Interiors Forum needs to look beyond interiors

The Design Business Association has surely put the cat among the pigeons by aligning itself with the newly fledged Interiors Forum (DW 9 June). The DBA was constituted to represent design businesses, whereas the forum might involve individual interior designers, who technically fall outside its patch. Individuals are the province of the Chartered Society of Designers or the more exclusive British Design & Art Direction – and you’d have thought these bodies would already be meeting the needs of the interiors community.

That apart, the formation of the Interiors Forum has thrown up some interesting issues, a few of which are explored by contributors to this week’s VoxPop (see page 13). The forum, conceived by Callum Lumsden of Lumsden Design Partnership, was born out of concern among interior designers that their position was being eroded by architects.

With architects such as John Pawson, David Chipperfield, Eva Jiricna and Harper Mackay taking on shops, restaurants and office interiors, there is some validity in that concern. Earlier this month we highlighted newer interiors players, of which some were architects (DW 2 June). But, with branding taking a lead in areas such as retail and leisure, it is unlikely that clients in those sectors will opt for architects and others which don’t offer more than pure interiors.

This leads to the second point – that to give a comprehensive service, interiors groups have to be increasingly multidisciplinary, with graphic and product designers, digital media specialists and even architects on the staff. So who is the forum representing – the consultancy as a whole (which might justify the DBA’s involvement) or individual interior designers?

The same could, of course, be argued about other separatist groups. But as disciplines converge, driven together by projects, surely designers should be viewing design as a whole.

When John Sorrell took the Design Council chair in the mid-1990s, he identified more than 70 design bodies. Initiatives like the Interiors Forum are to be welcomed as an informal meeting point for like-minded folk. But if the forum becomes formalised it will only add to the clamour of voices already out there, each one diluting the overall design message.

What is wrong with taking pride in simply being a designer or a member of the design community? The convergence between technologies and creative industries suggests this approach is a way to boost design’s position overall.

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