According to the old African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, in my experience, it takes a team to ace a project. The complexities of today's design practice, increasing client demands and ever-changing issues make the job bigger than any one person or profession can manage. Architects, engineers and consultants usually make up the team. However, increasingly, another member of the built community is being invited to the table as part of the team on specific projects. Valued for their vast knowledge of solutions, detailing and codes related to their product or service, industry representatives have become a sought-after resource for certain kinds of expertise.
It's no secret that for some time interior designers and the interior design associations have gone to industry for "a hand and a handout." In the salad days of the booming '90s, industry was regarded largely as a source of funding for various events or functions. Companies were eager to build relationships with designers, and designers saw them as having deep pockets. Over time, however, industry has demonstrated that its true worth is in the knowledge it generates and is willing to share. Much of the research that ASID has provided to the profession was made possible by industry support, not just in dollars, but also in expertise. And industry is represented on the society's councils and committees. These individuals make an invaluable contribution to these groups and to the society as a whole, through their intelligence and business acumen, as well as their industry perspective and product knowledge.
The same holds true for design practice. Successful industry representatives know their business goes beyond selling a product or providing a service. Building relationships and providing knowledge is what gives them the edge. As one rep explained to me, "Knowing what business you are in is a key factor to business survival. I know my business is that of a design resource. My clients call me first on any issue dealing with the built environment."
In my own practice, I go first to an industry representative who has taken the time to build a relationship with me even when there was no project. These trusted advisors provide greater depth to my solutions and, therefore, greater value to my work. They advise the right product, right application and right solution every time. Thanks to them, I can exceed my client's expectations. They make my team great and my work successful.
If you are a designer and are not making use of this invaluable resource, it's time to rethink who is on your team. It's never too crowded at the table for someone who's contributing to your success.
ASID National President H. Don Bowden is founder of his own firm, H. Don Bowden-Architect, in Mobile, AL. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3580; fax (202) 546-3240; www.asid.org.