The Interior Designer: Enhancing the function of interior spaces

The Interior Designer: Enhancing the function of interior spaces

Guest post provided by Chris Ashworth

For the construction product manufacturer marketing interior products, the interior designer is an important decision maker and creator of ‘demand pull’ through the supply chain. Many interior designers work with organisations with large property portfolios, creating standardised designs for hotels, restaurants, retailers amongst others. So one person or practice can be responsible for a high volume of product.

The role of interior designer
The role and term for an interior designer is different in the UK to other countries where it is often described as an ‘Interior Architect’. This term cannot be used in the UK as 'Architect' is protected and can only be used by someone who has completed the RIBA qualification. Outside the UK, the term 'Interior Designer' can also be mis-interpreted to mean 'Interior Decorator', that is someone who provides styling and adornment after the interior design is complete. ‘Space Designer’ is another role encompassed by the UK 'Interior Designer'.

The interior designer, like the architect, is working to follow the principals set down by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio in his book published more than 2,000 years ago – “to be solid, useful, beautiful.” As clients start to realise the impact that Health & Wellbeing can have on staff productivity, and hence profitability, the importance and specialisation of this role is likely to increase, with potentially more specialists taking over the interior design role from architects.

Thus, the interior designer will provide advice and create designs for the layout and configuration of the internal space of a building or structure, taking into account impact on the wellbeing, safety and function of the interior performance of a building. They will often take responsibility for first fix installation such as kitchens, bathrooms and surfaces.

Unlike 'Architect', 'Interior Designer' is not a protected term in the UK, which means it can be used by anyone who decides to set themselves up in practice and promote themselves as an interior designer, regardless of qualifications or experience. This, and the mis-use of the term can lead to confusion.

Professional bodies for interior designers
There are two major professional bodies operating in the UK with the aim of ensuring minimum standards to the profession of interior design.

The Society of British and International Design (SBID) has 224,000 members around the world and is the professional body registered in the UK to accredit professionals in interior design. They are also the British professional body representing interior design on the European Council of Interior Architects (ECIA).

A second UK professional body is the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) which has just over 360 members. It was founded in 1996 and received professional status in 2009. Although with a much smaller membership than SBID, it describes itself as the pre-eminent organisation for interior designers in the UK.

But having identified your interior designer, engaging with them follows the same rules as for an architect.

Engaging with the interior designer
Remember that the interior designer is a conceptual and creative person. They will want to see images and colours to help them make selections. Photographs and case studies, as well as samples, are important sales tools.

But they also need evidence of performance and the contribution your product can make to Health & Wellbeing. This will include demonstrating how your products can contribute to the WELL Building Standard or BREEAM.

As with other decision makers, a well written CPD seminar is a good method to gain an introduction and present the concepts and benefits of your products. Done properly a CPD seminar can establish the sales person as a trusted advisor and raise the importance of your products in the mind of the architect.

Both SBID and BIID have requirements for their members to complete CPD. In the case of SBID, who launched their scheme in 2012, members are expected to achieve 24 CPD points per annum from recognised providers. BIID first required Registered Interior Designers to achieve 20 hours of CPD activity per year at the end of 2016. Of these hours a minimum of 10 hours must be structured learning.

Competitive Advantage have developed an Interior Persona which is available for you to purchase and download.

Further Information
Promoting your company and building products with Barbour Product Search can help to increase your visibility to the full specification audience. Email for more information.

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Chris is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

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