Joyce Fownes’ Moment transformed her – just as her design team transforms workspaces

By Chris Schroder

Joyce Fownes has completely transformed the workspace of many of her firm’s clients, proving again and again that interior design can alter how employees interact with each other. Ironically, she found herself completely transformed one recent Easter morning when she felt spiritual “lightning” travel through her body. She hasn’t been the same since – at home or at work.

As leader of the interior design group for Perkins+Will’s Atlanta office, Joyce spends hours deconstructing how employees work in disparate office spaces. Her team often returns with stunning redesigns for a completely new workplace that inverts their clients’ assumptions and expectations, sometimes causing them to assess and accept a different way of doing business.

As she grew her team from eight interior designers scattered across Perkins+Will’s various design disciplines into a unified team of 30 today, Joyce admits that she “used to be more of a hardcore manager.” That changed one Sunday when a friend invited her to attend Buckhead Church. That day and again on Easter Sunday a few weeks later, pastor Andy Stanley described the unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance one can find through God and Jesus. Andy’s message, designed for his large congregation, found its target in Joyce.

Much as she aimed in her work to transform business environments, that Eastertime message “moved through me like lightning … and continues to change me every day,” Joyce says of her Moment in our accompanying video. What is striking in her acceptance of “Jesus as my savior” is how it changed her not just in her personal life, but at work as well.

“I have a saying, that ‘nobody makes a mistake on purpose.’ And that is very important for what we do, because people make mistakes. I also say that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough,” she said. “Now I am not a task master in that everything has to be perfect the first time … I used to be. And, some people expect me to still be that way, but that is just not a way to run a business and grow people in a healthy way. That is one of the things that changed in me.”

Joyce says that people at work noticed she had changed. It was transformative, much like the new workplaces on which her team collaborates.

As she describes her clients’ new workspaces, Joyce often uses the word “refresh.” Often at dinner parties, it takes a lot of effort for the hosts to move guests beyond their initial stop in the kitchen. They seem to find comfort and refreshment there. Yet in many offices, the kitchen and break rooms are dreadful spaces, hidden away from visitors in windowless closets. As Joyce described recent offices in the Atlanta area that her team redesigned, such as AutoTrader, IMG College or Promethean – or even the large Darden Restaurants headquarters in Orlando – the words she uses are “refresh, collegial, dynamic and branded.”

“At AutoTrader, you walk into beautiful space in which the front element is a refreshment area, a stand-up bar where you can get water or coffee,” Joyce says. “We branded the space so you know you are walking into AutoTrader with their logos and colors pulled into their space. We intentionally force employees and visitors to run into each other and begin to talk and collaborate and engage.

“Before, our clients’ employees were often ‘siloed’ in cubicles or old-line ‘law firm space’ with no identity of the company for which they worked,” she said. “When they first walk into their new space that is very bright and open, it exudes energy. It very strongly makes a difference in how employees touch each other and how they feel not only about their space, but about their company. They can more easily attract the kinds of employees they want to work there.”

Joyce finds her clients are sometimes reluctant initially to accept the drastic change in their workspace design – just as some were initially skeptical of her personal spiritual transformation.

The Dunwoody native attended Emory and graduated with an interior design degree from Georgia, worked at several architecture firms such as Hendrick and Leo Daly before joining Perkins+Will 12 years ago. Recently, she served on the “internal client team” when Perkins+Will bought its new Midtown headquarters across from the High Museum of Art. The redesigned structure was recently named “the most sustainable building in North America” by the U.S. Green Building Council – winning more environmental and energy points (95) than any building outside of Australia.

This Easter week seemed like an appropriate space for Joyce’s own transformative Moment. “The uniqueness of that Moment when Andy said Christ loves you unconditionally … God Loves you unconditionally … it was the first time in my life I realized that. From there, I have engaged that in every part of my being in how I relate to people, whether it’s family and friends, but especially at work.”

(Disclosure: Perkins+Will is a sponsor of a SaportaReport Thought Leadership section and Chris Schroder’s agency managed public relations tasks for the design firm from 2006 to 2008.)

Next week in Moments: Bob Voyles, developer and community leader, who was surprised by what his daughter told him about her hometown of Atlanta.

Video by Reid Childers of Schroder PR.

Don’t miss previous 2013 Moments: Jay Smith, Jennifer Johnson, David Geller, Cynthia Jones Parks, Lee Katz, Keegan Federal, Brandi Helvey, Alwyn Fredericks, George McKerrow, Wright Mitchell, Shawn Wilson, Bill Bolling, Tracey Jackson, Fran Tarkenton, Drey Mingo, Andy Cash, Fred Northup, Wendy Binns, Ann Curry, Bill Clarkson, Alicia Philipp, Dennis Creech, Meredith Leapley, Raymond King, Jerry Farber, Larry Gellerstedt, Sally Bethea, Ken Thrasher, Herb Nelson.
Don’t miss previous Moments from 2012: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman, Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews, Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard

About Chris Schroder

Chris Schroder, Publisher, manages business matters and writes a weekly column for SaportaReport while also counseling clients at Schroder Public Relations, in Atlanta. Before starting his PR firm in 2002, Chris worked for six Southeast daily newspapers (including the AJC, Daily Report and Charlotte Observer) as a reporter, editor, marketing and advertising executive before starting his own chain of neighborhood newspapers in 1994 in Virginia-Highland, Buckhead and Downtown Atlanta. He is fifth-generation Atlantan, a graduate of The Westminster Schools and the University of Virginia, is married to Jan Butsch Schroder and has four young adult children and step-children.
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