Gone are the days when being an interior designer involved simply having an eye for colour, a love of décor, a competitive knowledge of the pros and cons of roman blinds versus cellular shades, and the ability to channel one’s creative vision into the homes of strangers. Today, regardless of whether interior designers are working in residential design, commercial interiors or home staging, they will need to master not only traditional interior design skills such as the ability to draw and plan out a space but also an in-depth understanding of the latest design software, business skills, and up-to-date knowledge regarding computer-aided design tools and resources.
Technology has been proven a time-saver time and time again across fields traditionally recognized as ‘hands-on’, including fashion, design, cooking and art, and has enabled incredible innovation and efficiency within the field of interior design especially. Computer-aided design (CAD) programs now allow designers to showcase to clients what spaces could look like by laying them out digitally, meaning that for the first time ever clients have more than just blind faith and friends’ referrals to go by when choosing an interior designer, while the internet has also allowed product and design development to take a completely new path by involving both the client and designer in a more collaborative process than previously possible.
Thanks to Building Information Modeling (BIM) – a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places – everyone cooperating on a project including the client, designer, architect and lead builder can coordinate and communicate seamlessly; increasing accuracy, minimizing errors and allowing design concepts to be brought to life before needing to outlay money on materials. Moodboarding on smartphones and computers through apps such as Pinterest now allow clients and designers to work together to develop creative inspiration for a physical space, with designers increasingly fond of using mood boarding to archive their own favourite spaces and ideas. By digitally scrapbooking furniture, colour swabs and fabric ideas, interior designers can produce catalogues of aesthetic inspiration to present to clients, depending on their taste and style.
In terms of product and design development, the ability to digitally create room layouts and share them virtually allows interior designers from all over the world to collaborate with clients regardless of location. Using Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook video call applications, designers are able to get a better sense of what their clients need and want than was previously possible when communicating across continents. Free virtual room design tools also allow clients to create rudimentary designs for their designers, showcasing the ‘end result’ they are after and minimizing the need for back and forths between customers and designers.
Companies selling art, furniture and décor are also better placed than ever to advertise their wares thanks to technology, with the internet a major source of marketing and exposure, allowing businesses to interact directly with their clients and consumers through email, Facebook and other chatbot-based platforms. Ikea is one example of a global leader in furniture and design products who is using technology to increase product sales and interactions with interior designers, with virtual-reality experiences bringing potential customers life-sized virtual IKEA rooms and spaces.
Even the continued professional training and development of interior designers has been made possible through the internet, with online course providers offering thousands of courses from ‘Daylighting’, to ‘People-centered Design’ to ‘Sweet Home 3D’. The esteemed New York Institute of Art and Design now even offers an online interior design and decoration course that rolls out on a 24/7 basis, allowing aspiring designers to learn at their own pace. Creating and showcasing one’s interior design portfolio has been made easier than ever with the advent of Pinterest, Google+ and Wix.com, too. While gaining clients and exposure might have been a tough slog in the days preceding the internet, LinkedIn, Facebook and the aforementioned platforms have reduced the difficulties of showcasing one’s work and portfolio publicly.
There’s no denying it – interior design is being upended by technology and its influence in virtually every way. And we haven’t even delved into the ways in which technology has revolutionized the tracking of budget and time management, client communications and invoicing capabilities. There are even lucrative opportunities for designers in digital home staging – a newfangled field where interior designers help present potential buyers and tenants with the possible ‘end product’ of a home or space by using Virtual Tour Software to insert digital furniture, decorations and paint into otherwise empty and unfurnished spaces. Across every sector it seems, the internet is changing the way businesses interact with customers, staff, stakeholders and partners through the way they communicate to the platforms used for collaboration to the nature of services offered. The field of interior design is no exception.