Portrait of Roby Isaac
Courtesy Roby Isaac

Roby Isaac Is Building a More Diverse Product Design Landscape

With strategies ranging from artist collaborations to recruitment, Roby Isaac, vice president of commercial design for Mannington Mills, hopes to pave the way for the next generation.

Perhaps Roby Isaac’s refreshing approach to product design comes from the fact that he still recalls his youth as “an inner-city kid,” even now that he is currently calling the shots on new collections for flooring manufacturer Mannington. When the company adds talent, Isaac says his team does look for design school grads with a focus on
textiles, but is also willing to teach.

“If you have the design foundations, we can teach the tricks of our trade regarding manufacturing, digital software, et cetera,” Isaac says. As an established industry player, Mannington tends to collaborate with multiple design firms. “That’s how we’re able to reach out to up-and-coming firms that do really beautiful work,” he says.

He gets most excited about the company’s unconventional collaborations, such as a series of partnerships with artists, including fiber artist Gabriel Dawe. “We connect with these artists and try to transpose their concepts into [a collection of] four patterns.” The collaboration with Dawe birthed the Moiré Collection, which combines patterning and ethereally gradated colors for broadloom and modular carpet. “We’re trying to find this balance of art and design,” Isaac says.

Flooring collection
Courtesy Mannington Mills

As for diversity in the industry, Isaac believes one solution is early intervention to expose more students to design. Mannington Mills is working with the International Interior Design Association’s Design Your World Pilot Program for BIPOC students. The program is a six-week summer practicum for underserved teens designed to address barriers in design education. The program welcomed its first class of students on July 6. “I was a kid who didn’t know anything about art and design, except that I just liked to draw, and there are people in my life who were unknowingly mentors. That helped me see things differently,” Isaac says.

Under leadership from vice president of commercial design Roby Isaac, Mannington Mills has partnered with artists for a fresh take on flooring. Googie was developed in-house by the Mannington Commercial Studio. Moiré echoes installations by fiber artist Gabriel Dawe. Courtesy Mannington Mills

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