And now, few words from Doug . . .
Once upon a time I was a designer, an interior designer, since 1963 when I apprenticed with a very large retail organization designing retail stores all over the U.K. I think looking back I’ve been a very lucky designer having worked on so many different kinds of projects and with so many influential and great people like the Grima brothers (Andrew and George) in London, architect descendants of the Farnese family on their mothers side, famous for their centuries old relationship with the Vatican and its architecture. One of their descendants was Pope Paul III. They were extremely talented and I received a great grounding in the process of design.
From there I headed to the colonies in 1970 looking for new adventures settling in Toronto just as it was beginning its unprecedented commercial real estate boom. Somehow I wound up working for Herman Miller Canada in 1973 and after pulling off a new showroom design in a spectacular penthouse space in downtown Toronto I was recruited by the parent company in Michigan to come and manage their facilities design group. At the time Herman Miller was the belly of the beast as the leading commercial furniture design company in the world and it was exciting times where I got to meet a lot of the great players the names of whom many of you already know and many of whom are long gone, but their work still persists as reminders of what excellent design looks like.
Not all good things last, as that company is a mere shadow of what it once was as a design leader in my opinion, but all things must pass. They chose their own path.
It was time to take on a new challenge so I went to help Sunar-Hauserman, more specifically Hauserman, in Cleveland catch up to all the other furniture manufacturers who were well entrenched in the 20th century, whereas they were still in the 19th. I had a great time there and a relatively free hand despite a lot of effort by the less enlightened to thwart my, and others, attempts to drag them along kicking and screaming all the way. They were extremely entrenched to say the least despite management’s desires and efforts to play catch up. I did get to work closely with the great Massimo Vignelli, another great Italian designer in the mold of the Grima brothers from my London experience. There were also many others attempting to inflict good design on this company that I got to work with and meet so I have no complaints. Alas that firm did not heed my advice or that of many others and is no longer around.
As designers we often see so much potential but like the old adage says, “You can lead a horse to water, but…”
It was now time to “head west young man”, so in 1982 I emigrated to that place that still thinks it’s another country, California. For all intents and purposes it is another country, something the design community here readily acknowledges.
What’s not to like about California? Even if the work isn’t going good there’s always the weather, especially after London, Toronto, Michigan and Ohio.
In 1985 I started my own firm and in 1991 the profession recruited me as a volunteer to help with the certification process that was about to begin in this state. I’ve been involved with certification ever since and became a full time employee of CCIDC in 1997 giving up my design practice that same year. It’s been an interesting ride to say the least and I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some wonderful and very talented and passionate people. They know who they are. I’ve also run across some very obstructionist people and they know who they are.
The dichotomy of the interior design profession as an emerging one is a lot like some of my personal design experiences of trying to lead the less enlightened into the world of innovative and creative design, the horse and the water analogy.
This is also prevalent in the world of architecture where the old guard fight tooth and nail to prevent the emergence of interior design as a real profession versus that of the younger guard who see interior design as an important element of architecture that they cannot survive without.
The shell of a beautiful building is nothing more than a worthless box if it doesn’t function for the use of the occupants on the inside. Dysfunctional buildings will remain that way no matter what efforts are made to make them really functional. I know I’ve tried.
Like me, someday the old guard will be retired and hopefully the young will take over and the dialog between architects and interior designers will be more mutually beneficial. It is inevitable and the one thing I’ve learned these past 27 years of being involved with CCIDC and the certification of interior designers in California is patience. I’ve also learned to recognize what a brick wall looks like. The proverbial one that this profession has a penchant for banging its head against.
It is unfortunate that the AIA and the state licensing boards they “control” prevail at preventing the emergence of this profession that many young and enlightened architects acknowledge are an important and equal part of the team. The old guard is grinding what teeth they have left at this statement. I warned you I can be blunt and I haven’t even started yet. Perhaps we’ll save that for another day.
The other part of the problem for the emergence of this profession is us. We have too many disparate groups and associations with diverging agendas run by non-designers who have little or no interior design know ledge using these organizations as cash cows and telling the profession what to do. This is why there has been no meaningful interior design legislation passed anywhere in this country for the past 15 years or so. Again, we’ll save this for another day too.
Will it ever end? Maybe! Remember the lawyers and the paralegals, the dentists and the dental hygienists, the doctors and the nurse practitioners, and many others, all went through this process. It takes time!
For many on the other side of the equation it’s all about turf protection, or at least perceived turf, however nothing can be further from the truth, but you can’t tell them that. “We are the guardians of the built environment and interior designers are just not skilled or educated enough to take on any responsibility without a licensed architect’s oversight”, even though interior designers have been doing this without causing physical harm or injury to the public for 40 years or more. Their rhetoric is vacuous and tiresome at best.
Speaking of harm to the public, where is the proof that architects cause harm to the public, which is the foundation of their licensing argument? Of course there is none, at least not since all architectural design work must be approved by a building official and meet all government codes before it is built. See, we all fall under the same oversight. Of course they will argue the opposite as they will surely never give up their grip on licensing and embrace certification, which would work just as well for them as it does for us.
Licensing is a right the government takes away and then sells back to us for a price under the guise of consumer protection.
Licensing is rarely promulgated by the general public, but rather by the profession seeking such restrictive licensing so as to control the profession like a cartel in order to keep others out.
So, as I said at the beginning of this article at the age of 70 I’m not that diplomatic anymore and tend to be a lot more blunt. I think as one grows older there seems to be a sense of less time to see things through rosy glasses. I think this last statement was probably my last diplomatic one.
In closing I will say that this profession needs to keep pushing forward, especially working with building officials in order to get them to recognize their abilities and the scope of work they are allowed to do under the law. For those who seem to be destined to continue the head bashing against the proverbial brick wall I would say that perhaps you should take a look at the California certification program and title act as a model for other states where you have completely failed to implement any kind of real standard for interior designers.
To all those who know me, and who I have gotten to know these past 27 years of my affiliation with CCIDC I thank you and want to tell you what a privilege it has been to work with and represent you. I have enjoyed my sojourn with CCIDC and have learned an immense amount about the regulatory process and its effect on this profession.
As you can tell from some of the photos above I am a multifaceted person enjoying whatever life brings me and whatever life I seek. There is so much more to do and see, “but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep”.
It is time to say “adios amigos, vaya con Dios”, and seek new adventures.
Doug Stead. CID, Now Retired