It is clear from Jones' remarks that knowledge is the power base from which designers must operate to accurately articulate a client's vision and provide new concepts and expert design decisions. IIDA, therefore, must initiate, sponsor, collect and disseminate cutting-edge information on widely diverse topics. "IIDA must be, first and foremost, a knowledge organization. A unique body of knowledge is the main product and defining characteristic of a profession," Jones said. "The transfer of knowledge should be IIDA's core business," she added.
Jones called on IIDA's "distributed leadership" to "raise the stock, the value, of design" by emphasizing not only the end product of design, but the process as well. "In fact, it is the process that harbors the value of design," she said.
Above all, relevance into the next century requires action. Jones' vision for IIDA is as "an assertive association, a change agent for the profession and a facilitator in the transfer of knowledge enabling our members to practice and prosper in the new millennium."
D&WC: What will be the most important societal issues facing interior designers in the immediate future?
Carol Jones: Once upon a time, people left home every day, went to their workplace for seven hours and then went home. How many people do you know still live and work like that?
The lines between work and home are becoming increasingly blurred. Free agents and telecommuters work at home, "techies" practically live at their workplaces, children are going to day-care at the office and work is going home at night. We are working longer and harder, but demanding more flexibility and autonomy in how and where we work.
Many of our public and private sector companies are offering their employees an opportunity to telework part of their week if they have a dedicated, secure work area (in some cases it must be a room) in their homes. Residential development is only beginning to treat the requirement of a home office not as a bonus option but as a standard feature. Will the two-office home be far behind? While parts of the home are becoming professionalized, many workplaces are taking on a more informal, flexible character with furniture and equipment that encourages user reconfiguration to suit the task at hand.
Within 20 years almost one-quarter of the population will be over the age of 50. This will have an extraordinary effect on the practice areas of residential and health care design. Because this will be the wealthiest generation of seniors in history, retail and hospitality design had better take note. And many of this healthy, energetic group will age in the workplace and consider their leisure and entertainment options carefully.
D&WC: What role will green design and environmental issues play in the future of interior design?
Jones: This is an exciting time to be alive and especially to be a designer. I see the millennium as a watershed, an opportunity to restate human values and to redesign the ways in which humanity interacts with the world. In fact, we must do this, we have no option.
We have, over the last 2,000 years, used up most of our valuable resources including space, and now it's time to repair and rebuild. This presents a wonderful challenge to people of creativity, integrity and vision. I hope designers will be the vanguard of this initiative.
D&WC: How will designers have to change their thinking or the ways they work in order to address these issues?
Jones: The lifelong learning to which designers are committed will change in scope and content. The curriculum will include not just design, technical and management issues, but the study of human factors, health sciences, gerontology and the social sciences of psychology and sociology.
Continuing education will address the ongoing study of ethics and values in order to clarify the profession's role within society. As the designers' impact on their clients' businesses increases, we will require more understanding of economics and organizational development and behavior.
I believe designers, in the future, will need to rely more on reference and research external to their practices. We will see more openness to collaboration, strategic alliances and joint ventures. The depth and breadth of expertise needed in the commercial practice area in the future, to a large extent, will be out of the grasp of small firms who will need the ability to call upon external resources and to create project teams as and when required.
D&WC: How can designers prepare themselves for success in the next millennium?
Jones: At the university where I teach a course on interior design practice, I tell my students that they must prepare themselves for work which does not yet exist. Anyone like me, who has been practicing for 30 years, knows that the nature of their current work bears little resemblance to what they envisioned during their professional training.
In my address to IIDA members at our annual meeting I made the comment, "It's 1999 and the future is in our face." There's no doubt that the profession needs to change and is going to change. The question is are we going to let it happen or make it happen? Who, in the course of their day-to-day work, has the time or resources to address this question?
It is the job of the designers' professional association to scan the horizon, forecast future opportunities for interior designers and to provide its members with the tools to take advantage of these opportunities. This is a job which IIDA takes very seriously. We cannot wait for the designers' future role to be defined by others. We must be pro-active in the evolution of our own profession.
D&WC: Looking at the business side of design, how will firms have to market themselves in the future?
Jones: Designers have been giving away the farm too often and for too long. It's time to establish the value proposition of interior design. As interior designers, we have traditionally revealed to the client only what we do, not how we do it. We've emphasized the product of our labors and hidden the process from the client. In fact, it is the process that harbors the value of design. Like medicine, accounting or law, interior design is a consulting profession.
We are perceived as consultants when a client says, "Our interior designer helped us to understand how we really live and then engaged us in creating a home environment to support that lifestyle." Or when we hear another client say, "Our design consultant articulated our vision, exposed us to new concepts, provided expert decision support and transformed our facility into a high-performance workplace."
In order to be successful, firms will have to refocus away from the commodity bidding of interior design projects. The issue should be not how fast or how cheap, but how the design process can contribute to the company's bottom line in a strategic manner. In order for this to happen, the design professional needs access to a body of research, a database of projects that have done just that. We know subjectively and anecdotally what design can achieve, but we need documented case studies in order to demonstrate measurable results to clients.
IIDA is hosting a Research Summit at the Salk Institute in October to consider ways in which the design community can access research and partner with those who are conducting research.
D&WC: What percentage of projects are new versus those that are renovations?
Jones: We see now and will continue to see an increase in renovation projects across all practice areas. In the residential field, clients are renovating rather than moving in order to remain in their communities. Or their desire to live in urban centers is driving the rehabilitation of older residential buildings.
In the commercial arena, there also is less inclination to discard old buildings, to demolish and start over. There is growing interest in and support for historic preservation. As the demand for office space in the downtown core of cities abates, we'll see more conversion of commercial buildings into residential properties.
D&WC: Are clients more or less knowledgeable about interior design than in the past?
Jones: They are absolutely more knowledgeable about design, and this is a good thing. A client who is educated about design is easier to work with, more comfortable with the process, more appreciative of the link between concept and aesthetic and more understanding of the value of design.
We still have ground to cover, however. I have heard concern expressed in residential design circles that if clients become too knowledgeable, they will not need interior designers. I would argue against this, as I believe the more a client understands the complexities in scope and skill levels required in an interior design project, the more they will be inclined to seek professional expertise. This will happen if designers make the work of interior design transparent to their client, promoting the consulting model of which I spoke earlier.
Most people know how to cook and yet there is less and less cooking being done in the home. In our time-constrained lives, the interior designer will be one of the many consultants or out-sourced resources on which families and individuals will increasingly rely.
Carol Jones is principal of City Interiors Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She has been an IIDA member and has served on its board since 1994. Jones earned a Bachelor of Interior Design at the University of Manitoba and is a part-time lecturer and studio critic at Kwantlen University College in Vancouver. Her professional accreditations include National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), Certified Facility Manager (CFM) and Registered Interior Designer (RID).