Pollack is devoted to mentoring and encouraging the professional growth of his colleagues through the collaborative process. As a design professional and as IIDA president, Pollack sees one of the most important issues facing the design profession relates to government and regulatory affairs, especially when it comes to licensure of interior designers. This issue takes on heightened importance in light of organized efforts against practice act legislation by the reasoning that interior designers shouldn't need to be licensed because they don't protect the public health, safety and welfare. "We take umbrage at that," Pollack says.
"One of the things we are very focused on as an association is how to continue to raise the bar for interior designers as a profession. We recognize that one of the methodologies for making that happen is through licensure, and practice acts specifically, around the country. We're continuing to work with our partners, which include the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), Interior Design Education Council (IDEC) and Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER), in looking at how we can continue to effectively position the profession in light of public health, safety and welfare issues and as those relate to licensure.
We know certainly that the professional, highly qualified, NCIDQ-passed interior designers are fully responsible—and need to be—for dealing with public health, safety and welfare as they're designing space. They are dealing with code issues, in the United States they are dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); all of those things that are very clearly directed toward public health, safety and welfare are what we deal with every day."
D&WC: What will be the most important societal and environmental issues facing interior design?
In the back room, computerized equipment from LTL International has helped WindowPros maintain efficiency and control. "We're very efficient at what we're doing," Services says, adding that the full-time production staff of four pushes "quite a few lines out of here." And for a couple of hands-on guys like Servies and Ballerini, control is important. "I like having total control over our product line from start to finish," Servies says. "We want to make sure we keep control over all of it. Control of the quality, control of delivery and control of customer service. That's so key to us in our growth."
Pollack: One of the things IIDA has as a clear focus of its five-point strategic plan is that IIDA will be proactive for the interior design profession and ethics is a major component.
Ethics is literally the overarch over sustainability from our perspective. As interior designers we need to be ethical, and poor ethical conduct doesn't mean buying furniture for a client and not telling them that you're getting a rebate from the manufacturer, it's also talking about sustainable design from a truly ethical and moral perspective. We, as practicing interior designers, have to bring to our clients—even if they're not bringing it to us—the need to design space that is sustainable and renewable. When we look at a project that is a rehab of a space, what normally happens is that the existing construction gets demolished and thrown into a landfill. As professional designers we are not pleased with that approach. We're told that the economical model for doing this is that it is "cheaper" to take the studs, the drywall, the old carpet, the suspended ceiling and throw it away as opposed to coming up with some really appropriate ways to reuse all this material.
IIDA has been partnering with Collins & Aikman, Steelcase and other industry partners in supporting initiatives that really look to sustainable design. That's the kind of thing that we will continue to do as an association and, in working with our partners, to try to make sustainable design one of the brightest things on the radar screen. Our clients aren't typically pushing us to do it, and that's where the ethics of this comes into play. Sustainable design is something that we know, intuitively and also through all the knowledge gathering that we've done, is very high on the priority list. We've got a closed loop in our environment. There is only a limited set of resources that exist around us; we've got to figure out ways to reuse them appropriately.
D&WC: Are clients more or less knowledgeable about interior design than in the past?
Pollack: They are becoming much more aware, and we find that an incredible positive for IIDA and the profession. Looking at it from the contract/commercial design perspective, we have our clients asking, "How does the space become a proper catalyst to improve my business?"
One of my favorite examples is that when you buy a new ergonomic chair from one of the good manufacturers, it will come with a manual that can be a quarter of an inch thick and tells you how to use the chair. When a client moves into a space, they don't get a manual that tells them how to use the space.
What we have to do better as interior designers is to help clients really understand—having probed them from the very onset of the project—what this design needs to do for them as a business. Forget about how pretty it needs to look—that's, of course, the way we are going to do it. But we need to ask, "What does it need to do for you fundamentally on a business side?" Then, down the road, help to educate the client and the client's staff on how the space will work for them and to work as change agents for them. We also will bring on other experts who can help the client make some changes that may be necessary in their business processes so that the space does do what the initial program statement called for: to improve profitability, improve efficiency, improve effectiveness.
What we're also finding from clients is that they want some proof that the space is actually doing better for them as a business. Up until this point, as a profession we still haven't been able to come up with good quantitative responses that show the space's effectiveness in additional profitability and things like that. We recognize that's a place clients are pushing us. I have established a separate consulting practice that has developed research and processes that actually measure workplace effectiveness.
D&WC: Are these issues affecting how firms work or have to market themselves?
Pollack: In a number of projects we work on, we will bring workplace consultants with us if we don't have the full capability in-house, and we will bring the measurement component to the table. But the biggest underlay is that as we are starting work on a project we are determining from the outset what the client wants to accomplish from a business standpoint. This is really where the profession is moving and needs to move—to become more consultative. It's getting in there and working with a law firm, a bank, an insurance company, a startup dot-com and showing them and telling them how they can do better.
One of the first things we do now in my business practice—and this is a change in how we market ourselves and how we do a project—is we insist that the only way we can effectively work with new clients is to have the CEOs present to us what they would present to a client of their own about their businesses. If it's a startup, we need to see the investor road show; if it's an established business, we need to see how they market to their customers because it's only through that that we really get an understanding—at the highest level—of what they're trying to do as a business. That's absolutely where business is moving and the interior design profession is moving very fast to provide that kind of consultative support.
D&WC: With that in mind, how can designers best prepare themselves for success in the years ahead?
Pollack: It's really a tremendous focus on continuing education. It is doing all the associated reading, going through all the learned journals such as IIDA's Perspective magazine and reading what our clients read: Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Fast Company. It's really getting into the heads of our clients and continuing to build up our proficiencies.
It goes back to the education you came out of school with. You don't just need to know how colors work together, you don't just need to know how lighting and HVAC systems work. You also need to know how business works because that's the way you can partner with your clients and become a strong, strategic consultant for them.
D&WC: What goals or programs do you hope to influence most during your term as IIDA president?
Pollack: Without question the two highest priorities are sustainable design and our legislative efforts.
We really need to continue to provide information to our membership on how to best deal with the ethics of sustainability. Our relationship with our industry partners is very key to that, as is providing the kinds of continuing education that is shown in Perspective magazine, which IIDA uses as our flagship publication, and the associated continuing education units (CEUs). We're continuing to push information out to our membership on how they can be more responsive on the sustainability side.
The other key component relates to government regulatory affairs. IIDA is very much directed toward supporting practice act legislation around the United States that also deals appropriately with educational and examination requirements. We are very much aware that this is one of the ways to continue to raise the level of the interior designer in working with the client. It's also in recognizing from the client's perspective that when they see IIDA after somebody's name on a card that says a tremendous amount: This is a highly qualified person who has passed highly professional examinations, who is knowledgeable about the issues that affect the workplace and who is able to design a space that is responsive to and supports the client's business.
D&WC: Do you see this type of support as a main benefit of membership in IIDA?
Pollack: Without question. Added to that is the fact that IIDA is first and foremost a grassroots organization. It is not run by the headquarters office. It is run by the chapter components all around North America and internationally. It is those people and the local programming that is the most effective delivery system that we've got to bring out these issues. The programming that is put on locally is where the members really learn.
Yes, you've got to keep perspective; yes, you have to read the business publications. But the way that you're going to connect with your colleagues, both through networking and on the professional development side, is really at a local level. And that's what the association is most focused on—to keep that pipeline wide and open.
Richard Pollack & Associates in located in San Francisco, CA. IIDA is headquarterd in Chicago, IL; (312) 467-1950; (888) 799-4432; fax: (312) 467-0779; e-mail: email@example.com; www.iida.org.