IDC Bulletin: Redefining the Value of Design

May 19, 2009

A tumultuous economy is no excuse for A&D professionals to stop articulating the importance of the services they offer.

At a time when much of the world is in economic flux, it serves us well to pause and consider the positive attributes of what we do as design professionals. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Interior Designers Institute of BC Awards of Excellence, and the winning entries highlighted at a gala event in Vancouver reinforce the value of what our industry brings to the proverbial table.

A panel of judges from across Canada collectively deemed this year’s body of work to be of a caliber on par with any other interior design competition program held nationally or internationally. A record number of submissions were received, all demonstrating a high level of design excellence. Our industry has matured tremendously and clearly embraces a changing technological, social and environmental world.

High praise indeed, considering the state of the design profession in years past.

But times have changed. The end of the boom cycle and the onslaught of an economic correction means that, as designers, we need to address the recent shift in order to preserve our own status and value as professionals. By redefining ourselves and acknowledging this new reality, we will be better prepared to address the current situation without introducing unnecessary turmoil within the design community.

So how do we reinforce and refresh the value of design?

There are some obvious approaches based on historical precedent: when the going gets tough, the tough get innovative. Clearly, the mandate of any creative endeavor is to produce better results by introducing new ideas that also address satisfying unmet needs. This is not the time to retreat and reverse courses, although there is a tendency to adopt such attitudes when making necessary adjustments in any venture.

Although expectations may be lowered on both sides of the fence, we have a responsibility to demonstrate a higher level of resolve in what we do, whatever the situation. Working smarter, adopting collaborative strategies, and maintaining a rigorous focus on problem solving, at all levels of the design process, will set the foundation for any effective outcome. Justifiable thrift is the embodiment of efficient time and financial management, and should also be part of any design language in project output.

A fundamental change in attitude that promotes responsibility and adaptability has already begun, and for designers, we should seize the moment and use this as an opportunity to elevate the bar in what we do to build better environments. More than ever, our work will be results driven, and we need to employ the best procedures in our practice of design to underscore our creativity, innovation and substance.

Despite the challenges that accompany recessionary times, we must focus on maintaining our value message by working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure a stronger and brighter future in design. There is a call for our profession to prove to our audience, and to ourselves, that we can be a fundamental part of any recovery. By articulating how we plan to contribute, whether in good or not so good times, we guarantee our continued involvement as a profession that will deliver inventive, sustainable and enduring value.

Jim Toy is the principal and founder of False Creek Design Group (FCDG). FCDG is known for responsible and sustainable design and was one of the first LEED-accredited interior design firms in Vancouver. More information about IDC can be found at www.interiordesigncanada.org.

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