Healthcare Design interviewed four leading product designers who shed light on the healthcare challenges they’re working to solve and the inspiration that guides them. Here, Lori Roop from CF Stinson shares her story.

Name: Lori Roop
director of design, CF Stinson
Location: Kennebunk, Maine
Years working in design: 27
Years in current role: 7
Product categories: upholstery, privacy curtains, vertical surface fabrics
Market segments: healthcare, corporate, education, hospitality

Healthcare Design: Share a little about your professional background and what drew you to a career in design.
Lori Roop: I had the extreme good fortune to work for textile designer Mark Pollack for almost 12 years at his firm, Pollack, in New York City. Mark is one of the most well-respected designers in our industry. Working [there] during my formative years as a designer definitely influenced my creative process and pushed me to expect a certain level of excellence in product design. After leaving New York for a different quality of life, I became a consultant based in Kennebunk, Maine, and worked with many great companies in the U.S. and abroad. Stinson was an early client and always great to work with.

How did you become interested in product design, specifically?
The practicality of my parents may have pushed me in the direction of product design. As a student at Rhode Island School of Design, I was pulled in a lot of different directions and the allure of the fine arts departments was strong. When it came time to declaring a major, I had to make a strong case to my parents that a paying job was in my future. A textile design degree seemed to fit everyone’s requirements. Once immersed, I became interested in utilitarian fabric design and all its requirements. I guess I’m a little practical, too. Making beautiful textiles is truly fun but making them useful is really satisfying.

Tell us about your current role.
In 2012, Stinson decided to move away from consultants and form its own design studio. Our relationship was solidified when they offered me the director of design position. Since officially joining the team, the Stinson line has been undergoing a lot of change. It’s super exciting as a designer to craft these changes and keep pushing the limits. I oversee all product development at Stinson and help with bringing that product to market. We have a phenomenal designer, Lauren Kidwell, who works in our Maine studio, and together we generate product for the healthcare, corporate, education, and hospitality markets.

Describe the first time you worked on a healthcare product. What did you learn from that process/experience?
One of the first healthcare products I worked on was a digitally printed vinyl. I was so dazzled by the prospect of using as many colors as I wanted that I designed myself right into a labor-intensive corner. The pattern used approximately 24 colors, and back then we had to specify color with actual paper chips. We wanted to try out 16 to 20 combinations, so I searched for nearly 400 individual chips. That painful exercise taught me to design smarter, with the process in mind.

How is healthcare different from other sectors?
Healthcare interiors are some of the toughest environments that we design for. The base requirements for durability and cleanability of textiles are very high. When you layer on top an interior designer’s vision for sustainability and/or human health and wellness, it becomes a careful balancing act. Designing for healthcare pushes us in a great way and has inspired some of our most innovative product.

What challenges do you frequently hear from clients, and how are you working to solve them?
The most common challenge we hear is finding product that meets all the performance and environmental criteria that I just mentioned but is also aesthetically beautiful. Figuring that out is the work of real textile designers—we love that challenge. For example, some of the most stringent environments we design for require coated fabrics only. Coated fabrics don’t have the inherent luscious quality that woven textiles have, so it becomes our work to design in the beauty. We start with a durable and cleanable base and add design motifs and visual texture that work in conjunction with embossed textures to create a new rich surface.

What’s the biggest healthcare-related issue on your radar right now?
There’s a lot of change happening in healthcare regarding textiles, such as new environmental and human health expectations being established every year on a federal level, a state level, and even on an individual design firm level. Important changes, but most require a product pivot. I think the overriding challenge for us is getting things to sync up a bit more. For example, design firms are using many standards to measure fabrics for environmental and human health impact, so we’re working to find ways to best communicate our fabrics’ attributes to everyone. We’re also working to sync up developments in chemistry that can help fabrics be more durable or cleanable, with the desire for less chemistry overall. Traditionally, many performance fabrics made use of per fluorinated compound (PFC) stain repellant finishes, which made fabrics highly cleanable and stain repellant. With the shift away from PFCs in some environments, we’ve needed to co-develop sources for fluorine-free finishes that are still highly cleanable and stain resistant. There are also things that can be done on a fiber level to advance the cause. The chemistry is definitely catching up to the demands of the marketplace.

What inspires you? Give us a snapshot of your creative process.
Though it’s a cliché, inspiration really is everywhere. Reflections in an ugly puddle or metal scaffolding might inspire me one day. A beautiful twig outside our studio might provide the next day’s inspiration. Often a new yarn might spark an idea for a woven textile, or a new printing technique using layers might direct a coated fabric design. My favorite way to work is to develop an overriding theme and design a collection around that concept. I love developing fabrics from the ground up and starting with a story keeps the development connected in spirit and can carry right on through to our presentations to designers.

Is there one healthcare product you’ve designed that stands out to you?
I worked for several years on a collection that was introduced in 2004 called “Funnybone.” The concept was to create positive distractions in fabric form for young people finding themselves in healthcare situations. For example, the pattern “I Spy” at first glance is a woven texture of line work but upon closer inspection is bursting with hand-drawn objects. The pattern “Knock Knock” is a stripe that has a joke in each stripe. My kids were young when I started the group and they got involved, so it holds some special memories for me.

What do you hope to have the opportunity to design in the future?
I would really like to design something that feels totally new and breaks away from the current zeitgeist. For example, I love the softness and approachability of the “resimercial” trend, but it isn’t really new; it’s reworking what’s been popular in residential design. I’m interested in what can be done with that trend to make it feel truly fresh. It also seems like every new geometric that hits the streets reminds me of an older geometric. It’s really difficult to design something that feels fully original, but it’s an important goal. Maybe it’s going to come from strong collaboration— when people come together from different sectors, sometimes sparks fly.

Jennifer Kovacs Silvis is editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at