THE INTERIOR DESIGN INDUSTRY IS UNDERGOING ALL
THE POSITIVE SIGNS OF RECESSION RECOVERY: more
designers being hired; an upsurge in the number of U.S. design firms; and
increases in total sales and the dollar value of products specified.
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) recently engaged
more than 200 practicing interior designers to produce its Interior Design
2015/2016 Outlook and State of the Industry report. According to the data
gathered, the industry is experiencing a healthy recovery, as well as a return
to a pre-recession demand—and lots of change. The number of designers
and design firms may be back to (or ahead of ) 2007 figures, but that
doesn’t mean the industry will mirror the way things were eight years ago.
As interior design experiences a revival, it also sees an evolution.
This theme also was evident in the very first ASID Think Tank Challenge,
which gathered design thought leaders from cutting-edge firms and a variety of
disciplines to discuss six emerging macro-trends identified in the ASID report:
1. Health & Well-Being
Confirming the rise of these macro-trends, Think Tank Challenge
participants made it clear that the boundaries of interior design are
expanding. Interior designers are being asked to solve far more complex
problems than in the past. Through their work, they have the ability to
improve health, impact learning, increase productivity, influence tenant
and occupant satisfaction, inspire emotion, elevate the senses, and capture
a sense of community.
To handle this shift, interior design
is taking an interdisciplinary approach
to create better spaces and meet client
demands and, in the process, the designer
often is the maestro of a finely orchestrated
plan that pushes well beyond the traditional
world of interiors.
“Steve Jobs talked about end-to-end control
over the user experience,” says Lisa Henry,
CEO of Greenway Group. “That kind of
thinking is translating to interior design.”
Traditionally, the term “interdisciplinary
design” referred to architects, designers,
engineers, facilities managers, and manufacturers working collectively on a specific
project that crossed multiple disciplines
and often was driven by project complexity.
“LEED [certification from the U.S. Green
Building Council] helped improve aware-
ness of the importance of early interdisci-
plinary project collaboration, especially with
Platinum certification projects,” she adds.
“I don’t think any LEED Platinum project
could be completed without an interdisci-
plinary design approach.”
Today, however, Henry is seeing a
A much broader
services is coming
more than the
design now refers
to having control of
the whole process
for your clients and
much broader aggregation of services coming together. “It encompasses
much more than the built environment,” she explains. “Interdisciplinary
design now refers to having control of the whole experience for your
clients and their clients.”
For example, healthcare design firms bring not only architecture,
design, and engineering professionals together, but add branding, market-
ing, and content creators to help healthcare facilities redefine messaging
and incorporate it into a facility’s design. Often, medical professionals
(former physicians or nurses) are brought in as well. With unique involve-
ment in hospital settings, they understand the needs of healthcare staff and
patients from personal experience. Incorporating this perspective—the eyes
and voices of the patient and clinician—into a team that also understands
the design and construction process adds value for healthcare clients.
“We have economists, sitting in our Chicago office, who are study-
ing the economic impact of projects,” says Gensler Design Director and
Southeast Region Education & Culture Practice Area Leader Jill Goebel.
“How many times did we have a cultural anthropologist as part of our proj-
ects in the past? Now, we’re talking about them being part of our projects
to study neighborhood impact and behavioral sciences.”
Technology integration requires new players, too, including audio-
visual (AV) and information technology (IT) consultants, as well as
professionals who specialize in interactive “follow-me” technology.
Clients themselves also are taking on a more prominent role in inter-
disciplinary design. “Sometimes, our clients can bring their own experts to
the table,” says Goebel. “They’ve always been a vital piece of why and how
a design comes to be, but their intricate knowledge and expertise now are
part of the equation. They want to be part of the
Even if your own firm doesn’t employ such
specialists as acoustics advisers, security experts,
or art consultants, achieving an all-encompassing
team is possible; it just takes time to bring every-
one together. “When people haven’t worked
together before, or when some team members
work remotely, setting up the dynamic can take
a little longer than when everyone from one firm
works together,” notes Henry.
Bringing different professions together
gives everyone a chance to learn from one
another. Engineers learn from architects;
interior designers learn from nurses; AV consultants learn from IT pros. “It’s a beautiful
sight to see,” says Henry. This ongoing learning
also contributes to overall organizational value.
The more team members understand what
other players are doing (and why), the more
holistic the project becomes.
Interdisciplinary design ensures that the
entire team shares in both the risks and the
rewards associated with a project. The group
succeeds or fails together.
There are challenges as well. The Think Tank
Challenge participants agreed that, although
interdisciplinary design leads to their best
work, it sometimes can take longer and/or be
are becoming the
discipline may take
priority or another.
“It becomes a
sum of the parts,