This is the third article of a twelve installments in a column, which will explore her experience of combining both worlds that seem so close, yet so far: Interior Architecture and Business. Read the first installment here and second here.
“Our economy is built upon convergent thinkers, people that execute things, get them done. But artists and designers are divergent thinkers: they expand the horizon of possibilities.” – John Maeda, president of Rhode Island School of Design & MIT Visual Language Workshop.
As soon as I made a decision to study in a field that has considerably less connections with my undergraduate education of Operations Management, many raised their eyebrows and bombarded me with questions on how these two worlds would collide and complement each other. “[Interior] Architects build spaces, and operations analysts tend to spend most of their days analyzing what went wrong with a company’s SOPs and improves them on a continuing basis. Are you sure you are studying something that will eventually help you out in your future career?”
Such a question lingered on my mind for quite some time too, actually. Although I am far convinced that my education in business is proven to be quite versatile in most industries, architecture is without a doubt highly specialized and focused – meaning I will mostly spend most of my career in the world of construction, brick-and-mortar structures, and building materials & finishes. A great architect or designer is known as imaginative, yet creative visionaire – people who knows how to make their abstraction into an actual reality in structures and spaces. That being said, there are some stereotypes built around the profession itself. While I am all in with such expectations on the profession, I truly believe that having myself equipped with business knowledge helped me go through my Interior Architecture education more rational and practical. Here’s why:
No space will ever be created without good project management skills.
Architects & designers can have all the most exquisite ideas, best materials & finishes selection, and delightful color pallette. However, my experience working on both academic and site projects so far proves that it takes more than those factors to contribute to a successful project in overall. In order to turn imagination into reality, a good designer needs to have superb skills in project management – one aspect that is heavily emphasized back in my business education. From scheduling to process control to human resources management and measuring results, my experience tackling several business-related projects equipped me with the necessary skills that proved to be helpful in graduate school. While the most exciting part of designing the space is over, there will be nothing built unless one executes the plan – and I believe there is some serious good management skills needed on that part.
Good design is a result of understanding your client, in and out.
One of the many things that I love about both design and business is that they are both very close to our daily lives. I doubt anyone in that anyone in modern civilization live their days with little to no connection to these two worlds. Design and business are very humane and approachable, making it inseparable aspects from our lives. In the world of Interior Architecture, an idea as exciting as it can be will not create any impact unless your design satisfies the needs of your client. Again, design is not just about making things look neat and pretty: it is about providing solutions that integrate the needs and pleases the wants of people as well as satisfying requirements of client’s goals. This is no different than most business capstone projects that I have completed back in undergrad. Be it new product development, six sigma projects, or marketing research, it all goes back to one fundamental principle: understanding your customer’s ulterior needs and translates them into a set of solutions that are easily executable, efficient in process, and built to be resilient against multiple future scenarios. Skills gathered back in business school, such as to better understand customer motives, proved that I would make for a better client reader when tackling my design projects here at grad school.
Design and Business share the same thinking process – only the approach is different.
We all know that the term ‘design’ has been widely democratized, and a wider audience has gained a better grasp on what the word is all about. Regardless of any branch of design, good business is a true reflection of good design and vice versa. Going to design school reaffirms my belief that the design thinking process goes beyond matching colors, textures and patterns. It is a lot more than just that. Such approach forces us to rely into our senses – to be intuitive, to be outside of the box, to break old conventions of problem solving and express solutions in a way that is both functional and easily understandable to the general public. Ever have that feeling when you step into a commercial space and everything feels just right without being too pretentious or artificial? That is, I believe, a true reflection of both good business and design at the same time. The business owners put high value on good design because what it will only bring is that great feeling to its customers. Good design means you care about your business. Good design means you are daring enough to go beyond what’s expected. And good design means a work done in consideration of the customers and what the business are capable doing.
A successful design project and bidding process is often aided by effective negotiation & presentation skills learned in business school.
It is still clear on my mind that if there is one thing which differentiates business students the most from other majors is that we tend to do a lot more presentations from other fields in general (at least my experience is.) My business education back in Boston University required me to do presentations, be it solo or as a group, at least once a week. While I often regularly complained, frequent presentations proved to be a powerful tool when I am up for design presentation here at graduate school. Stage fever is no longer an issue, and I have been well equipped with presenting skills that are necessary to make our content a lot more convincing and appealing. A design presentation is not a lot different from a business pitch; you have a customer with a problem, hence you need to offer solutions through an integrated concept and clever execution plan that will eventually solve your client’s problem. In essence, it has to be on the spot, creative, engaging, and most of all convincing. In real settings, design projects are not awarded to us for granted – we need to fight to earn it. Hence the importance of good grasp in content and effective presentation plays an important part in making one a successful and attractive designer. Looking back to those weekly presentations, now I feel glad to have done so.
As I am working towards my graduate degree, I find it fascinating that I am able to approach the world of design from a different perspective and combine best of both worlds. Business and design do cross path and make the best use of each other – solving people’s everyday problems through creative and executable solutions.
The image does not belong to author.