Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Rush for Regulation

In my last blog l wrote that the Society of British Interior Designers (SBID) and the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) had announced developments with regard to establishing recognised criteria for interior design qualifications. Since then an article in idfx issue 141 mentions that the Interior Design Association (IDA) is also making new efforts to forge better links between interior design education and industry, and in their Annual Review the outgoing president of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) mentions that a professional practice qualification is being developed.

It is difficult to see how 4 bodies purporting to represent the profession of interior design in aiming to develop their own individual qualification requirements are really contributing to strengthening the industry and thus producing clarification of it in the eyes of the public. ln my humble opinion the only real way forward would be for the SBID, IDA, BIID and CSD to get together and organise the best from each to form a strong cohesive organisation representing all aspects of interior design. The CSD represents more than just interior designers so perhaps the new organisation could be called the Royal Institution of Chartered Designers. The problem with this idea is that personal agendas and egos will always be an obstruction to such a development. Recently l ventured my opinion to a very experienced and wise colleague who amongst his duties advises the Government on the development of the creative industries. In line with his worldly experience he replied that it is only in times of real crisis that people in situations such as this set aside their personal ambitions and work together for the good of the cause in trouble.

l can't justify longing for a crisis in the industry and l can't change human nature so l stand on the sidelines watching the scramble for (personal) glory continue at the expense of developing the industry to which, after training for 5 years at Art College and University l have given almost 30 years of my life. An industry for which l have great passion and for which l dearly wish to see public recognition and validation and government regulation. Unfortunately l don't think it will happen in my lifetime.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Regulating the Regulators!

In the May/June issue of Interior Design Today Jim Rankin writes about the necessity for clients to know that a designer is accredited through one of the (ever growing) number of industry bodies for the design profession in the UK. He writes that although as yet there is not one single body which can truly regulate the industry he believes it will soon come. However events these past weeks indicate that the confusion is set to continue.

In the same issue of the same magazine the Society of British Interior Designers announce that they have been selected by the Interior Educators Organisation to help advise the UK’s leading universities and design courses on providing students with experience and connections to the interior design industry. This work goes hand in hand with their declared aim to ‘establish a UK-wide individual accreditation system for individual interior designers’. And on the 24th May the Chartered Society of Designers sent out a press release announcing as the first stage of their new education initiative they have accredited their first design course. At present neither the British Institute of Interior Design nor the Interior Design Association accredit any design courses.

Apparently the UK interior design industry has an annual turnover of £11.6 billion and employs over 185,500 designers. Currently there are some 60,000 students studying to become designers, although most of them are training for jobs which presently do not exist. There is no doubt in my mind that regulation is much needed. It is my opinion that the best way forward would be for all 4 Interior Design organisations to undertake discussions with each other to work out a united plan to provide the industry with regulation for the different aspects of the profession, such as residential, hospitality, retail and office design. Duplication by the various industry bodies does nothing to elevate the profession and if progress continues along the lines it is developing there is a good chance the public will be even less inclined to take the profession seriously.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Unification of Services

l noticed whilst deciding which events l want to attend during the impending London Festival of Architecture - sponsored by the Arts Council of England, Land Securities, London Development Agency, The Architecture Foundation, NLA and RIBA - that no mention was made of any interiors, nor had the Festival received the backing of any of the 4 professional bodies purporting to represent interior design. Interior design appears to be divorced from architecture when in fact the two really go hand in hand. Whilst it is generally accepted that architects are responsible for everything integral to the structure and included in the builder's contract and interior designers are responsible for everything movable there are important areas of overlap: lighting, bath and kitchen fittings, hardware, wood species and finishes for floors and cabinetry, paint colours and special wall and ceiling treatments.

Last week l had a long discussion with a prospective client whose solution to coping with the confusion, threatening lawsuits and general stress of realising a highly ambitious residential building project was to look for someone to employ as a mediator. Architects, project managers and surveyors had all fallen by the wayside before the first trench had been dug. The interior designers were not planned to enter the arena until the construction work had been completed. The client was looking for someone to carry the burden of the project. Unrealistic and too late. Why l wonder do we keep the professions apart? Shouldn't they be working together?

Wouldn't it be best from the outset to facilitate collaboration between all the professionals involved? Outlining the scope for each service, highlighting tasks that require collaboration and stipulating start and completion dates would give any project a much better chance of being successful, reduce stress and ultimately better serve the interest of our clients as well as ourselves.

In: collaboration between all the professional services involved.
Out: working in isolation and paPublish Postssing the buck.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Insurance Matters

This week l have been approached by an interior designer who has been practising in Milan for the past six years. She wanted my advice on how to set up her business in London. During the conversation l asked her if she had PI and PL insurance. l explained that Professional Indemnity insurance is to protect the designer from the consequences of serious professional mistakes and Public Liability is to insure the designer against causing personal injury. Needless to say she had no idea that she could either be held legally responsible for such situations or that it is possible -and essential- to insure oneself in this way.

l remembered an incident, years ago, when an interior designer l knew was responsible for the carpeting of a five floor house. Measurements were taken and plans drawn up on standard tracing paper and then a photo copy was made and given to the carpet fitters who decided that because such huge quantities were involved they would cut out the basic room pieces in the warehouse, roll them up, label them and deliver them to site to fit. Imagine the horror when it transpired that the photocopy was made with the tracing paper facing the wrong way up and all the rooms had been reversed. (Apparently the labelling had been added to the copy afterwards.) PI insurance came to the rescue.

And then there was the time my grandmother fell over the gas man's bag where he had left it in her sitting room when he went to read the gas meter and she broke her risk. The Gas Board's PL insurance was invaluable.

The smallest mistake can have expensive consequences and whilst none of us ever want to be in the position of having to claim on our insurance policies it is our duty to ourselves and to our clients to have them in place.

IN: Designers who carry PI and PL insurance.
OUT: Designers who don't. Ignorance is no excuse!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Shattered Hopes

For some years now it has been my desire to see interior design recognised by the public as a profession and as such subject to regulation. It is my belief that interior design, real interior design not cushion shuffling, is worthy of being ranked alongside architecture and chartered surveying. Today students are undertaking 3 - 5 year university courses in the subject and when they practice operate with the appropriate Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurance and continuous professional development requirements in line with the two professions l have already mentioned. However, this week l have had to face up to the reality that there is no likelihood of this happening during my career and possibly lifetime. This month's Interior Design Today magazine features an article on the two newest bodies set up to represent interior designers: the SBID and IDA which along with the CSD and BIID now makes a total of four!

Many of my colleagues agree with me that these developments only serve to further confuse the public and dilute the industry's standing. Unless and until the SBID, IDA, CSD and BIID (and any other newcomers in the intervening period) get together and formulate a single body to represent all aspects of interior design the likelihood of the industry becoming recognised as a profession will remain improbable.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Using a Designer

This week l have been talking to my colleague James Charles about the reasons clients make the decision to hire a designer. We came to the conclusion that clients usually have one of the following reasons for engaging a professional: they appreciate good design and want the input of a professional; they are time poor; they recognize that they do not have the ability to produce attractive and suitable solutions themselves; they want a designer to create spaces which express their life style.

The Client-Designer relationship is intended to be highly beneficial. Clients will achieve the best results if they allow their designers to do what they do best and let them use their expertise. Some find this difficult, after all in the instance of a residential interior a person's home is at stake and this can be highly emotive. If clients are able to maintain a 'hands off' approach they will contribute hugely to enabling the designer to achieve solutions which exceed their expectations.

Once the project is underway the 'hands off' approach for a client can become even more challenging. It might help to remember that paint is paint and fabric is fabric. Design evolves, and whilst the first stages might seem to be lacking cohesion all will fall into place by the final stage.

Try to enjoy the journey even though a design project is one time when the importance rests almost entirely on the destination.

IN: Clients who maintain a 'hands off' approach.

OUT: Clients who want to control the design decisions.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Intelligent Design: Concept or Theme?

It's my belief that good design is only possible if it is inspired by an excellent concept. A concept is quite different from a theme. l have witnessed many projects inspired by a theme: Greek pillars, Egyptian mummies, the proverbial blue and terracotta of Morocco and so on. But for me these spaces usually have none of the criteria by which l would define professional interior design.

So what do l mean when l talk about concept? Examples are probably the best way to elaborate. A colleague of mine recently completed a very smart Japanese restaurant. Her concept was an ear of rice and water. Rice is the staple diet of Japan and cannot grow without plenty of water. When ready for harvest the ears of rice shine gold so she used gold for the main colour and added contrast by using dark oak and black and white. The flow of water has inspired the fringes which circle the lighting and hang down from the ceiling in the dining area and also the beautifully curved shape of the plates. True to the concept the ears of rice provided inspiration for the logo of the restaurant. The result is a beautiful sophisticated space and a true example of everything that any self-respecting interior designer aims to achieve.

Similarly a couple of years ago when l had been asked to transform a TudorBethan themed space into a Thai restaurant l was inspired on a visit to an exhibition by a photograph taken by Andy Small of a beautiful orchid which to me epitomized all that is Thai. Ultimately the entire interior of the restaurant and the logo related to that photograph. http://www.andysmall.co.uk/

IN: Design inspired by a concept.

OUT: Interiors inspired by a Theme.