Jill Pable, graduate of Appalachian State University 1986, is breaking new ground through her research in trauma-informed design, and most recently with the launch of her website Design Resources for Homelessness. Pable, a professor in the Interior Architecture and Design Department at Florida State University, has long been interested in the impact that design in the built environment can have on people’s lived experience.
An oboe performance major turned design student, Pable followed in her older sister’s footsteps to attend Appalachian. After graduating with a degree is Housing and Interiors, she returned to Florida and worked as a designer until an invitation to teach a course at Daytona Beach Community College opened her eyes to the possibility of becoming an educator.
I found the experience tremendously gratifying, and was something that I both enjoyed and seemed to be successful in. As an instructor, I stand the chance of affecting thousands of design projects through my students — far more than I could have as a design practitioner myself.
She returned to school, first obtaining her MFA in interior design then her doctorate in secondary education. Her first full-time teaching position led her to California, and it was there that she, along with her design students, had the opportunity to work with a local homeless shelter.
The students’ interaction with staff and residents was a major moment for me, and showed me the potential for design to make a significant and lasting difference in people’s lives. I have come to learn more about the deep need for recuperative programs and environments that people in crisis need, and how there is so much to do and learn in this area.
So, she took action. For the past several years, her research has focused on developing a better understanding of trauma-informed design and connecting designers to research in various fields ranging from psychology and social work to medicine.
Pable is currently surveying various experts in the field to determine additional content that is needed in the Design Resources for Homelessness initiative. The goal of this free website is to interpret research, providing interior designers and architects with actionable information to help with their projects. Another goal is to eventually engage others to develop and describe voluntary guidelines for housing and shelter providers that better ensure the ability for these environments to help with recovery. She is currently developing a continuing education course focused on these principles to be offered through the American Society of Interior Designers.
Pable is optimistic that the website will spur further opportunities for collaboration and learning, and is also exploring additional channels to share best practices, including a newsletter or blog, more case studies and other spotlight reports that communicate the perceptions of people in crisis to designers who create environments that can help them.
As a professor and alumni of Florida State University, Jill Pable has been working on facilities and projects that serves homeless men and women. In 2015, Pable, alongside Kenan Fishburne, worked with Judy Rushin to create an art piece for the Kearny Center for which Pable and Fishburne provided design consultation services. The center opened April 5 and provided lodging, dining spaces, a medical clinic, GED classrooms, and case manager support for the homeless. The duo provided guidance on color, lighting, interior finishes, art, furnishings and environmental signage for the service center. This past year, Pable presented a new online initiative offering designers research-informed insights that identify the perceptions and needs of persons in crisis, and provide practical design ideas that can deliver heightened comfort and satisfaction without necessarily increasing costs. Design Resources for Homelessness content is provided without charge and is made possible by grants and donations. Well-designed environments hold great potential to lend comfort in crisis. Design Resources for Homelessness exists so that designers can collectively leverage the power of place, assisting disadvantaged persons to a brighter future.