A tireless cheerleader and ambassador for innovation and expansion, International Interior Design Association executive vice president and CEO Cheryl Durst is also a visionary strategist. She’s steered the IIDA through tough economic times, both enlarging and fine-tuning its mission.
How are firms dealing with the economic downturn?
One principal I met recently was interviewing students with strong graphics and digital skills. In the view of that firm, a Web site is as much an environment as a reception area or a private office. Actually, a lot of what people call “interior design” today is really branding. Firms are expanding to include industrial and product design as well.
Any particular advice for small firms?
Clients are downsizing and moving to different kinds of spaces. Small firms do that type of work well, because they know how to deal on a personal level. That’s a real asset. Small firms will need to develop specialties and partner with other firms, but they don’t have to become factories if they can emphasize the strategic side of their brains.
How has office design evolved over the past 10 years?
The definition of work itself has changed, and design can serve as a powerful motivator in the office. Design deals with people problems, accommodating the needs of employees from different cultures working toward a common goal. In times of stress and distress, interior designers are here to improve the human condition. So design is becoming a human-resources intervention. Of course, you cannot use design as a motivator if you don’t understand group interaction. I sometimes think of designers as cultural anthropologists.