Teamwork is important in interior design. Until recently, when I thought of teamwork, I envisioned a soccer squad or perhaps a few people comparing notes around a conference table. Although I can cheer myself hoarse at a soccer game, teamwork in a business context has often seemed rather ho-hum.

However, after participating in IIDA’s 2006 Student Mentoring Week in January (see my post of February 11, 2006 for additional comments on this experience), I really began to appreciate the value of teamwork. Of course, I knew that design firms organized projects by teams and that they often called in outside consultants to assist, but the teamwork that I witnessed during my day shadowing a representative from furniture manufacturer Herman Miller was much more.

In commercial furniture procurement, an lot of people have vital roles to play. Designers create concepts, develop designs, and specify products, relying on manufacturers’ representatives to educate them about their choices. Dealers plan layouts, place orders, coordinate installation, and provide services after installation. Manufacturing plants build and ship orders and freight companies haul the goods to drop-off facilities, which in turn deliver the furniture to the jobsite. Each of these players takes on a portion of the procurement process to get the project done – and the effort is impressive. Even though the team members work for different organizations and sit in different offices, they’re really working together as a team to get the project done.

An interior architecture project is much more than furniture, however. Consider the time required for designing, specifying, ordering, and installing drywall, flooring, wallcoverings, ceilings, lighting, HVAC, safety systems, and all the other components of an interiors project, each of which has a grid of participants much like those occupied in furniture procurement, and it becomes obvious that the amount of work involved in bringing a design project from concept to completion is mind-boggling. Clearly, a finished interior involves more than the work of a single individual or even the efforts of the hard-working members of the design firm team. It involves complicated coordination and cooperation between dozens of people and organizations.

This is the larger project team, without which a project wouldn’t get done. The importance of each and every one of the many players on this team is what I discovered during my Mentoring Week experience, re-defining in my mind what may be the most important word in design – teamwork.

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