A letter to the editor

Indu Varanasi on the challenges facing the design industry

Indu Varanasi.
Indu Varanasi.

I recently read an article entitled Design Perspectives (Vol.6, Issue 9), where Commercial Interior Design interviewed four members of the design industry and highlighted key marketplace concerns. I would like to respond to some of the issues that were raised in that article.

So much has happened in the last couple of years that the marketplace is currently being redefined and refined. So much can be said about the present state of the industry but as a practicing designer, but I would like to highlight the following key issues:

Qualifications
Every other profession – medicine and law being obvious examples – is governed by a professional organisation. Professionals become members of these organisations and are allowed to practice only if they are certified by them. This adds value and credibility to their qualifications.

Why is it that practicing interior designers, or even architects, do not have a representative body that insists on such standard practices? Why can everybody claim to be a designer? I have met every kind of person who claims to be a designer. Shouldn’t there be a warning against such ‘quarks’?

Contracts and Payments
In the aforementioned article, it was mentioned that payments have become a big issue today. How is it that we never get advice from any other professional without paying upfront? We never say to the doctor: ‘Treat me first and then I will pay you’. At every stage, design deliverables need to be given in before the payments are made. Why?

Yes, budgets are tighter, so clients look for alternatives and the materials chosen are cheaper. As designers, we can only comment and suggest, and the probable chances of failure of the product are many. If the product fails, how is it our fault; it was the client’s decision, after all. So then why is my payment being withheld?

How many times have clients said: “I did not read that clause in your contract”. Unfortunately, the client knows all too well that legal proceedings are a no go for most designers.

If the contractor doesn’t comply with regulations or doesn’t comply with specifications, to what extent can a designer control those procedures? The easy answer would be: don’t work with such contractors. But what do you do when clients choose the contractors? Not work with such clients?!

Free Design
This is perhaps the biggest bugbear for most of us. Every furniture supplier comes up with this concept of free design, or you have clients who want to test the competence of the designer before commissioning the work.

But how can a free design be a good design? How can anybody put their heart and soul into such a project? How can a good design be produced without doing adequate research, without understanding the client’s requirements, and without defining the nuances of the site?

As designers, we go through a lot of processes, procedures and compliance of trades; what I have stated above is probably not new at all. We see many a book and many a magazine come out with beautiful images of works done here and around the world.

It is not only the responsibility of industry magazines to highlight these works. They also need to bring forth intellectual discussion, and professional practice is something we need to foster.

Let there be an open discussion on how to safeguard the interests of this community. Let us not hide behind the issues of these times. It is one thing to have a lot of business, but quite another thing to qualify that business.

The intent of the mentioned article was to highlight ongoing business practices and to safeguard the industry, not just the designer. After all, good design cannot be done of it is not executed properly through a series of suppliers and contractors.

After all, we want our design to look beautiful, and work beautifully.

Indu Varanasi is the founder of IR Design.

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