior design programs,
I’ve given students a long newspaper article and
asked them to highlight the key points and rewrite
it in 500 words. A great exercise, and so important
when writing proposals, to stick to the essence
and not have a lot of boilerplate.
i+D: If you weren’t designer, what would you be?
Jones: At one point, I thought I’d be a lawyer.
i+D: Until you came to your senses?
Jones: (Laughing) Well…Now that I’ve worked
with a lot of law firms, I realize that profession
would not be as interesting as what I do. I can’t
imagine doing anything else. What other job gives
you the opportunity to affect the way people feel
living in spaces, in airports, hospitals, anywhere?
You have so much influence for the good.
i+D: Thinking of the Me Too movement,
is there sexually inappropriate conduct in
the world of design?
Jones: Sure. I’ve seen it and heard about it. It’s
a big discussion when I get together with friends,
and people ask, “Did you ever experience it in your
career?” I did, nothing too serious. Because of the
times, we just said, “Ugh, he’s a jerk.” I’m glad it’s
happening now. I just hope the pendulum doesn’t
swing so far that it becomes awkward to work with
two sexes in any environment. That could be a
danger, especially in this business, when everyone’s
so friendly, everyone hugs when they see each other.
Is that going to stop? I hope not.
i+D: What’s wrong with design today?
Jones: It saddens me that design is a commodity
in many people’s minds.
i+D: That designers aren’t taken seriously?
Jones: Right. But, also, that it’s considered a
product, when, really, it’s a process. The process
is what we’re selling, not a product.
is the editor of the Shelter Island Reporter
and a novelist, nonfiction author, and
journalist. His work has appeared in GQ ,
The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.
i+D — January/February 2018 41
ICONic Profile: Carol Jones – By Ambrose Clancy