After 15 years of practice, and after have designed in excess of 7 million square feet of interior space, I have a learned a few things along the way that every interior designer should know.
Rule #1: Understand construction. If you ever want to truly understand good design and how to create it, you MUST understand the basic principles of building construction (exterior and interior). How can you design anything if you don’t know how to build it? Also, it never hurts to be familiar with the newest building trends, processes and technologies. If you pick one rule to follow on this list, this should be the one.
Rule #2: Less is always more. Have you ever seen a project where you walked away asking yourself, “What was that designer thinking? They must have thrown everything in their library at that space!”
Striving for simplicity forces you to think through all aspects of your design and it forces you to make intentional design choices rather than just filling up the space with visual clutter. Simplicity does not have to mean minimal, sparse or boring. It simply means that the design is true to itself by achieving a consistent design expression throughout.
Rule #3: Good design is not always subjective. Do you remember those design principles you learned about in your introductory design classes in college? They are important! Balance, Emphasis, Movement, Pattern, Repetition, Proportion, Rhythm, Variety, Unity; all of these design principles matter a great deal and we have all seen what happens when these principles are not followed or understood. If you follow these basic principles in your design your chances of success will be exponentially greater.
Rule #4: Never spend more time selecting products than you do creating space. Creating space is the single biggest opportunity you have to impact any project. You could leave all of the space creation to the architects, but why would you want to? Once you create the space, selecting the materials to finish it out will just come naturally. Leave the sample library for later. Instead, spend some valuable time in SketchUp figuring out the forms that you are going to apply all of those cool materials and finishes to.
Rule #5: Respond to the architecture. If you find yourself working with (or for) an architectural firm, the worst thing you can do is let your ego push you into thinking that what you alone want to do is paramount on a project. Instead, work closely with the architectural team to ensure that what you are designing for the interior is consistent with the overall architectural design. If you do this, I promise you that your working relationships with architects will greatly improve.
Rule #6: Be a good steward of resources. As much as it pains me to say this, designers are essentially “super consumers.” Because of this, each of us has the responsibility to think about the life cycle of our designs and to allow for future flexibility wherever possible. Also, we all need to make sure that our designs are based on sustainable principles and that we use as many sustainable products as possible. Anything less is simply wasteful and irresponsible.
Rule #7: Do your research. Change is constant in the design world. Luckily, information about new trends, new technologies, and new products is everywhere and thanks to the internet, easier than ever to find. It’s so easy to find the information you need that ignorance is simply not an option.
Rule #8: Lighting, Lighting, Lighting! Without good lighting, even the best designs will fail. No exceptions. Getting the lighting right is absolutely essential. If you don’t understand lighting it’s time to start doing your homework.
Rule #9: Stay inspired. The vast majority of designers are in this creative profession by choice. You owe it to yourself, your employer and your clients to stay inspired. Figure out what inspires you to be at your creative best and make sure that this activity (or activities) is an integral part of your life experience. Just staying in the creative thought process will help ensure you will be vastly more creative when you need to be.
Rule #10: Be the expert. You are the expert and your client hired you for that reason. The client is not always right. When they are paying you for your time and expertise it is very important to speak up when they need a nudge in the right direction. Never be afraid to advise your client.
Image courtesy of Kevin Lynch