DFAD Q&A with Michelle O’Brien, Business Consultant, International Design Guild

One of the most inspiring things about Design For A Difference is the unique perspectives of those who help work on DFAD projects. To gain more insight, we’re asking Michelle O’Brien, a business consultant at International Design Guild (IDG), a few questions about how DFAD has affected her life and those around her, and how DFAD is making an impact in communities across the nation.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do with DFAD (Design for a Difference)?

I have been a business consultant for the International Design Guild  for the past eleven years, and with CCA for fifteen years. I have been a part of DFAD since its inception. As the main point of contact for IDG showrooms, when they choose to embrace DFAD for the first time or even each additional project – I am there to help them with any questions they may have.

How has working with DFAD changed you and your life?

Before DFAD, my husband and I would donate funds or goods to a few local organizations every year. DFAD has really changed how my family gives back, especially during the holidays. In addition to our yearly donations, we ‘adopt’ three to four families from our local community for the holidays. We provide the food and supplies needed for these families to enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. Each family supplies us with their holiday wish list and our family gets to shop for them. It has become our family tradition to lessen the burden for the families and put a smile on their faces when they open their gifts and enjoy a family meal. We, in turn, benefit from spending more time together as a family and it truly has become a special part of our life each year. I hope that the families we are helping will pay it forward in the future when they are able to for others.

What did year one of Design For A Difference look like?

DFAD began as a contest where International Design Guild members partnered with a designer and together, they would identify a non-profit in their local community that they felt was deserving of a makeover. IDG offered 4 prizes – one Grand Prize of $25K in goods and services, and four regional prizes of $5K in goods and services.  We had just over 100 entries from across North America.

What changes has DFAD seen over the years?

In year two of the DFAD contest, we identified very quickly that our IDG showrooms and their designers were eager to help non-profits across North America, even if they didn’t win a prize as part of the contest. We had our very first non-contest makeover happen in Indianapolis, Indiana that year, and it created a snowball effect prompting other IDG showrooms across the country looking to do a makeover project in their respective cities to do just that. So, the evolution of the contest to a movement changed the original direction of DFAD. Since then, we have supported our IDG Showrooms as they partner with designers and non-profits for the greater good of their communities.

How has the COVID Pandemic changed things for DFAD?

At the beginning of the pandemic, (mid-March 2020), all projects that were in the works were put on hold. In the first few weeks of COVID, we identified an opportunity to help the community heroes across North America and developed the Design For A Difference – Home Is Where The Heart Is campaign. We stepped back to where DFAD all began with a contest. People could nominate a community hero in their community to win up to a $10K flooring installation and space designed by one of our DFAD Ambassadors or our DFAD Spokesperson. There were 5 prizes – $10K National Winner and four $2,500 Regional Winners.

Michelle O'Brien

About Michelle O’Brien

Michelle O’Brien is a business consultant for the International Design Guild and has been heavily involved with Design For A Difference since its inception in 2012.