ASID Update: Creating Partnerships in the Global Marketplace

April 20, 2009

Providing insight and exceptional strategic planning—abilities that are highly coveted in the global marketplace—should enable U.S. designers to leverage their skills domestically and abroad.

Each of us practices interior design in his or her own unique way. Acknowledging that is, in fact, one of the guiding principles for those of us who serve as leaders for ASID. Diversity is one of the healthy attributes of our Society: ASID has more than 40,000 members, working and practicing in every conceivable area of interior design.

Take me for example. I live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but work in Hong Kong and PRC China. I do retail design and brand development. For the past seven years, I have been the consulting brand director and chief designer for a large, publicly-traded jewelry manufacturing and retailing company based in Hong Kong. We have 160 stores in PRC China and 20 in Hong Kong. Currently, I commute to Hong Kong about four or five times a year, for about two weeks at a time, and do my work the rest of the time through the Internet.

When I first read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat, I could easily see myself in his pages. Technology, communications, accessibility—including the up-link dish on the roof of my house—have all contributed to new ways in which we can work. The design teams on the various projects we do are always changing (as do everyone’s) and might include, at any given time, people in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, San Francisco, Seattle, or Paris.

My client in Hong Kong is not so interested in my ability to produce full, working CAD drawings for him. I certainly do all my work in metric and understand the design restrictions for both Hong Kong and PRC China. But putting all the drawing notes, labels and specifications in Chinese? Not so easy. I wisely leave that work to my associates in Hong Kong and China. Besides, the Chinese are highly skilled at copy and production.

This arrangement is typical of a lot of international work. Overseas clients are less interested in our ability to handle all phases of a project. After all, they have in-house and local teams who are very skilled at many of the aspects of interior design work. These clients are much more interested in our thinking. It is our skill and sophistication at strategic planning and conceptual design, especially when it is evidence-based, that they want to tap. And therein lies our value.

I bring value to my client in Hong Kong for exactly the same reason I bring value to my U.S. clients: by providing an understanding of how strategic, evidence-based interior design can create measurable, positive effects within the environments with which we deal. The United States is really the center of the world for state-of-the-art interior design. The world looks to us for new directions, innovations and world-class design solutions. Our creativity and sophisticated understanding of the power of interior design to reshape our environment (for the good) is an advantage we have that we need to leverage more.

The future of interior design here in the United States is more than just “business as usual” with all of our domestic clients, especially in today’s economic climate. There is a new realm of practice emerging that is truly global in nature. It involves bringing strategic thinking and conceptual design to emerging clients around the world who want to bring state-of-the-art thinking to their building projects. They are looking to those of us in the United States to provide that ability.

ASID is positioning itself to help its members succeed in this new world. Besides its depth in interior design education and leadership on issues such as sustainability and design for all ages, ASID is interested in finding ways to connect our members with the larger world of interior design. ASID recently became a full member of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI). IFI is made up of interior design organizations from various countries around the world. They meet once a year to discuss important issues in interior design and use their international position to encourage dialogue among its members. The first step in helping our members work in a “world context” is to form relationships, and a dialog, with designers all over the world and to bring these new relationships to our members. That is what we hope to do with our involvement in IFI.

Meanwhile, I guess this focus on international work will certainly be in the air at ASID this year—particularly with my work-focus and my presidency! It is a wonderful thing that the quality of our work and the strategy of our thinking should be so valued across the world. Perhaps part of our economic recovery from these difficult times can actually be found in this wider context.

ASID president Bruce J. Brigham, FASID, ISP, IES, is an award-winning interior designer and authority on retail and lighting design. He is principal of Retail Clarity Consulting, specializing in retail design and brand development, based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with clients in the United States, Hong Kong and PRC China. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or [email protected], and on the Web at www.asid.org.

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