I write about the Interiors Forum debate at Tate Modern (News Analysis, DW 24 May).
Having worked in both interior design and architectural studios, I have been subjected to the topic of this particular forum on many occasions. My expectations of the outcome of the debate were not high and the usual impasse as reached on most occasions was the result on the night. I would prefer to focus on the event itself and the signals it sent out to those present.
I found it bizarre that the design profession felt compelled together in a formal situation and witness fellow designers expose a neurosis rooted at the heart of the profession in front of potential clients and contractors. This was bad enough, but to seal the matter, the designers lost ground to the architects, even though there were relatively few architects in the audience. The uncertainty over value given by design and the design profession, a matter designers are continually attempting to lay to rest, was left on even worse ground by the end of the evening.
Both speakers against the motion used similar cartoon-based presentation techniques with, in one case, some rather crude bullet points. Countering this was a less funky, clean couple of presentations by those speaking for the motion. Their points were made more through an analytical dialogue and without the need to overtly ‘entertain’.
Without making the event humourless, you might have expected the designers to be less ‘emotional’ about the issue and more academic. After all, the design profession continually struggles to place itself among the ‘serious’ professions, we should not feed the fires of adversity by adopting the gameshow host approach when communicating our professional core values.
As was patently obvious at recent Design Business Association debates, there is a serious communication problem between the bodies that choose to represent the design profession.
I would suggest that a core concern of all of these is the need to define what we do. Be it spatial, decorative, technical, labeled under ‘interior decorator’, ‘interior designer’, ‘architect’, ‘product designer’ or whatever, it is time we got down the serious business of knowing who and what we are. Only when this happens and we have the systems and educative process in place, will we avoid embarrassments such as the subject of this debate again.