Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The New World of Design

I've been thinking a lot about the changing nature of the interior design profession. So many forces have been acting upon the field of design in recent years that are completely changing the way designers do business. I've read, for example, that interior design is increasingly moving away from a product- and sales-based business model to more of a service-based business model. When someone hires a designer, she's hiring an expert, and what she's paying for is that expertise. Traditionally, that expertise also comes with follow-through, meaning the designer not only tells the client how to accomplish her design goals, but also carries them out. This involves the sale of goods along with services.

I don't think that will ever completely change - I hope not - but the myriad of well-designed, reasonably priced objects out there available for public purchase (meaning not just "to the trade") means that designers have to become more flexible about the types of products we source, the places we get them and the price tags that accompany them.

Until the Internet became the axis our lives revolve around, it was pretty difficult for the average homeowner to find and buy high-style furnishings and fabrics outside the realm of what was offered at local retailers - without a designer, at least. But whoa, is it a different world now. Through online shopping, consumers can find everything from European wallcoverings to Turkish rugs to Italian leather sofas at retailers from across the country and around the world who are willing to ship to any destination. Not to mention the fact that comparison pricing has never been easier. So how do designers compete in a marketplace like that? It's a difficult question to answer.

There are still plenty of sources that sell furnishings and home products through the trade only, and there are plenty of homeowners who appreciate and expect the level of service and innovation in design these sources offer. But to be able to offer clients a great service at a reasonable value, designers must also be able to compete within the greater marketplace when it comes to offering a mix of higher- and lower-end products. Figuring out the best ways to approach that situation is a major concern for me now as I'm establishing my own career in design.


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