Commercialized Residential Design

Ever since the housing market crashed in 2008, I have realized the line between commercial and high end residential projects has been blurred. In the pre 2008 era, there were lots of custom built-ins and high quality furniture that designated to high end residential market used in high end residential projects, but now we can see many less expensive modularized commercial grade cabinetry and knock off furniture that used to be selected for commercial projects used in high end residential projects. In terms of project deadlines, high end residential projects now are asked to be completed just as quickly as commercial projects without considering maintaining high quality craftsmanship. Without high quality materials or craftsmanship, I once wondered if we still can call high end residential projects high end? But considering the high end residential project clients are still just as rich as pre 2008 era, I believe I still have to consider the residential projects coming from these affluent clients as high end, but in reality, these clients’ mindsets are no longer truly high end. Therefore, I think we should call today’s high end residential projects commercialized residential projects.

Design Trends or Sales Tricks?

I always received the newsletters from ASID which had many articles talking about kitchen design trends or green design trends…etc. My take is that they are just bunches of companies trying to sell their products. Kitchen companies sell contemporary Minimalist kitchen cabinets detect Minimalist design trend is in. Furniture companies sell traditional style furniture say the traditional style trend is coming back and on the rise. The paint companies say the certain color trends will be popular the next coming season which the paint company happens to be the only one sells those colors they claimed to be in style. Since when the design trends are detected by the businesses?! Aren’t interior designers (those who are not sponsored by the manufacturers) should be the ones  who detect the design trends?!

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.

Low salary contributes to higher competitiveness?!

I just read an article the other day saying low salary in Asia actually increases the competitiveness for these low salary countries which a lot of European countries and the US envy greatly. What kind of non-sense it is?!

I am not so sure if the writer of the article has ever heard a word called Brain-Drain? Does he think the people in those low salary countries are so stupid so they will stay at wherever they are for the rest of their lives?! When majority of the workers leave the country, it will fundamentally devastate the country’s competitiveness as a whole. The low salary countries eventually become education and training facilities for those countries with higher salary levels.

Two major reasons cause brain-drain: 1. Low salary. 2. Long working hours. Paying capable people good salary not only increases workers’ productivity which will eventually contribute to the company’s growth but also eliminate the competitions for the company. Many workers quit their jobs and start out on their own is because they are not satisfied with their pay and want to make more, so when those employees establish their own companies, they eventually become their former employers’ business competitors.

Making workers work overtime is also a commonly seen phenomenon in the low salary countries, I always heard the employers tried to defend it by saying if I do not take the jobs with unreasonable deadlines, someone else will in a heart beat and even ask for less. Well, who do you think those “someone else” are? a lot of them probably used to work for you, dumb dumb! If you keep taking those jobs that have unreasonable deadlines and making your employees work overtime all the time, then you will expect many more such competitions in the future, and those who stay and work will also become less productive or creative workers due to the long working hours, so while the workers in the countries with higher salary invent good stuff and make money out of the patents and enjoy their lives on sunny beaches, your less creative workers will still work like dogs and never be able to invent anything. Now, tell me where is the competitiveness brought by the low salary?!

Senior Designer Job Interview Trap-Part I

Some interior design firms posted ads on line to hire senior designers, but actually hiring someone was their last intentions. Instead, they just wanted to see the senior designers’ portfolios so they could possibly borrow some of the design ideas. Constantly monitoring the companies’ websites and see if any of your idea was used without your knowledge should be the key. Also, don’t email your portfolios to these kinds of design companies before a face-to-face interview will also be essential. If you have encountered the similar situation, please contact me as soon as possible.

Blind Spots of Referrals & References

Has anyone asked you to recommend any general contractor or formal employee? Yes, and I also have asked for references on general contractors and employees. Asking for references may sound making sense before hiring anyone, but I realized it actually created blind spots for my own judgement.

I needed a designer who was analytical and technical oriented but I ended up getting one who was outgoing and talkative. This designer’s formal employers told me she was great! She was a pretty good presenter and a good sales person who had great taste on FF&E, but she was not very good at drafting and not very technical oriented. She had very limited experiences on construction and job site supervision. So, she might be great for other design firms but not necessarily suitable for me. 

I also worked with a designer who had bad reputation from one of her ex- employers, but I looked at her resume and found she was working for that particular design firm for over 10 years, so I wondered if this designer was so bad, why the employer who bad mouthed her kept her for so long? Later on I found out that particular employer did the same thing to all of her formal employees who left her. If she felt everyone who left her and moved on was basically a traitor, of course there will be no good designer for her. 

I also tried to find a GC for a high end residential job, and I found one who had really good reputation. Well, I soon realized he was very fast but was not very detail oriented, then I also realized this GC had done mostly commercial projects and had limited experiences on high end residential jobs. No wonder his craftsmanship sucked!! He might be fast which most commercial project clients liked, but his lousy workmanship really couldn’t deliver the quality work the clients were looking for. So, I couldn’t keep working with him on high end residential projects in the future.

After these 3 incidents, I definitely stopped relying on references as much and used my own judgement more before hiring anyone.

 

Things to consider if you work at the design firms that divide tasks

Many design firms divide tasks for their designers, some of them are only involved in FF&Es, some are only doing CAD drafting or rendering, and some only go to the job sites. Dividing tasks can maximize the efficiency based on each designer’s strengths. However, if you are a junior level designer who works at this kind of company, you might not be able to learn the whole design process which could have negative impact if you would like to work for different design firms or run your own business in the future. If you are a senior level designer and already know all aspects of design process, working at the firms that divide tasks may give you more opportunities to focus on the tasks you are good at which will lead to better job performance and happier you.

Myth of Multitasking

Is multitasking good? Well, look at what the researchers had found, people practicing multitasking are more likely to make mistakes and always have below average job performance. Working at the firms that always require you handle multiple things at the same time which means the firms might have problematic projet management, or the firms either have the superiors or clients who are extremely spontaneous and do not like to follow the set schedules. With crisis creators around, expecting very stressful work atmosphere. 

Multitasking may sound like a positive word to describe a work environment or a capable worker. Unfortunately, human brains were created to focus on one thing at a time. If you really think people truly can multitask well, the governments around the world should just legalize drive while texting.

Working at the firms don’t charge clients hourly

The clients pay flat fee tend to make more design changes and ask for more intense shop-arounds. Don’t blame them, cuz it’s free!!

Changing approved designs, especially during Contract Document phase can be really counter productive which also means the disasters waiting to happen. Changing approved designs for accommodating job site condition is understandable, but changing designs just for change’s sake can be very annoying and time consuming. Charging hourly serves as a mechanism to discourage the indecisive clients making constant design changes. Without this mechanism, the designers will always work on repeat tasks which can lead to overtime working easily. For those clients who like you to compare prices with 10 different vendors just for one single piece of furniture, charging hourly rate can also remind them not to try to save a dime but end up spend a dollar.

At last, charging hourly rates will force you monitoring yours and your employees’ time better and making sure the time is efficiently spent. Thus, good for your own wellbeing and time management skill.

Things to consider when working at the firm that has junior level people working there the longest

If you don’t see senior level people working at the company, first of all, that usually means the company is lacking of the opportunity to promote in terms of job position and salary, and because senior level people possess certain skills and experiences, they can make move quicker and easier, after they departed, junior level people become the people who work at the company the longest and enjoy the seniority. Employers will give these junior people more authority and responsibilities because these junior people are considered loyal, and if you have inexperienced junior level people take in charge and boss around the new coming senior level people, the work environment can be chaotic. Some junior level people even abuse their authority and seniority to take advantage of circumstance and turn themselves into underground bosses. They can do whatever they want because they can get rid of anyone they don’t like including more senior level people who were hired to be in charge. Employers normally listen to these junior level people’s words since they work at the companies the longest so they were considered loyal and trustworthy. As a new employee in this kind of company, no matter you are a junior, intermediate or senior level person, you definitely will have hard time at work no matter what you do unless you become the best friend with the junior level person who works there the longest. On the end, the only people who can thrive at these companies are those who know how to play mind game and politics, not those who are capable or working hard.