Letter from the Editor

Disrupting the Workplace

Architecture of school

By Sam Aquillano

Since mid-March, I keep thinking about the word disruption. Not negative disruption. Don’t get me wrong, that’s certainly there too. We’ve all felt the negative effects of the pandemic. But the optimist in me is thinking about disruption in terms of innovation. Disruptive innovation is a term coined by the late Clayton Christensen—author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. This kind of disruption shakes up the status quo, shines a light on parts of a system that don’t work, and offers a chance to reimagine what’s possible. You hear the word disruption a lot (maybe too much) when it comes to big, established businesses, and startups swooping in to change the game: internet-streaming video disrupted cable TV, ride-sharing apps disrupted taxis and transportation, and telemedicine is disrupting the doctor’s office. 

I can’t help but think of the pre-COVID workplace as an established paradigm in dire need of disruption. When we launched the Center for Workplace Innovation in collaboration with Jamestown, our goal was to launch a platform to examine and reimagine the workplace. In the words of one of our Workplace Innovation Think Tank Members, Brittney Herrera, “We want to model work-practices that translate into more inclusive, productive, supportive organizations that are able to meet their full potential in service of their mission and cultural values.” In essence, we want to disrupt the workplace paradigm. The pandemic has accelerated that disruption—it’s not something to plan for, it’s here. It’s up to us to take advantage of this moment to create something new. A workplace that works for everyone. 

Can we create a workplace that’s equitable? Is it possible for a workplace to support employees with children? Can work be engaging and meaningful for every employee? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m more excited about the workplace now than I ever have been—now we have a chance to design something new. 

In this issue, I hope you find insights and inspiration that help drive you to a new future of work. Michael Tingley, Design Principal at Bora Architecture & Interiors, examines how we arrived at the contemporary office and prioritizes a path to the future. Angela Yeh, Founder of Thrive by Design, helps navigate interrupted careers with strategies on how to design your future in an uncertain world. Kerrien Suarez, Executive Director of Equity in the Center, shares how to build a race equity culture at work. Plus there’s design thinking, elevating virtual meetings, and more. 

Enjoy this special workplace issue of Design Museum Magazine, and then join us for our annual Workplace Innovation Summit to connect with other workplace thinkers and problem solvers and hear from the experts on what the possibilities are for a bright future at work. This year the Summit is virtual, allowing us to connect with folks all over the world. So save the dates, we’ll be sharing great virtual experiences throughout the week of November 9-13. I hope to see you there!



Sam Aquillano

Executive and Creative Director

Design Museum Everywhere

Cover of the Education Issue

From Design Museum Magazine Issue 016