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OFFICE INTERIOR DESIGNING – HOW MUCH TO DESIGN?

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What would you say if you were told 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?

Don’t be shocked; we are not moving down that road. It is however pertinent to be aware of the interior designer’s changing role in the context of modern day office interior design.  If we go back in time a few years, we see that “Office Interior Design” developed as an industry and as a career for few in the mid nineties. This happened when India’s economy was opened up to multinational companies. Hundreds of foreign companies 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 10-12 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?

TIMING: 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 makes the interior designer 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.

ITS ALL IN THE DETAILS: In office interior design an “eye for detail” helps. What looks good on paper 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 drawing some nice lines on paper. So in a way, “design” has a diminished role to play today and “management” has a larger role to play. 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 to attract more and more foreign companies and the latest of technologies.

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