IDC Bulletin: Competitive Advantage

Sept. 1, 2007

By Bruce Wardrope

Business leaders across multiple market segments are turning to the power of design to help their organizations rise above the competition.

From boosting productivity to branding a business from top to bottom, design is quickly emerging as a cornerstone
of corporate success. Canada is in the midst of a major building boom; a boom that is showing no signs of slowing down, as evidenced by the office and development booms in Toronto and Calgary; the staggering need for increased healthcare and education facilities across the nation; and a residential development boom in almost every province. 

The result is an increasingly competitive marketplace where consumers have more choices than they have had in a long time. To remain competitive, business owners must make quick, smart decisions that affect their bottom line. Smart business leaders are turning to the power of design to assist them in distinguishing their offerings from others and talented interior designers have become their business partners.

On many street corners, we are met with the familiar sight of hoarding and cranes while the buzz of construction sites has practically become white noise. In this climate of change, businesses need to be ready for movement, as they'll be faced with many attractive options and opportunities.

In corporate office towers, building owners are looking to build sophisticated, efficient, LEED®-certified spaces that will attract Class A tenants. New hotels and restaurants are popping up across the skyline, meaning tourists, business travellers and VIPs alike now have numerous choices for their lodgings. As such, hotel owners need to work harder to maintain their market share.

As retail spaces evolve from the traditional department stores of the past, consumers are seeking cutting-edge retail experiences as their shopping outings have become more than just paying for a product. 

Consumer choice is at an all-time high, and with this level of choice comes higher expectations. Businesses seeking a competitive edge in the corporate, retail or hospitality sectors need to heed the value of design to create innovative offerings.

POSITION YOUR BUSINESS AS AN INNOVATION LEADERThis building boom has created unique opportunities for the design profession-opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs to become leaders in the field. This boom means more opportunities to demonstrate, as professionals, that the projects we undertake are not merely design solutions but rather business solutions founded on the strategic, business objectives of the company that has retained us. Finally, this boom means opportunities to create unique, creative spaces that are safe, efficient, productive, valuable and beautiful.

According to Roger L. Martin and Michael E. Porter, "It is imperative that Canadian firms and governments turn their backs resolutely on a culture of replication and instead embrace innovation, uniqueness and differentiation."1 Demonstrating a commitment to innovation both distinguishes a business and defines it from the competition. Interior designers have the training to identify a group's objectives and to then develop solutions that respond functionally through unique, fresh approaches.    

Good design responds to business objectives in effective, passionate ways. Good design solutions should obviously result in increased productivity and profitability for the business owner, and it is up to interior designers to demonstrate the true value of their skills, which ultimately produce solutions to improve the bottom line. Design, however, should also enhance the life experience and demonstrate a passion for the matter at hand Good design distinguishes the mediocre and mundane from the cream of the crop. It sets a standard that society appreciates. It defines whether a destination is worth travelling to.

When pitching your next project, think competitiveness for your client; think differentiation and innovation; and lastly, think strategic business solution.

Bruce Wardrope is president of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) and a partner in Partners By Design, specializing in corporate design in Manitoba. IDC is located in Toronto, Ontario, and can be reached by calling (416) 594-9310 or by e-mailing [email protected] or visiting the Web site at

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