is a freelance writer and regular
contributor to The Architect’s
Newspaper, retrofit, and Retail
Environments magazine, as well as the
editor-at-large of interiors+sources.
He also was a contributing author to the
book, The State of the Interior Design
Profession (Fairchild, 2010), which was
placed on the International Federation
of Interior Architects/Designers’
“ 50 Must Read, Must Have” list.
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“Without the design community, DIFFA wouldn’t exist,” says Dawn Roberson, executive
director of DIFFA. “The organization came about as a group of designers’ response to
the AIDS epidemic and the crisis in the ’80s. Since that time, we have been mobilizing the
talents and resources of the whole design community to help us with our events.”
Among the events for which DIFFA is best known is DINING BY DESIGN (DBD), the
design industry’s most illustrious fundraiser to fight HIV/AIDS. The annual event gathers
local and international brands and designers to create a showcase of extraordinary dining
vignettes and to raise awareness for a worthy cause. DBD raises nearly $1 million annually
and hosts thousands of designers, notable guests, and avid supporters.
To help ensure its mission and message continue long into the future, DINING BY
DESIGN also includes a Student Initiative comprised of student teams from three design
schools in the New York City area that produce an installation as part of the event. Each
year, the Angelo Donghia Foundation generously donates a $2,500 budget to each student
team to showcase their creativity and participate in a real-life design project, as well as to
enable them to take part in a philanthropic effort in the process.
“Overall, it’s really such a great experience for the students,” Roberson explains.
“It gets them involved with the cause, it gets them involved with philanthropy, and it gets
them to a place where they have real-life experience—from concept to execution—with
an installation and are able to see their vision come to life and have it viewed by 40,000
people in the design community. I think it serves a lot of purposes.”
For DIFFA, Roberson says it’s important for people to understand that the fight against
HIV/AIDS isn’t over. With more than 1.1 million people in the United States living
with HIV (and 13 percent are unaware of their status), much work is still to be done.
“As members of the design community, we’re trying to do what we can to hopefully see
an end to this disease and see an AIDS-free generation in our lifetime,” she notes. “We’re
hoping with all the money we’re raising, with all of the things we’re doing with all of
the education, that we can possibly be that difference—and that’s why we all like to say
at DIFFA, we want to make a ‘DIFFA-rence.’”
At the end of the day, that’s what these three organizations and so many others are
ultimately about: giving back in an effort to change lives for the better and making
the world a more beautiful place in the process.
Inspired by the Surrealists,
Design Within Reach partnered
with Matthew Goodrich and
Kendall Lowe to create a dreamlike
installation at the 2018 DINING
BY DESIGN gala in New York.
(Image: Alan Barry)