Contract - Essay from May/June 1962: The Contract Design Dilemma

design - essay



Essay from May/June 1962: The Contract Design Dilemma

29 March, 2010

-By Maurice Mogulescu, president, Design for Business



This article addresses itself to a dilemma facing the contract and interior design field and particularly as it affects the final client—the business firm or corporation. The dilemma is not of anyone’s particular making but it causes serious enough headache to warrant attention and, it is hoped, clarification.

This publication, which is concerned with “space planning and furnishing” is very much to the point, for the dilemma in question concerns who the business firm or corporation properly calls upon to handle problems of planning and furnishing new office space.

Off the top of the head, one would instantly say, “Business calls upon the interior designer of course.” One would say this with good reason. In the last 15 years, some 40 odd million new square feet of office space was constructed in Manhattan alone, and the corporate firms which make up the tenancy in this space were settled there and set up for modern operations with the consultation and services of expert interior designers.

As a result, interior design is a tried and proven field today, and the interior designer is recognized as an indispensable factor in the overall office building scene. In fact, new developments in the nation’s business make it more so than ever. Corporate mergers which, in the last couple of years have been occurring at an unprecedented scale, are creating new companies, new executive structures, different and more complex operations. It heightens the need for interior design specialists who have the intensive training and experience to express in the interior facilities these tremendous shifts and changes in business.

The business executive, therefore, welcomes the existence of specialists in this field. It gives him a sense of security that he can call upon expert help and services when his own company faces a move or expands or merges. 

Unfortunately, however, when the executive actually reaches out to select an interior designer, he runs into an unexpected problem. He discovers that interior design services are offered by the score, from endless and unexpected sources and at a variety of fees, which run all the way up and down the scale and even to that most extraordinary fee of all—the no-fee or free-of-charge services.

How does this all happen? For one thing, since interior design is such a well established, active, and growing field, it naturally attracts many newcomers. And, as happens with any gold-rush, so to speak, some newcomers know what they’re about but most just plunge in and hope. In this case, whether they know or hope—all go by the name of “interior designer,” and the burden of knowing who is who and making the right choice falls upon the business executive or client. This is especially the case because unfortunately no license is required to practice interior design as is true, for example, for the architect. Yet interior design is every bit as technical, specialized, and complex and requires equally specialized, skilled, trained, experienced talent.

To complicate things further, interior decoration lately has given up its time-honored title and refers to itself as interior design.

Several years ago, a group of interior decorators broke away from the American Institute of Decorators and formed what they call the National Society of Interior Design. Last year the distinguished and long established American Institute of Decorators changed its name too, by a vote of its membership, to the American Institute of Interior Designers. This is a salutary acknowledgement of the universal acceptance of interior design. And that there are talented members among both groups capable of interior design, we must assume. But to suppose that membership per se in organizations primarily based on the practice and profession of home decoration, necessarily equips one to plan, design, engineer, and furnish business interiors just by virtue of a mechanical change or choice of name, is unrealistic and confusing. 

Adding still further to the confusion are the many office furniture dealers who for 30, 40, and 50 years have been suppliers of desks and chairs, but who now, by having added two or three decorators to their staffs, offer free interior design services as a bonus along with the purchase of furniture. 

Confronted by this abundance of “interior design” riches, how does the business executive decide? Everybody seems to be a designer. Are there, then, special qualifications by which a truly professional, trained, experienced interior designer can be recognized? Are there standards? What are appropriate fees? How does the executive make judgment? 

The answers are worth exploring. Many dollars are involved as well as the health and well being of the company or business. 

Let us establish first and quickly that fullest recognition is given here to the importance of interior decoration. The human and esthetic aspects of the office today have direct bearing on efficiency and productivity. The office population today exceeds that of any other working category and to put hundreds, in many cases, thousands of people comfortably and happily together in a set of offices demands every ounce of esthetic creativity of which we are humanly capable.

But certainly when it comes to the modern office, such creative interior decoration and facilities cannot be done in a vacuum. Handsome décor and beautiful designs cannot be drawn in splendid isolation. They only can be done properly as part of the larger scheme, which we call interior design. And in this larger scheme, decoration is vital, but only as a coordinated segment within a vast network of problems dealing with electrical lines, air conditioning ducts, telephone lines, partitioning systems, acoustical equipment, traffic control, etc. 

Certainly a decorator can specify luxurious, elegant carpeting and handsome furniture in a conference room. But only a qualified designer can analyze proper air conditioning specifications so that the unusual heat loads and smoke factors of a conference room can be integrated to the engineering. 

The qualified interior designer, in other words, approaches his specialization as something that strives toward a total, coordinated package of total office operations and needs. And he knows that he gets there only through painstaking details, all interrelated and interdependent…

As a result, the interior designer who undertakes to plan and design offices must have familiarity with and knowledge of mechanical and structural problems and their relationships. He must have the ability to apply this knowledge to business needs. He has to understand lighting and the fact that lighting is related to foot candles and to heat loads, that heat loads are related to air conditioning, that air conditioning is related to duct work, that duct work is related to ceiling heights, and that all these elements are related to interior building materials such as glass, doors, hardware, partitions, etc., and their relative costs.

In this overall picture, it becomes obvious that interior design is far beyond the scope of interior decoration. Yet interior decoration is going on all the time. While technical and business problems are being researched, analyzed and solved, the esthetics of the project are always to the fore…. Decoration, in other words, is a natural part of interior design. But if it tries to stand alone and perform by itself it will bog down with every likelihood of damaging the very basic purpose of office interior design and reflecting in an unhealthy manner on the entire profession.

Consider the still further responsibilities inherent in skilled interior design. Once a project is designed, facilities planned and specified and engineered, then someone has to execute it. The designer plans and designs but contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers come into the picture. Dozens of diverse trades are involved. The interior designer must know the market of all these trades and industries. He must be prepared, in his client’s interest, to handle the details of preparing and writing specifications for competitive bids, and he must be capable with sufficient staff and skill of supervising the total execution of design and installation to the final typewriter or file drawer. 

And not only are dozens of trades being coordinated, but a multitude of laws and legal restrictions and requirements are involved. For example, the interior designer must know the building code and keep up with its changes if he is to protect his client…

No wonder that even architects…are increasingly shying away from it and suggesting instead that specialized contract designers be brought in to work with them in consultation. Firms of architects are more and more aware that it is neither practical nor profitable for them to concern themselves with the multitudinous details not only of planning and layout but especially of furnishing and decorating. They are recognizing that the preparation, coordination and follow-through of hundreds of schedules, orders and contracts covering wall finishes, colors, floorcoverings, drapery fabrics, desks, chairs, tables, upholstery fabrics, etc., eat into time reflecting in their own costs and eventually, the client’s. 

The complexity is dramatized by the fact that my own company has given over 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space to a sample room and library containing samples of materials and catalogs that literally run into the thousands. What’s more, we have found it necessary to maintain a full-time librarian in charge of the sample room to keep it organized, up to date and orderly. If we did not maintain such a highly organized, rotating, up-to-date library and instead, had to shop the market each time we undertook a new project, it is doubtful if we would come out ahead, as it is certain it would show up in greater client cost. Time, in the final analysis, is of the essence in meeting the tight schedules of any office design project and only an approach in which the space planning and layout and engineering are coordinated as one package along with furnishings and decorating can meet these schedules and properly fulfill the requirements of efficient interior design. $0 $0Interiors themselves are being broken down into specialized categories because each is so unique in itself. I mean by this that there are interior designers who specialize in hotels, others in offices, others in schools, others in hospitals. And when my own company recently embarked on a program of institutional interior design, there was no automatic shifting of our personnel from an office interior project to an institutional one. We set up a separate company…We brought in specialists trained particularly in institutional interior design, furnishings and equipment. The furnishings, furniture, and equipment that must be specified for hospitals are in no way related to what must be specified for an office.

And these are the reasons too, that in order to practice professional, sound, serious interior design requires the soundest business methods along with the highest skill in design, planning and engineering.

Interior design, in other words, is a business. A creative one, to be sure. But it is a business in terms of fullest responsibility to the client’s dollars, efficiency and function.  




Essay from May/June 1962: The Contract Design Dilemma

29 March, 2010


This article addresses itself to a dilemma facing the contract and interior design field and particularly as it affects the final client—the business firm or corporation. The dilemma is not of anyone’s particular making but it causes serious enough headache to warrant attention and, it is hoped, clarification.

This publication, which is concerned with “space planning and furnishing” is very much to the point, for the dilemma in question concerns who the business firm or corporation properly calls upon to handle problems of planning and furnishing new office space.

Off the top of the head, one would instantly say, “Business calls upon the interior designer of course.” One would say this with good reason. In the last 15 years, some 40 odd million new square feet of office space was constructed in Manhattan alone, and the corporate firms which make up the tenancy in this space were settled there and set up for modern operations with the consultation and services of expert interior designers.

As a result, interior design is a tried and proven field today, and the interior designer is recognized as an indispensable factor in the overall office building scene. In fact, new developments in the nation’s business make it more so than ever. Corporate mergers which, in the last couple of years have been occurring at an unprecedented scale, are creating new companies, new executive structures, different and more complex operations. It heightens the need for interior design specialists who have the intensive training and experience to express in the interior facilities these tremendous shifts and changes in business.

The business executive, therefore, welcomes the existence of specialists in this field. It gives him a sense of security that he can call upon expert help and services when his own company faces a move or expands or merges. 

Unfortunately, however, when the executive actually reaches out to select an interior designer, he runs into an unexpected problem. He discovers that interior design services are offered by the score, from endless and unexpected sources and at a variety of fees, which run all the way up and down the scale and even to that most extraordinary fee of all—the no-fee or free-of-charge services.

How does this all happen? For one thing, since interior design is such a well established, active, and growing field, it naturally attracts many newcomers. And, as happens with any gold-rush, so to speak, some newcomers know what they’re about but most just plunge in and hope. In this case, whether they know or hope—all go by the name of “interior designer,” and the burden of knowing who is who and making the right choice falls upon the business executive or client. This is especially the case because unfortunately no license is required to practice interior design as is true, for example, for the architect. Yet interior design is every bit as technical, specialized, and complex and requires equally specialized, skilled, trained, experienced talent.

To complicate things further, interior decoration lately has given up its time-honored title and refers to itself as interior design.

Several years ago, a group of interior decorators broke away from the American Institute of Decorators and formed what they call the National Society of Interior Design. Last year the distinguished and long established American Institute of Decorators changed its name too, by a vote of its membership, to the American Institute of Interior Designers. This is a salutary acknowledgement of the universal acceptance of interior design. And that there are talented members among both groups capable of interior design, we must assume. But to suppose that membership per se in organizations primarily based on the practice and profession of home decoration, necessarily equips one to plan, design, engineer, and furnish business interiors just by virtue of a mechanical change or choice of name, is unrealistic and confusing. 

Adding still further to the confusion are the many office furniture dealers who for 30, 40, and 50 years have been suppliers of desks and chairs, but who now, by having added two or three decorators to their staffs, offer free interior design services as a bonus along with the purchase of furniture. 

Confronted by this abundance of “interior design” riches, how does the business executive decide? Everybody seems to be a designer. Are there, then, special qualifications by which a truly professional, trained, experienced interior designer can be recognized? Are there standards? What are appropriate fees? How does the executive make judgment? 

The answers are worth exploring. Many dollars are involved as well as the health and well being of the company or business. 

Let us establish first and quickly that fullest recognition is given here to the importance of interior decoration. The human and esthetic aspects of the office today have direct bearing on efficiency and productivity. The office population today exceeds that of any other working category and to put hundreds, in many cases, thousands of people comfortably and happily together in a set of offices demands every ounce of esthetic creativity of which we are humanly capable.

But certainly when it comes to the modern office, such creative interior decoration and facilities cannot be done in a vacuum. Handsome décor and beautiful designs cannot be drawn in splendid isolation. They only can be done properly as part of the larger scheme, which we call interior design. And in this larger scheme, decoration is vital, but only as a coordinated segment within a vast network of problems dealing with electrical lines, air conditioning ducts, telephone lines, partitioning systems, acoustical equipment, traffic control, etc. 

Certainly a decorator can specify luxurious, elegant carpeting and handsome furniture in a conference room. But only a qualified designer can analyze proper air conditioning specifications so that the unusual heat loads and smoke factors of a conference room can be integrated to the engineering. 

The qualified interior designer, in other words, approaches his specialization as something that strives toward a total, coordinated package of total office operations and needs. And he knows that he gets there only through painstaking details, all interrelated and interdependent…

As a result, the interior designer who undertakes to plan and design offices must have familiarity with and knowledge of mechanical and structural problems and their relationships. He must have the ability to apply this knowledge to business needs. He has to understand lighting and the fact that lighting is related to foot candles and to heat loads, that heat loads are related to air conditioning, that air conditioning is related to duct work, that duct work is related to ceiling heights, and that all these elements are related to interior building materials such as glass, doors, hardware, partitions, etc., and their relative costs.

In this overall picture, it becomes obvious that interior design is far beyond the scope of interior decoration. Yet interior decoration is going on all the time. While technical and business problems are being researched, analyzed and solved, the esthetics of the project are always to the fore…. Decoration, in other words, is a natural part of interior design. But if it tries to stand alone and perform by itself it will bog down with every likelihood of damaging the very basic purpose of office interior design and reflecting in an unhealthy manner on the entire profession.

Consider the still further responsibilities inherent in skilled interior design. Once a project is designed, facilities planned and specified and engineered, then someone has to execute it. The designer plans and designs but contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers come into the picture. Dozens of diverse trades are involved. The interior designer must know the market of all these trades and industries. He must be prepared, in his client’s interest, to handle the details of preparing and writing specifications for competitive bids, and he must be capable with sufficient staff and skill of supervising the total execution of design and installation to the final typewriter or file drawer. 

And not only are dozens of trades being coordinated, but a multitude of laws and legal restrictions and requirements are involved. For example, the interior designer must know the building code and keep up with its changes if he is to protect his client…

No wonder that even architects…are increasingly shying away from it and suggesting instead that specialized contract designers be brought in to work with them in consultation. Firms of architects are more and more aware that it is neither practical nor profitable for them to concern themselves with the multitudinous details not only of planning and layout but especially of furnishing and decorating. They are recognizing that the preparation, coordination and follow-through of hundreds of schedules, orders and contracts covering wall finishes, colors, floorcoverings, drapery fabrics, desks, chairs, tables, upholstery fabrics, etc., eat into time reflecting in their own costs and eventually, the client’s. 

The complexity is dramatized by the fact that my own company has given over 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space to a sample room and library containing samples of materials and catalogs that literally run into the thousands. What’s more, we have found it necessary to maintain a full-time librarian in charge of the sample room to keep it organized, up to date and orderly. If we did not maintain such a highly organized, rotating, up-to-date library and instead, had to shop the market each time we undertook a new project, it is doubtful if we would come out ahead, as it is certain it would show up in greater client cost. Time, in the final analysis, is of the essence in meeting the tight schedules of any office design project and only an approach in which the space planning and layout and engineering are coordinated as one package along with furnishings and decorating can meet these schedules and properly fulfill the requirements of efficient interior design. $0 $0Interiors themselves are being broken down into specialized categories because each is so unique in itself. I mean by this that there are interior designers who specialize in hotels, others in offices, others in schools, others in hospitals. And when my own company recently embarked on a program of institutional interior design, there was no automatic shifting of our personnel from an office interior project to an institutional one. We set up a separate company…We brought in specialists trained particularly in institutional interior design, furnishings and equipment. The furnishings, furniture, and equipment that must be specified for hospitals are in no way related to what must be specified for an office.

And these are the reasons too, that in order to practice professional, sound, serious interior design requires the soundest business methods along with the highest skill in design, planning and engineering.

Interior design, in other words, is a business. A creative one, to be sure. But it is a business in terms of fullest responsibility to the client’s dollars, efficiency and function.  

 


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