Are you working for any interior designer who also involves in fashion industry? 

Fashion designers, models, fashion enthusiastic and artists have the robust creativity and imagination, and for those who are extremely talented ones, their ideas can grow beyond what you can even imagine. However, if they stay at the fashion design industry or art field, they can be outstanding artists or fashion designers, but if they cross over to interior design industry, expecting those ego infested design ideas without considering feasibility will give you hard time during the design development phase and construction document phase. As a licensed interior designer who is NCIDQ certified like you, you might already have the perfect design solutions to make things work, but more likely your design solutions will be down played and ignored by the sky high ego that is commonly seen in fashion design industry or fine art world, so if you consider yourself a technical oriented designer who is very capable of designing something that really can be built or executed, working under an artist or fashion enthusiast can be very frustrating.

Know what we interior designers do is essential

Many people thinks what interior designers do are just more decorative types of things such as selecting paint, fabrics, lamps, or furniture, but what we can do are far beyond that, but because many clients do not fully understand interior designers’ specialties, they tend to hire us much later in the game, usually after the houses are built or the space planning are done which limited our creative involvemet to only the decorative items without knowing we also can contribute to many other aspects of design such as lighting, plumbing, structural elements  and such.

Being brought into a project late also brings us another charllenge which is clients are expecting interior designers to get their job done quickly. Unreasonable time frame requirement pushes many high end residential interior designers to manage the projects like a commercial design space. The results? low quality furniture and fixtures purchased for quicker shipment, errors on designs and poor craftsmanship on installation and detail handling due to unresonable fast paced, long hour work. Limited creativity on designs or copying of other people’s designs also were often seen. This kind of situation happens in daily basis, especially in Asian markets, and even many American and European designers start to do shitting jobs in Asian markets in order to compete and survive.

Sometimes when I saw the furniture, fixtures, and the materials used in the high end residential projects in Asian countries, I felt sorry for those clients because all of the high end residential grade money they spent, they only got commecial grade stuff, that is sad.

Changing Interior Design Job Market

I drew the hand sketch as attached, I came up with the design ideas, I chose the finish materials, and I also generated the elevation drawings in AutoCAD program for this bench and linen closet, and I gave these information to a 3D rendering guy to draw a beautiful 3D rendering as attached. If you did not know all these, and if you are an owner of an interior design firm, your company is hiring an interior designer, I and the 3D rendering guy both go to your company for the job interview, and who will you hire? Based on my own experiences, people who have 3D renderings in their portfolios tend to get the job even though whatever they drew wasn’t necessarily their own design ideas. Nowadays, many interior design companies are expecting the designers they hire should possess 3D rendering skills, they do not need to be creative or even have certain interior design related knowledge, education or credential, but they must be excellent computer 3D renderers. How come all over the sudden, an interior designer’s job can easily be taken away by a computer 3D renderer?

I think there are 2 reasons: 1. Advancement of 3D rendering programs make 3D renderings more common, everyone from the designers, architects to consumers alike, has become less and less 3D imaginative, people no longer can imagine things 3 dimensionally on their own, they must rely on the visual aids to picture things. Older architects and designers trained in old-school ways normally still possess the ability to visualize things in their minds since the 3D computer rendering programs were not invented or still at the infancy when they were at schools, they had nothing to reply on, so they were forced to imagine things on their own before things were actually built. 2. Unlimited on-line image resources such as Pinterest and Houzz that provide tons of design images for design professionals to copy or tweak from, the old days that you had to squeeze your brains out to come up with brand new design ideas from nothing have gone. Directly copy or tweak other people’s design ideas is a much quicker and easier way to design a space, so the capability of generating original design ideas is no longer valued.

So, the best suggestion I can give to people who would like to be in design industry is to learn as many 3D rendering programs as possible. Even if what you draw in 3D rendering program is not your own design idea, you still can be popular in the interior design job market.

Brainstorming or Brainthundering?

Does brainstorming really work? That is the question I have been always wondering. I always felt my ideas were blocked during the design meetings by certain people who were holding higher positions at work, and I found a great article on UT Arlington Magazine written by Camille Rogers which is right on! Here is the article I would like to share:

Does brainstorming really work?

Scientist’s research sheds light on the effectiveness of group creativity

Brainstorming—a technique to get the creative juices flowing—may not be as effective as many people think. According to College of Science Dean Paul Paulus, group brainstorming tends to be unproductive.

“The formal brainstorming process is the exchange of ideas under conditions that encourage individuals to exchange as many ideas as possible without worrying about quality,” he explains. “The assumption is that through the uninhibited exchange of many ideas, more good ideas will be generated.”

Advertising executive Alex Osborn studied group idea generating in the 1940s and coined the term “brainstorming.” He proposed that group brainstorming is more likely to generate a higher number of good ideas than will individual brainstorming.

Contemporary research, however, suggests otherwise. Most current literature asserts that group brainstorming is half as effective as individual brainstorming.

But that hasn’t stopped the practice.

“It is widely used in creative industries like design, advertising and film, although it takes different forms,” said Robert Sutton, co-director of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford University. “And the question of whether it is effective is, in my view, completely unanswered by rigorous research.”

Dr. Paulus has dedicated the past 15 years to researching group brainstorming and making it more effective. He has conducted dozens of experiments in an effort to demonstrate the presumed benefits of group creativity.

For up to two hours, subjects, predominantly university students, were placed in groups of four and told to generate ideas on a topic of interest. They typically interacted face to face but sometimes were asked to attempt computer-based idea exchange.

Paulus’ findings were consistent with other studies. Group brainstorming did produce a number of ideas, but few were any good. He compares group brainstorming to a thunderstorm.

“There’s plenty of rain in the storm, that is, plenty of ideas falling from the sky. But there’s not much lightning—the exceptional ideas that have the potential to set things on fire.”

Group brainstorming becomes ineffective when “blocking” occurs—when group interaction inhibits an individual’s flow of good ideas or limits the ability to contribute. Thus, groups provide the perfect environment for some people to do nothing while others do the work.

Paulus says these kinds of barriers are especially detrimental for professional groups like those in the lab-based sciences. “If we care about staying ahead in the innovation race in this world, it would seem important that we use the most effective means of tapping our creative potential.”

Most people apparently are not even aware of the factors that sabotage their group brainstorming. Ironically, many groups deem their sessions productive. They have become accustomed to unproductive brainstorming sessions producing few quality ideas. Bad group brainstorming is the norm, so participants have the illusion of being more productive than they actually are.

Paulus and researcher Vince Brown (who now works at Hofstra University) developed a cognitive model of group brainstorming that predicts positive effects.

The model is based on the idea that creative group interaction consists of both cognitive and social dynamics. The collaborative exchange of ideas between members introduces them to new ideas and allows them to discover connections in their “knowledge network” that they may not have been able to create on their own. For productive group brainstorming, the benefits of cognitive stimulation should be heightened and the negative social forces limited.

To “get the most out of group brains,” as Paulus puts it, participating members should be able to process as many of the shared ideas as possible. One way is to eliminate the blocking effects of face-to-face interaction. He has found that two techniques alleviate the problem.

“Brainwriting” and “electronic brainstorming” enable people to share their ideas via pieces of paper or on a computer network, respectively. A high number of ideas can be generated because members don’t have to wait their turn in the discussion process. But there’s a drawback: People can become so wrapped up in producing their own ideas that they don’t take time to process those produced by others. They must fully pay attention to the ideas being shared if they want a quality brainstorming session.

Face-to-face interaction is usually more feasible than brainwriting and electronic networking, though, and Paulus has also identified what enhances this more traditional approach. People tend to perform better with enhanced motivation, like providing group members competitive feedback about each other’s performances.

The same can be said for the cognitive process, such as asking group members to focus on the quantity and not quality of their ideas. Facilitators are also useful in maintaining productivity. They can guide a group away from negative behaviors like individual domination, criticism or getting off track by telling stories.

Another way that face-to-face brainstorming can enhance group productivity is to alternate between group and individual brainstorming. Ideas may be stimulated during group interaction, but a subsequent period of solitary brainstorming may enable an individual to effectively build on those ideas.

The attitudes of the group members also come into play. People who have a positive attitude toward working in a group tend to perform better than those who do not.

Recently Paulus helped organize a National Science Foundation workshop that focused on summarizing the implications of the group creativity literature for innovation in science and industry. Already this year he has presented his work at a conference sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that focuses on improving analytical processes.

His findings are being incorporated into textbooks and applied by practitioners. He hopes to do studies in professional organizations that demonstrate the efficacy of various techniques for enhancing group innovation.

So, if your company is still using this old fashioned way to generate ideas, you might want to think about changing it.

Interior Designers vs 3D Renderers & Graphic Designers

I realize a phenomenon in the interior design job market nowadays. There are a lot of people who are 3D renderers or graphic designers showing up at the interior design firms to interview the interior designer positions, and most of them got hired. Many of these 3D renderers or graphic designers were not interior design majored or licensed interior designers, but they all got very beautiful portfolios.

The software used by many 3D renderers, 3D Studio Max, can render photo realistic perspective drawings, and Adobe Illustrator, the program all graphic designers learned at colleges, can produce extremely beautiful color elevations. With the help of Adobe PhotoShop, another Adobe software learned by most graphic designers at school, can even edit the 3D renderings done by 3D Studio Max and the color elevations done by Adobe Illustrator to become even more beautiful and realistic, and when they used Adobe InDesign, another software learned by many graphic designers at schools, to create the portfolios, the beauty of the portfolios was just incomparable. No wonder those 3D renderers and graphic designers were always hired.

I personally worked with some of those 3D renderers and graphic designers at the same offices before, and when I asked them if they actually designed those projects showing on their portfolios, they all said no. They told me some other more senior interior designers (majored in interior design and licensed) at their previous jobs who came up with the designs done by hand sketches, and what they did was transforming the hand sketched ideas into the forms of 3D Studio Max and Adobe Illustrator renderings or drawings. I was wondering whether these new hired “interior designers” can come up with their own design ideas few years later after they become senior designers?! Well, time will tell.

Interesting Stuff in Interior Design Field in Asia

Most international students who went to the US to study wish they could stay in the US to live and work after they graduated, but only few of them would ever achieve their goals.

A lot of companies in the US rather hiring American citizens than foreign students because they are not willing to sponsor the H1B work visas unless the foreign workers’ qualifications or capabilities are significantly superior to their American counterparts. Therefore, many those foreign students had to go back to their native countries after graduated and never could make their American dream come true. I was one of the few fortunate ones who stayed and worked in the US for nearly 20 years because of my outstanding performance and talent to my profession. Not only I was hired by American companies many times as a foreign worker but stayed employed throughout the 2 major recessions after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001 and the housing bubble burst in 2008 while many co-workers of mine who were laid off were American citizens. My superb creativity and work ethic kept me on top of the game and made me an important asset to my previous companies.

However, since I decided to go to Asia to work 2 years ago, tables have started to turn. Every job I worked at in Asia, I had to report to the people who used to study in the US but failed to stay and work in the US. Those people who failed to compete with me in the US job market all became my superiors with higher pay in Asia. If you don’t think it is interesting, then what is?!

Studying Abroad Necessary?

I heard an educator in China said the other day on TV that he encouraged the Chinese students to go to the US to study because American education encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and it will be very helpful for the Chinese students who will return to China to work. Yes. I agreed with the first part but I laughed about the second part of his words.

Yes. American education system does encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, but will that be helpful for the Chinese students who decided to return to China after graduate? I doubt it.

First of all, for doing successful business in China, it will not be enough if you only have the skills or knowledge, or so-called entrepreneurship, you also need to know how to use “unconventional” ways to establish good relationship with the local government officials, how to socialize with and please the clients and government officials at the restaurants or clubs outside of regular business hours, and how to cut the corners and game the system in almost every step of the way, and I don’t think these are the entrepreneurship the American education system teaches.

Second, innovation, what an easy word to say but hard to do in China. In that part of the world, everything is done twice or three times faster than in the US. A building in the US that needs 3 years to build can be built in China in 8 months. Speed is above anything. How can you innovate anything high-tech or well thought through in very short period of time?! Moreover, working extra long hours is also the norm in China. How can you innovate when you are always exhausted?! not mentioning disrespect of copy rights and intelligence property will always kill your spirit of innovation.

So, the students do learn the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the US, but neither of them will be useful in China.

 

Fight against Copy Cats

As an American interior designer worked in China, I know too well about the culture of copying someone else’ designs over there. You might think the designers in China who copy other people’s designs are not creative,  but in fact, I have worked with many creative designers in China, so how come copying designs become so popular and it turns into the business norm for the interior design industry? Here are the reasons:

  • Extremely unreasonable deadlines: People around the world all have witnessed China’s rapid economy growth in the past two decades, there was a reason for that. If you can move from one project to the next faster, it means the more money you make, to both the design firms and the clients, so the time schedules set by the clients and the design firms usually are very tight compared we do projects in the US. You can easily find a 1-year long project gets done in 5 months in China. As we all know, a quick design idea might only take few minutes to generate, but a very well thought through design concept takes time, and there is no such luxury in China to allow designers really thinking deeper, so the best way to cut the corner is to copy or tweak other people’s designs.
  • Client’s requests: Unlike most of the clients I have worked with in the US who appreciated my creativity to come up with the ideas that no one else had ever thought about, the clients in China often demanded their designers to copy other people’s designs from the design magazines they read, the hotels they stayed or a store they visited. The most funny thing was one of the Chinese clients wanted me to copy a design from a design magazine and it turned out the project he wanted me to copy from was one of the projects I designed when I was working for another designer in the US.
  • Lacking 3D perception: Most of the clients I worked with or the employers I worked for in the US could visualize my design ideas simply with a free-hand sketch or a little better made hand sketches for the initial design presentations, but in China, because many clients and the designers alike never had any art or design related training, they just can’t visualize the designs without seeing a super realistic 3D color rendering done by the computer program like 3D Studio Max. As everyone knows, it is very time-consuming to generate a 3D Studio Max drawing, it is just not cost-effective, especially for the initial client meetings. So, looking for reference photos on-line or on magazines and using them as part of the design presentation becomes extremely popular and cost-effective way in China to conduct the initial client meetings. If the clients like the designs in the project reference photos, the designers are forced to go along with the design concepts or details done by other designers showing in the photos which indirectly turns the interior designers into interior copiers or interior tweakers. You might ask why those designers do not use their own old project photos? well, they do! but those old projects were also copied or tweaked from other designers’ projects. Even if some creative designers in China came up with some great ideas, their designs never could be approved by their employers because their employers could not visualize the designs without a computer generated color rendering either, and no one has time to make their design concepts in 3D Studio Max just for trying to persuade their bosses to approve the designs so that they could present them to the clients,  as the result, many great creative designs never even got the chance to reach the clients before being blocked by their employers. Frustrated, many designers in China start to look for reference photos for design ideas instead of creating their own.
  • Excessive overtime working: Because the super fast paced work environment in China, many designers are forced to work overtime constantly, 60 or even 70 weekly working hours are very common, the fatigue and stress caused by long working hours inhibited and even further damaged the designers’ creativity.

There are so many creative individuals in China who want to create but can’t. They are frustrated, over worked, and under paid. So, instead of criticizing the designers in China for being copy cats, we should blame those few on the top who made the designers copy cats.

Smarter Designers Don’t Copy

The designers in Asia usually copied American or European designers’ designs to make profits, and many Asians think they are smarter by doing this since they can make money quicker by saving time on research and design development, but is it really true?

American or European designers often enjoyed the profits from the patents, but for Asian designers who want to make profits without holding patents, they must work harder and faster in order to produce someone else’ products to make profits, so they often have the workers work overtime to pick up the production, as we all know, working overtime eventually kills the creativity, so Asian designers will never be creative enough to come up with any break-through invention so that American and European designers will always have the leading edge on innovation, and because the American and European designers are making profits from the patents, they do not need to work overtime to generate enough profits which allows them having more flexible time to think, invent, and come up with the next patented inventions to monopoly the markets.

American and European companies also can sue Asian companies for violating copy rights which will also divert the Asian companies’ resources and time from research to defending the lawsuits which will further damage Asian companies’ ability to innovate. If a design company’s design ability got fundamentally destroyed which will be like you are taking the heart out of a living person. Now, who is smart?