Interior Design as Strategy
A dialogue on the strategic value of interior design
By René Ng
Issue 4 Summer 2010
Renovation programs on TV have undoubtedly made the general public more aware of the built environment. However, the time and thought processes behind interior design is often left on the cutting room floor leaving the profession hugely undervalued and decoration mistaken for design. A wise professor, from Ryerson University’s School of Interior Design in Toronto, once said, “Interior designers must also know half of what an architect knows and a quarter of what an engineer knows, but they get half the pay and a quarter of the respect.”
Interior design or interior architecture, as it is known in Europe, is responsible for most of the spaces we live, work, and play in. Everything, from the overall layout of rooms down to the exact location of the toilet paper dispenser, has been thought-out and strategically planned by an interior designer to add value.
A well-designed space will maximize the use of real estate through efficient space planning, incorporate appropriate levels of natural and artificial lighting, and use non-toxic materials. For companies, this means increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and well-being. The space can also be considered an extension of a company’s values and identity, translating into teambuilding within, and customer loyalty through brand cohesiveness.
Unbeknownst to the masses, an interior designer’s job is to “protect and enhance the health, life safety, and welfare of the public,” as defined by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). Through this tenet, a designer will have applied occupational and safety standards, including accessibility requirements of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), national and regional fire safety and building codes, and ergonomics. Someone in a wheelchair will be able to use the space freely. People will be able to make a quick and unobstructed dash for the exit in the event of a fire. Employees will not hurt or strain themselves on the job due to poorly designed furniture.
Recognizing that the construction industry is responsible for so much of the world’s waste, headways are being made throughout the trade and interior designers are in a position to encourage environmental sustainability. We can push our engineers to use more efficient electrical and mechanical systems. We can source more local, sustainable, and non-toxic furniture, equipment, and finishes. We can design more beautiful, timeless, and durable spaces instead of staying on trend only to demolish and rebuild every five years. To the public, we are purveyors of things cool and pretty, so we are duly responsible to introduce these responsible practices in order for them to become the norm. Interior designers can probably tell you where to put the sofa in your tiny condo and select curtains to match, but interior designers are positioned do so much more, for profit, people, and planet.
René is an interior designer with experience in retail, hospitality, commercial, and exhibit design. He has contributed to projects appearing in both FRAME and Objekt magazines. Based in Toronto, he is also currently a Design Management student at Pratt.