With business environments getting more and more competitive, designing offices is getting less and less importance. This does not mean that organisations do not hire designers any longer. It is just that the expectations from the designers are changing very quickly. This is not only due to the high costs involved but also due to Standardization and fast paced technological changes. Many large organisations today have a Standardization Manual which has a pre defined “look and feel”, so while a designer may be hired for any new office he is expected to replicate a lot of features from the earlier offices of the organisations.
In smaller organisations too the design evolves from the business and technological needs rather than just the aesthetics. Does this mean that : Office Interior Design has no designing to be done? Are we moving back to the age when there were few interior designers and Architects around and most of the so called ‘design’ work was done by carpenters?
No, we are not moving down that road.
Here are some pointers compiled by the building industry specialists at iDream Advisory Services (www.idream.in) for Gallopper.
It is pertinent to be aware of the interior designer’s changing role in the context of modern day office interior design expectations. If we go back in time a few years, we see that “Office Interior Design” developed as an industry and as a career option for few in the mid-nineties. This happened when India’s economy was opened up to multinational companies. Hundreds of MNCs set up their offices in India and suddenly there was a need for their offices to be set up, ever so quickly.
Over the last 10-15 years, this segment of the interior design industry has grown by leaps and bounds and today we are at a stage when a successful career can be built around this segment. What are the most important things to remember when one has to design an office?
- TIMING: We must remember that an ‘office’ runs a business. Hence each day of operation is critical towards the profitability of the organisation which owns the office. There is hence immense pressure on the interior designer to get the office ready as soon as possible. One does not have the luxury of doing things at “one’s own pace” here.
- COMMITMENT TO SCHEDULE: Most organisations (read “clients”) would expect an interior designer to issue a project schedule and stick to it. This schedule must be adhered to because based on this schedule, the client would effect other things like releasing advertisements in newspapers announcing the opening of the office, recruiting people, etc. There is no scope for excuses for any delay once such a schedule is issued.
ESTIMATES: Clients would expect the interior designer to work out an estimate of the project and stay within 3-5% (plus or minus) of that. This is crucial as once a client secures an approval on the costs from the organisation’s management, it is very difficult to secure agreement on cost variations. An interior designer, over a period of time, is expected to develop an astute sense of budgeting and finances.
- PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Gone are the days when an interior designer or an Architect would give drawings to the client and then stay loosely involved with the project, leaving the rest to contractors. In today’s scenario, most clients would expect the interior designer to remain closely involved with the project from inception to completion, managing each and every aspect of the project. Most importantly, the client expects the interior designer to coordinate with all agencies and ensure that the project is delivered as per committed time and cost.
STANDARD DESIGNS: In this age of instant noodles and ready mixes, office interior design too has gone “modular” to a large extent. Several furniture items, storages, walls, etc. within an office today are snap fitted at site overnight. This allows for reduced time lines for finishing the works on site. What this also means is that a lot of design work that an interior designer has to do in the office interior design scenario is ‘standard’. To a certain extent this allows limited scope to experiment with shapes, sizes and looks for the designer. However this allows the designer to finish drawings faster, complete the project faster and move on to the next client and the next project faster.
- TECNOLOGICALLY SAVVY: Modern day Office Interior Design requires the interior designer to be technologically savvy. In the enhanced role of the designer today, one is expected to consider aspects like networking cables, Wi-Fi, server rooms, IP telephony, modern day security systems and other technology while designing the office. It is very important to keep oneself abreast of the latest developments in these fields.
- SUSTAINABILITY OR GOING GREEN: A lot of organisations have become conscious of its contribution both in a positive as well as a negative way towards the environment. Sustaiability or Ecofriendly or Going Green are some of the buzz words. Such organisations seek to reduce their Carbon footprint and go all out to make a positive impact while getting a new office designed. It is therefore important for designers to be aware of design principles to help such clients. Besides it also gives the designers an opportunity to create awareness about sustainability.
- IT IS ALL IN THE DETAILS: In office interior design an “eye for detail” helps. What looks good as a drawing may become a disaster on site if the construction detail is not thought through at the drawing board stage. As time is always at a premium, there is no scope for experimentation on site. All construction drawings have to be completed before the project starts on site and the client’s approval secured.
Overall, the role of the Interior Designer in the Office Interior Design scenario, has changed over the years. In today’s scenario, it would almost appear that it is more about being in overall “control” of the project than creating aesthetically pleasing drawings. So in a way, “design” has a diminished role to play today and “management” has a greater role. Today office interior design gives one ample opportunities for overall professional development, compared to the scenario 10 years back. It is expected that this will only keep on getting better as India continues its growth trajectory and newer technologies are introduced.