Thought Starters

QOTW 2013: Week 36: How can Interior Designer’s avoid their worst nightmare?

Understanding Interior DesignYou know what happens when you don’t ask the right questions.

It goes without saying that you’re intelligent enough to ensure your design solutions are effective but have they ever gone down a path that has yielded less than optimal results? If they have and if you discovered the issues in time you certainly corrected course but you may have lost valuable time and expended valuable resources in the process.

We’re all aware that no one is perfect and we can’t spend inordinate amounts of time figuring out what to ask and whether or not our questions are the best for the given problem.


So, how do you know that you’re on the right track then?

Is there a formula for asking the right questions? Is there a process map or a methodology that allows you understand the essence of the design problem?

And, why bother worrying too much about asking the optimal questions anyway? Things change, right?

As an Interior Designer, I have never seen a project that’s been completed without change. You? We are human. Fallible. We are also prone to change. It’s inevitable. We have simply learned how to minimize it as best as we can.

So, can asking the right questions save you changing your design down the road?

Not anywhere near 100% but if you can reduce iteration there may be less backtracking and less stress for your client in responding to decisions on the fly especially during the implementation process.

Would you agree that the discovery phase of an interior design project holds the key to its eventual success? In some small way we know this intuitively, however, here we are.


Imagine yourself as part of a team executing a project.

There are a ton of players.

Communication is a critical part of successfully executing your work and you do it well. Each team member is responsible for gathering critical project information and assimilating it into solutions. Everyone naturally commits to ensuring their efforts are as precise as they can be. Even in this utopia we still experience polar shifts in our solutions.

We all get on the bus together as a team, but what do we do to ensure the bus is heading down the right road?

We all have our processes and we rely on those to get us through the iterations necessary to deliver a project but do our processes work for every project the same way?

They don’t.

So, what else can we do to ensure our thinking best suits the design problem?


Here are few ideas an Interior Designer can consider.

Listen, repeat and understand.

Nothing beats listening. How else are you going to know what to ask? When you really listen and put any preconceived notions aside you get much further down the road of truly understanding your client’s problems. Repeating the problem back to your client does two things; it proves that you have interpreted the problem correctly giving cognitive proof that you understand their expectations and it allows your client to validate the problem. This type of validation allows the design team to manage expectations effectively even before the pen hits paper.

Get some perspective.

Did you ask the right questions? Another way to find out is by spending some time sharing your ideas which opens the doors to a critical view of your thinking. Sharing a design problem in a charette or impromptu design critique allows you to describe the problem and communicate your thinking which can expose other viewpoints that may lead to improved solutions. You are offering your team the opportunity to improve the outcome before you commit to a final solution.

Validate your thinking.

Focussed individual review of your progress is not something you abandoned when you left your educational institution. Or is it? You can call it what you want; peer review, quality assurance, whatever but a clear review of your work is critical to ensuring the success of your projects. Waiting to the end of your design process to validate your thinking is too late. The cost of iterative reviews certainly outweighs the cost of fundamental changes after the fact.


Let’s bottle this thing!

The basic phases of the interior design process are universally understood yet we all know are never cut and dried. Scope dictates how you solve a problem and asking the right questions is critical to your understanding of the design problem. Projects that fit neatly into a matrix that your professional association can easily describe and offer standard process steps to solve are few and far between.

Besides, who wants to live in that world?

Considering every problem is unique there is no easy way to bottle a formula anyway.

That’s what I love about design.

Understanding Interior Design


That brings us to today’s quote.

A philosopher I am not nor am I in a position to quote Nietzsche but his quote below fit the topic this week to a tee. He nailed it on the head – so to speak. Hahahaha. There’s not much more I can say other than take it away Mr. Nietzsche.

understanding Interior Design


If that doesn’t brighten your day then maybe this will.



Understanding Interior Design














Have a great day and an awesome week.

If you want to read last week’s quote simply click here.






About this Author: Ralph Dopping (199 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday:



  1. [...] The analogy is interesting when you apply it to Interior Design both as a process and a result (or product). Our work as Interior Designers doesn’t necessarily translate directly to user interface design for technology but the similarities to deriving solutions can’t be ignored. If anything, it’s perspective. [...]