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In Memoriam: Richard James Lewis, FRDI, 1950-2022

Note: Richard’s family is planning a memorial in his honor with a date and time to be announced.

Richard James Lewis, 72, passed away suddenly on August 24, 2022, with his wife Tanya, and daughter Lauren, by his side. In his long design career, Lewis was a leader, speaker, advisor, collaborator, mentor, and an award-winning designer.

Lewis joined the Institute in 1978 (then the Institute of Store Planners) through the Los Angeles Chapter. He would go on to serve as its Chapter President and later serve four years as International President followed by two years as International Chairman. As International President, he conceptualized and produced two conferences on Retail/Entertainment in Las Vegas. He was an early proponent of UX -- user experience, guest experience, and customer journey. For his many contributions to the Institute, Lewis was named a Fellow.

His extensive experience ranged from consumer environments for location-based retail entertainment, including transportation hubs to airports, theme parks, shopping centers, hotels, department stores, and mixed-use projects. His clients included Disney, Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Isetan, Daimaru, Metro Gaisano, DFS Galleria, Hilton, Hard Rock Cafe, Eatzi's, MGM Grand, FPCO, Swiss Airlines-Nuance Global Traders, Far Eastern Department Store, De Bijenkorf, Vroom & Dreesman, and Printemps.

Said Linda Kruger, “Jerry (Gelsomino) and I first met Richard during an ISP function in NYC. He was immediately welcoming and congenial. In later years I had the opportunity to collaborate with Richard on several projects for retail in Japan, Indonesia, and China. Throughout our work together, he was a brilliant collaborator, and very hands-on in producing solutions and presentations. Very much a team player. On a personal level, he was open, kind, and ready with a smile or a chuckle. Much of what he held dear were his wife Tanya and daughter Lauren as well as close friends. Most of the time we’ve known Richard many miles have been between us, but we stayed in touch and the occasional catch-up was always welcome. Learning of his passing has left a hole. It was just too soon to be without him.”

Added Jerry Gelsomino, FRDI, “Richard was a true friend and passionate collaborator. He was very supportive of us as we decided to move to the West Coast design community. Richard always had a positive attitude about life, both professionally and personally. His passing leaves a big void in the world of those that knew and respected him.”

Our thanks to Lauren Lewis for providing additional history about Richard’s education and career.

Born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Elmwood Park, Richard found his love and passion for art and design at an early age. His academic studies began at the Art Institute of Chicago, later graduating with honors in Environmental Design from the renowned ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., thanks to a full tuition scholarship from the Ford Motor Company.

Richard’s artistic career took him all around the world -- Paris, Guam, Korea, the United Kingdom, and New York -- among other stops, where he made many friends. He was invited to Amsterdam to work for De Bijenkorf Department Store Group, the operators of the luxury De Bijenkorf department store founded in 1870. He was quickly named senior designer and an influencer of the design staff, creating the master plan for the reorganization of the Amsterdam flagship. Soon after, he moved to San Francisco to begin a new chapter as a design director, and the eventual founding of TSL Design Group. He worked independently as a consultant and design principal for CJ2 Design Associates, a design/build firm, traveling back and forth from his home in Los Angeles to Shanghai, China.

He was most content when seated at his drafting table, a roll of tracing paper at his side and a micropen in hand. He would stay up late drafting, the smell of marker and warm lamplight emanating from his room as he planned and dreamt up new, beautiful pathways into the realm of retail design. No challenge was too large and no project was too small for his unwavering attention to detail.

Richard was a most generous and loving husband and father – gentle, kind, and accepting of everyone. He was most proud of his and Tanya’s daughter Lauren, with whom he shared his creative talent, artistic backbone, and a well-honed bent for sharpened humor.

Richard left this earth far too soon, but with his departure left behind a sea of beautiful designs, unbreakable bonds, rich stories, and limitless laughter. Saying he will be missed is the greatest understatement.

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