Design Collaboration

July 1, 2003
Lewis Goetz, FAIA, FIIDA

Design Collaboration

Recent international cycles of economic and social plight have been a major catalyst in changing the way that interior design firms practice. People are innately forced to refocus and search for elements of security when the environment they live in becomes less predictable. Nationally after 9-11, the sense of fear and self-reevaluation that became culturally instilled in corporate firms caused people to search for commonness; therefore, new levels of respect and cooperation were fostered. Collaborating with colleagues on the interest of design excellence strengthens the design profession as a whole by creating a sense of community. Most exemplary of this new business attitude are the submissions for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center (WTC). Multiple signature firms worked together as single teams to achieve the best possible solution. Collaboration in conjunction with seamless, horizontal networking has become prevalent both within individual firms and in association with outside firms as well as other industry segments. Given the balance of practical and creative aspects of design, embracing the natural innovation and the financial benefits that stems from collaboration is a good fit. InnovationEffective collaboration begins with innovation. Innovative design, thinking and practice is often a conglomerate of individual ideas strengthened through constructive discussion and learning. By giving different designers the ability to work together, the synthesis of their new ideas leads to pioneering results. In order to be successful, collaboration must begin by specifying design complexities and recording clear project objectives. If followed, intra-firm cooperation can be economically efficient with active participation on all professional levels. Each party would have a vested interest in the result, share the same project vision, and experience the rewards. New professional relationships are secured; thus, collaboration generates trust. Knowing the motivational effects this can have on an individual and, moreover, the work environment, firms would be at a loss to circumscribe employees to minimal levels of input. If the goal of a firm is to offer a client the best possible signature design, utilizing employee power is a part of the best solution. IIDA echoes this model of participation. The association is dedicated to establishing a community of professionals who continue to build the body of knowledge for the interior design profession. IIDA programs integrate not only professional members, but also student, industry individuals, corporate, design firms and design schools. This microcosm echoes the designer's collaborative world while providing fluid access to innovation in design trends and timely issues.ResourcefulnessEffectively capitalizing on resources—human, natural and material—is critical to a firm's success under any circumstances, but especially critical to successful collaboration. All corporate sectors, like the banking, retail and legal fields, have discovered the benefits of merging resources. Interior design is luckily flexible enough that acquisition is not the only way to combat scarcity. Sometimes providing all services in-house is not the most profitable or marketable manner of doing business. Designers are able to work with contractors and researchers in a parallel manner to quickly execute ideas while ensuring maximum quality based on professional specialty. For instance, The USA Today/ Gannet Headquarters in McLean, VA, was executed through the alliance of Kohn Pederson and Fox Architects and Lehman Smith McLeish, who were responsible for the interiors. Georgetown University Law Center International Library, classroom building and fitness center were developed through the partnership of Ellerbe, Shepley Bulfinch, and Group Goetz Architects. Collaboration has gained prominence in the government sector through programs like GSA's "Design Excellence." The competitive spirit has cajoled firms to seek out the best in each area to submit for top honors and the opportunity to work on esteemed government projects.The market for products that help facilitate collaboration predicts the continuing popularity of partnership between specialists. For example, on-line collaboration allows manufacturers, designers and contractors to quickly view project updates, list complications and make efficient, well-informed decisions. While the prevalence of on-line tools and others are still being researched, certainly they make collaboration a symbiotic relationship. Design is able to refrain from becoming a commonplace commodity through effective alliances, thus guaranteeing its place within the realm of artistic expression through best business practices. Clients will appreciate the cost-effective model, and designers will have experience working with leaders across the field. IIDA too remains fully committed to the possibility of strategic alliances with other associations and has collaborated with other design organizations like AIA, IFMA, IDEC, FIDER, ASID, SMPS and NCIDQ to offer members of the community the opportunity to learn from dedicated professionals. The association's commitment to continuing education and advocacy through exemplary programming and solidified partnership mimics the necessity of strategic alignment design firms are encouraging today. IIDA president Lewis Goetz, FAIA, FIIDA, is founding principal/CEO of Group Goetz Architects, Washington, DC. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at The Merchandise Mart, Chicago, and can be reached at (888) 799-IIDA or by visiting

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