I would say creating a curated and engaging experience in the built environment through good design. All disciplines in our industry have their vital roles to play from the consultant engineers, project managers and of course we can’t forget about the architects! But the role of the Interior Designer is to create the interface between the built environment and human experience.
The whole process of design is thoroughly enjoyable from space planning and user traffic flow strategies and adjacencies, to developing the concept behind the look and feel of a space. It is a gratifying challenge to achieve an aspirational outcome while resolving technical issues and bringing it all together to deliver a project.
Who or what inspires your design? Do you have any influences?
Paul Priestman of Priestman Goode was a strong influence in my early career. His firm is a major player in the spatial design, Aviation and Transport design and industrial design sectors in the UK and one of their standout projects at the time was the redesign of Virgin Airlines Business Class seating.
They developed the clamshell partition system, which is now quite commonplace, but was a revolution in Aviation interiors at the time. What I loved about this design was that it wasn’t only an aesthetically driven outcome. It improved the user experience by improving privacy and also gives the occupant seated behind a fixed wall in which their tray table and TV are mounted too. This makes for a much more pleasing experience for passengers.
I can remember thinking, “Wow, there’s so much more to design than just looks”. Improving user experience through good design that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional is a key driver of my work.
Walk us through your design process, how do you create an interior clients love?
As a designer, it’s essential to respond to the needs of the client by understanding what it is they want to achieve with their space. This ultimately comes down to how they want the users to use the space. A big part of how users engage with a space is how they feel and react to an environment. With the client’s objective in mind, I’ll try and picture myself in the users' shoes and tailor the environment to facilitate a specific reaction from the users.
For example, I have a significant background in the retail banking sector and in those settings customers need to be served in a reassuringly professional environment. A high-quality fitout gives off an air of security and stability but how far you go with this needs to be balanced with the expectations of the clients target demographic.
With the users’ needs and expectations in mind, my initial high-level space planning will focus on the users “journey” through the space. Using the retail banking example again, key initial touch points need to be strategically placed to point the users in the right direction and help them move on to their next touchpoint which will usually be transaction or consultation based. Strategic use of wayfinding and locating concierge staff in the right areas is key to ensuring a smooth and trouble free user experience.
Using another example from another one of my sector backgrounds, workplace projects need to allow a business to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. So I will consider the needs of the key stakeholders and user groups and design spaces around their requirements. Agile workers need a mix of collaborative spaces when working with their colleagues but will also require more private working areas when focusing on process-oriented tasks. High-level executives often need to have confidential discussions, so adjacency to private and acoustically secure meeting or quiet rooms is crucial.
Once I have established the functional requirements of the space and have an overall floorplan, the next piece of the puzzle is to put together the overall theme and look and feel intent. For commercial retail projects this will often be tied to a brand image, and so the fitout will need to read harmoniously with the branding material in colour, form, texture and overall design language.
For hospitality projects, the space needs to be inviting, relaxing and entertaining at the same time. Much like the cuisine that may be on offer the “ingredients” need to be balanced carefully to be appealing to the palate. Workplace projects need a careful balance of engaging and stimulating settings that are not too distracting, as they need to be conducive to good work and productivity
In summary, make the space work well, and users will have a positive experience. Make the space look great too, and they’ll have a fantastic experience!
What has been your favourite project to design?
My involvement in Tauranga Crossing Shopping Centre has been a key highlight of my career so far, though I’ve found every project has its positives, even the difficult ones as they offer the most beneficial learning experiences.
What would be your dream design project?
I think it’s every designer's dream to have an unlimited project budget haha! But in all seriousness, I would say something that gives back to the community and enriches people's lives. A project that genuinely makes the world a better place would be truly amazing to be a part of.
What is your top interior design tip?
We live in a truly rich and diverse world. Regardless of personal tastes, I believe everything has its place in some way, in some form and somewhere. As a designer, it’s my job to make sure the right things go in the right place and often at the right time. A simple way of looking at it is to meet the project brief.