CCAD Stories: it's a busy life for Conor Heisler

Influencers | What He's Listening To | Flying High | Deconstructing Crane

Conor Heisler is busy.

Not only is Conor a standout Interior Design (2019) major, excited about built environments and construction, he also co-captains Columbus College of Art & Design’s basketball team, the Night Owls; is getting ready to model in this spring’s Senior Fashion Show; works two on-campus jobs (in our Tad Jeffrey FabLab and in the Facilities department); and lends his acting skills to the filmmaking of his friends in Cinematic Arts, too.

“It’s hard. I was constantly told last semester, ’You’ve got to chill, man.’ — and I did the Art Fair last semester, too,” said Heisler.

But, he said, “I guess it’s just in me. I have to keep going. I’m impatient, I’m energetic. I grew up going to practice every day from age six on. … Athletics were the biggest part of my life until I decided to go with art, but I need that (discipline) still, and I have to do that through drowning myself in activities, but it’s fun. I love all of the experiences, and that’s it: I just want to experience as much as I can.”

Yup. He's busy — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

conor heisler headshot

Photo by CCAD Student Agency photographer Gail Shamon

After growing up in Cleveland, he knew he wanted to attend art school and was quickly sold on CCAD.

The college “was just awesome,” he said. “One thing that really got me was the architecture. The Crane Center is awesome … and I just love the campus feel.”

Good thing. Although he honed his photographic skills in high school, Heisler decided to take another route in college, landing on Interior Design (which is, as luck would have it, headquartered in the Loann Crane Center for Design).

Heisler comes by his love of interior design honestly.

“My dad (John) is a handyman and I’ve been working with him my whole life on projects," Heisler said. "My mom (Barb) is into interior design and she just had these magazines laying around, and anytime my dad had a project, he could be going through walls, going through the floors, and then the next day it would be my mom saying, ’Look at this magazine. Do you like that? Because we’ve got to switch this room up.’ So it was both: It was organizing a space for the flow (it was never decorating), and it was like, ’OK, we’ve got to take this wall down,’ so I was immersed in it from when I was born.”

In fact, he said, his father just refinished the family basement for the fourth time.

Little wonder the Heislers’ home was always under construction: The pair were raising five sometimes rambunctious children. There’s J.C., the eldest, a Cincinnati resident with five children of his own; Bridget, 32, now a Roman Catholic nun living in New York; Danny, 32, director of operations for Aries Building Systems, in Washington, D.C.; Rachel, 28, who has multiple handicaps and is supported by Heisler’s parents in Cleveland; and Conor, 20.

Money has been tight in a family of that size — Heisler became financially independent at age 18 — but his parents have provided emotional support, and Heisler is grateful for his brothers and sisters.

“I loved growing up with siblings … I wouldn’t change anything,” Heisler said.

Now as an Interior Design student, Heisler has developed a “calculated and simple” aesthetic with an emphasis on rustic, masculine, and minimal elements.

“Less is more, you know?” he said.

And he has gotten to explore his adopted hometown with an architect’s eye.

“I think Columbus has a lot of cool houses … and I think Columbus does very good when it comes to renovation, taking an old building and utilizing it again. There are bars all over the place that used to be factories; the Design Studios on Broad used to be a car showcase,” Heisler said. “This whole city is an inspiration."

Conor Heisler (Interior Design, 2019) didn’t go around in circles when tackling his Design Methods Studio assignment last semester.

The task: Design a space of no more than 200 square feet for a specific person.

He chose a friend and fellow CCAD student, Illustration major Olivia Saunders, a multi-time New Jersey state champ in cycling (road racing, cyclocross, and velodrome are all among her specialties).

As they envisioned it, Flying Spokes would be a shop for cyclists looking for bikes, bicycles, repair services, and the latest and greatest gear.

“Olivia is from Jersey, so we pictured this as being on the boardwalk. And we wanted to go with an aesthetic of, like, wood tone and black steel — sort of industrial looking,” he said.

It can sometimes take many iterations to get the perfect design, but Heisler got it right away.

“I drew the first image of the bike shop right there, in that moment. So this is the first concept of it, which we decided to go with. ... Usually, the research would come before this, but we had such a firm grasp on what we wanted to do, that I just started drawing,” he recalled.

conor heisler bike shop sketch

One particularly cool element: An oversized horizontal bifold door with slats, a garage door sized-structure that hinges up like an awning, blurring the line between inside and out. That was important, given the project’s small footprint.

And Heisler developed another way to find space within the limits they were given. He looked up. Way up, envisioning a pulley system to store bikes, virtually doubling the shop’s square footage.

conor heisler image
conor heisler sketch

“I was trying to figure out, ’how am I going to put storage in here? How am I going to get people walking through here? How am I going to get merchandise in here?” — and also have bikes here. So that was the whole ’Flying Spokes’ thing — let’s put bikes in the air, let's get them up there.”

Ultimately, he says, his biggest takeaway from the six-week-plus project is that “the flow of the space is very important, and compromising that is compromising your business. So that’s what I took away, understanding how to find a balance so that you know people … aren’t discouraged to walk in.”

Conor Heisler's Top 5 Creative Influencers:

JC Heisler, trumpet soloist, composer, and teacher (and Conor's eldest brother) | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook |

Gregory Crewdson, photographer and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at the Yale School of Art | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook |

Jean Louis-Deniot, architect, interior designer, and furniture designer | Instagram | Twitter |

David Fincher, director and producer

Donald Glover, actor, writer, producer, director, comedian, rapper, and songwriter | Instagram | Twitter| Facebook |

Music to Create to: A Spotify Playlist from Conor Heisler


As a high school junior visiting Columbus College of Art & Design from Cleveland, Conor Heisler (Interior Design, 2019) was immediately enamored with the Loann Crane Center for Design. Lucky him, as an Interior Design student, most of his classes take place in the Crane Center, which was constructed in 2005. Below, he discusses some of the things that make the building particularly remarkable.

crane center sketch

Loann Crane Center for Design: My favorite part of the Loann Crane Center for Design building is that it is the place where everybody comes to, so inevitably connections are made here all the time. If I have meetings, where am I going? I'm going to the Crane Center. If I want to get something to eat, I'm going to the Crane Center. If I want to hang with my friends, I'm going to the Crane Center. I like that it's a social hub on campus and I like that it's the rendezvous point for everybody.

Lobby: The lobby is so comfortable and welcoming. I love the window on the southern side, the natural lighting it creates, and the way they used material for the floor based off the fact that the window’s there and they knew it was going to conduct heat.

Third Floor: I love the third floor. The third floor, when I walked up there when I was in high school, and I was like, “This is cool, this is professional.” I pictured a bunch of people sitting on the steps, doing critiques all day. The Crane building, man, it sold me.

Studio Space: I’ve had a studio space on the second floor of Crane since I got here two Augusts ago. Obviously, another reason I love this building is because Interior's up here. This is my home.

Read more in our series CCAD Stories. Discover more about the CCAD Student Agency here. Learn more about CCAD's Interior Design program or apply here.