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She Loved to Rearrange Her Parents’ Furniture as a Kid – Now She’s the Design Director and “Materials Girl” at Her Agency

Ashley Floyd, a Designer Dozen award winner, explains why she believes materials are so critical in creating experiences

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She Loved to Rearrange Her Parents’ Furniture as a Kid – Now She’s the Design Director and “Materials Girl” at Her Agency
Ashley Floyd
This Design Director at experience agency ChangeUp has gone from recognizing the impact of space on human psychology to shooting music videos – and creating exciting retail projects too.

How early do you remember the impulse to pursue a creative career?

As a kid, I was always rearranging the furniture in our house – which frustrated my parents. I remember being specifically aware and obsessed at an early age of how space affects human psychology. Using space as my canvas has always exhilarated me; people can experience it in such a more immersive way than other forms of art.

And that pretty much put you on your course?

My mother’s an artist and was always very supportive of my choices. I took college-prep art courses in high school, but I also wanted to make an impact in the real world. In the DAAP program [College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning] at the University of Cincinnati, I discovered how cool it was to transform spaces. I decided that’s what I wanted to do, to do it every day. I loved it.

How did you become the materials girl?

After graduation, I became a materials specialist at FRCH [now part of Nelson Worldwide]. I discovered how important it is for a designer to know and understand how materials impact design and how they affect consumers’ feelings. I think I’m more of a physical person, so touching materials and understanding how shoppers are going to touch materials in real life versus digitally on a screen became my obsession.

She Loved to Rearrange Her Parents’ Furniture as a Kid – Now She’s the Design Director and “Materials Girl” at Her Agency
One of Ashley’s latest projects at ChangeUp was working on Panera’s Next Generation Café | Courtesy of ChangeUp

Do you recall a project that sparked this obsession?

At FRCH, I worked on a giant Liverpool department store in Mexico City, on a scale I’d never imagined. Mexican retail design is like Mexican culture – very colorful and expressive. I realized that all retail design is a cultural expression, and surface materials are a reflection of that expression, the most visible and tactile elements of a store’s design. Materials are what customers experience and touch. It’s what brings depth and texture, what makes the project real, what brings it to life.

And that is your mission at ChangeUp?

More than ever. Today’s clients understand the importance of integrating brand in all aspects of their physical spaces. We have so much more research than ever before on what consumers want and what elements best support brands. ChangeUp really understands the importance of traveling the world to research and discover innovative materials and fabrication processes to help accelerate our projects. I’m always asking how new materials can address my objectives? Or what other uses or variations might be available? Knowing the science behind the manufacture and processes helps me realize the possibilities.

I have to ask about your work with Lizzo. How did that come about?

As an artist, I’m always dabbling, always looking for something new. A well-known photographer in Cincinnati needed an assistant. It turned out we were both interested in video, which has always been a side dream of mine, so we shot a lot of video locally. At one point, we went to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin and saw Lizzo perform. So we cold-called her and showed her some of our work. We flew to Las Vegas and shot her music video for ‘Bus Passes and Happy Meals.’ Then a few others before she signed with a big record company and they took over her video production.

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As a journalist, writer, editor and commentator, Steve Kaufman has been watching the store design industry for 20-plus years. He has seen the business cycle through retailtainment, minimalism, category killers, big boxes, pop-ups, custom stores, global roll-outs, international sourcing, interactive kiosks, the emergence of China, the various definitions of “branding” and Amazon.com. He has reported on the rise of brand concept shops, the demise of brand concept shops and the resurgence of brand concept shops. He has been an eyewitness to the reality that nothing stays the same, except the retailer-shopper relationship.

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