Burke-Jones is a principal in Buckminster Fuller, Sadao & Zung Architects, a firm specializing in design solutions for the government, educational and institutional design sectors as well as in geodesic domes. The offices are located in Cleveland, OH, and Long Island City, NY. Burke-Jones has spent her career facilitating solutions in the built environment. During her early design career, she traveled with her firm's CEO, "Bucky" Fuller, and learned from him as an individual and as a futurist who would become a human conduit for social and technological growth.
Burke-Jones has a vision for interior designers as we prepare to enter the next millennium. It involves connectiveness, cooperation and lots of challenges.
D&WC: What will be the most important societal and environmental issues facing interior designers heading into the next century?
Burke-Jones: One of the most crucial changes facing interior designers is going to be the necessity for a "big picture" approach to everyday problem solving. There will be a real need for a win/win attitude in the workplace. The day of immediate solutions to serve the situation at hand is over -- it has gone the way of the Me Generation.
Acres and acres of abandoned buildings in our inner cities emphasize that the slash-and-burn approach to development of our primitive ancestors no longer is appropriate. Solutions need to be implemented for the problems that are created, and future design must take into account the long-range end products of our designs.
Our impact on the human community, the environment and the potential of our world is affected by each of the individual decisions we make every day. The amount of resources we can save now will contribute to the quality of life for future generations. I think that in the future, designers will have to adapt to this principle in order to be successful.
D&WC: What are the most important industry and career-oriented issues facing designers?
Burke-Jones: More and more, it is becoming crucial for designers and industry to define their areas of expertise, to find a focus and strategy for their services. Obviously, we no longer can be all things to all people and remain a profitable business.
For industry, in the new age of customized mass marketing, identifying the specific audience for products will be crucial to success. In the future, when customization becomes the norm, it will be very difficult for a manufacturer to provide everything to everyone and do it at a competitive price. It will require an extremely targeted approach to ensure competitive advantage.
This concept also applies to services and makes it imperative for designers to really know the people they are serving and to understand the desired result and its value. The whole design profession for many years has been feeling the market pressures forcing lower fees for improved and faster services. This especially happens when clients cannot discern differences in design firms at which point marketing is reduced to a commodity game. By identifying what clients value, and excelling in providing that result, designers can turn the tide. It will require focus and perpetual change with variations in market emphasis.
D&WC: How is present-day economics affecting designers' businesses?
Burke-Jones: Today's economic outlook is forcing the re-definition of the designer from product provider to service provider. To succeed in the marketplace of the future, designers are realizing they must sell their services, not products such as furniture or window treatments. With more and more clients finding and purchasing their own goods, designers will soon find their only option will be to promote the value-added nature of their businesses: their knowledge and skills. This dramatically impacts many design firms' businesses, and it is restructuring the field.
D&WC: What variables most affect your recommendations of window treatments?
Burke-Jones: Purpose, price and perception affect my recommendation of any kind of design element. I prefer to use what I call the "systems" approach to design problem-solving by considering the following:
Purpose: What is the client's need: light control, heat control, privacy, view maximization, contribution to the room ambiance, etc.?
Price: If the purpose is achieved, what value would it mean to the client and thus ultimately how much is the solution worth in terms of dollars and cents?
Perception: Given that solutions can be found that meet the client's purpose and price, what solutions will most effectively communicate the non-verbal, emotional identity or aesthetics of the space?
All these factors considered in tandem contribute to ultimate design success.
D&WC: What do most clients consider first, second and third when choosing interior furnishings: price, function or aesthetics? Where does maintenance come into play?
Burke-Jones: Client decision-making priorities stem from perceived needs and thus there is no general order. In the case of window treatments, if the perception is that something "needs" to cover the window because of convention, not necessarily because of the need for light control or privacy, the driving priority will be aesthetic. If the need for a light-tight room is essential to the function of the space, the purpose of the design will be the greatest priority. If the dollars available are intensely restrictive, the price of the solution will drive and limit the decision.
Maintenance and upkeep information usually is provided by the designer in the decision-making process.
D&WC: How can manufacturers be better attuned to the needs of interior designers?
Burke-Jones: Manufacturers can save designers time in price-sensitive activities by contributing their knowledge about a particular product. The more a designer can spend time away from a manufacturer's area of expertise and concentrate on his or her practice, the more profitable he or she can become.
Ultimately, a successful design firm is the best client a manufacturer can have, so it behooves the manufacturer to contribute when at all possible to the specifier's business success. It can be a real win/win situation for both the designer and the manufacturer.
D&WC: How many ASID designers work in the residential arena, contract arena or both?
Burke-Jones: ASID members include 20,000 interior design practitioners, 7,000 students and 3,500 manufacturers and representatives of products and services for interior design. Of those designers, 4,000 practice exclusively residential interior design, 6,400 practice exclusively contract design, and 9,600 practice a combination of residential and contract design. Most of them specify the products and services used in their design work, and more than 70 percent of ASID professional designers own or manage their design firms.
D&WC: What are your plans for your term as ASID president?
Burke-Jones: My ultimate goal is to enhance membership in ASID through the competitive advantages of shared resources and an extensive knowledge base.
ASID is the largest interior design organization in the world. This professional base can be used to build value to the profession through networking, marketing, education and practice strength.
Burke-Jones has been a professional member
of ASID since 1981 and also has served
the society as vice president, finance and
administration and as a representative on
the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
National Interiors Committee. She completed
a Master of Business Administration degree
in 1984 at Case Western University and
holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in
Design and Education from the University