It's not every day that a company decides to build a new corporate office, relocate, or expand upon a current location, which is why the beginning of these types of projects can feel very overwhelming. At the very top of the to-do list for a project like this is creating a team of professionals to work on the project. Depending on the project size, the team could include a structural engineer, architect, contractor(s), project manager, and an interior designer.
Sometimes the commercial interior designer is not approached to work on a project until later, because they are often perceived merely as decorators who select the paint colors, furniture, and accessories, which are just some of the last minute details. However, Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) is the global leader in establishing standards of competence for interior design/interior architecture professionals, and CIDQ defines interior design as:
“...a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public. Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment.”
Interior designers do much more than decorate, including the six step process outlined below. You'll see why we can't emphasize enough the importance of involving a designer from the very beginning of your project!
Defining the scope
Consider the first step with the interior designer as establishing the goals of the project. Maybe your top priority is to provide employees with new workstations, or just give the office an overall refresh. If you are creating a new office, maybe you want to make sure technology is incorporated properly, and make sure your new office is modern and aligned with the latest trends. During the initial meeting, it is beneficial to share your budget so the designer knows to show you things within your price range.
The preliminary meeting is also when the interior designer defines the scope of services he/she plans to provide. These could include feasibility studies, space planning, tenant development, budget analysis, design concepts, finish specifications, furniture specifications, art and accessory programs, project management, bid management, move management, post occupancy evaluations, etc.
During this phase, the interior designer will work to establish a timeline for the project now that the full scope is understood. He/she knows what you are trying to do with your space, and ideas are already starting to come together! At this point, they will make sure that what you're trying to accomplish with the space is being achieved within your budget.
The schematic design phase combines the insight gained in programming with design expertise to begin a dialogue regarding design solutions. This is typically conveyed through:
- drawings: proposed space plans, detail drawings, elevations, 3D sketches, animated walk through
- material samples
- product cut sheets
- product mock-ups
This phase involves refining the concepts approved in the schematic phase and finalizing specifications of furniture and finishes, lighting, materials, equipment and budgets. At this step, it's usually helpful to see overall renderings of the space so you can really get a feel for the overall design function and aesthetic and visually see it all come together.
Depending on the project size, all of the trades involved in the project (architect, construction team, project manager, etc.) will frequently meet during this stage to ensure all of the work being done is properly conveyed on the drawings. This is where the final drawings are put together so they can be submitted for any permits that are needed in order for the construction to begin.
This is where the designer begins to play the role of project manager, because they are ensuring the project is built-out based on the documented design and specifications arrived at during the previous phases. Administration may include:
- Periodic inspection of work progress
- Review and approval of submittals
- Punch lists
- Authorization for payment
- As-built document production
As you can see, it is important for an interior designer to be involved in a project from the very beginning in order for the design to be successful for your space. Next time you are looking to make an office change, large or small, consider hiring a commercial interior designer to ensure the project goes smoothly and stays on time and on budget!