Many designers learn about new and exciting products through trade shows and Salamoff is one of them. Because reps are more likely to approach larger firms than hers, she relies on shows like NeoCon in Chicago and HD Expo in Las Vegas to introduce her to new products. She also signs up for e-mail alerts to hear about new products, but admits she doesn’t always have the time. “Sometimes I’ll look at them but as busy as I am, it’s hard.”
Various interior design blogs are popular sources for designers to learn about new products and find design ideas. Goold, whose blogs of choice include Design Milk and Dezeen, starts her mornings checking out “out-of-the-box, crazy stuff in other countries” while she waits for her files to open.
Eklof, who visits Designboom and Spoon & Tamago for design inspiration from Europe, Japan, China and South America, admits blogs can be a time suck if you don’t keep yourself in check. “There’s not enough time in the day,” he says. “You have to curate and focus what you’re looking at.”
With so much product information available
online, Warren finds it convenient to learn everything she can about products by doing a little internet research. “In our office, we rely on whitepapers, metrics and stats,” she says. “More than ever, our clients want to understand what they’re getting for their money and expect us to be experts.” The major downside to online research: negative product information isn’t easy to find online, according to Warren.
These shifts in design research are showing up in design school curriculums as well. Charlene Reed, an associate professor of interior design at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., says that the interior products and materials course is the one that’s changed the most in recent years. Although physical material samples are frequently donated to the school, they’re mostly outdated or discontinued, and students typically don’t bother with them.
What is being taught, however, is how to investigate products further. “We want to find out who’s the manufacturer, where it’s manufactured, how it’s manufactured and if it’s sustainable,” says Reed. Digital design boards are becoming de rigueur, but Reed teaches that “you still need to have a physical sample in the real world. It would be hard to get a client approval based on just a picture.”
Margie Monin Dombrowski is a freelance writer and interior design student based in Orange County, Calif. She frequently writes for interior design publications and creates copy for businesses on design topics. Find her online at www.margiemd.com.
Pew Research Center stats (http://pewinternet.org/Trend-Data-(Adults)/Online-Activites-Total.aspx