I is for International

As technology spreads trends and breaks down barriers at an ever-faster clip, maintaining an international approach to design has become more important than ever before.

12.31.2012 by James Williamson, IIDA, LEED AP

There are also other, more pragmatic details that need to be sorted out when working on international projects, and today’s industry leaders are working to clarify those as well. For example, standard project plans do not guarantee standards in construction. Often times, a design firm partners with local designers and tradesmen to effectively monitor projects. These relationships take time to build. International manufacturers can be a great resource in these circumstances, often employing customer service representatives who speak multiple languages and can foresee challenges before they arise.

The best way to navigate these rough and often confusing waters is through pooling our knowledge. Design-related forums, festivals, roundtables and inspirational lectures offer valuable opportunities for thought-leaders to dialogue on time-sensitive international topics, including protecting the authenticity of products abroad, distribution channels, partnerships and global design trends. As design goes global, events such as IIDA’s Industry Roundtable work to offer strategic perspectives by bringing together major manufactuers and IIDA members from across the country.

International competitions and new chapters in different parts of the world also present opportunities for interior designers to reach out to the rest of the international community. We may communicate in different languages, but we also have a collective visual channel of communication. It is exciting and rewarding to learn from educators and peers in different parts of the world, as well as through the different environments we create and experience.

The international Student Sustainable Design Competition, the Best Interiors of Latin America competition, Global Excellence Awards and Healthcare Interior Design Awards are specific examples of international initiatives available to the design community through IIDA. Likewise, several interior design associations offer CEU credits, which inform the community of current sustainable efforts worldwide. These reading materials build global awareness, and serve as a knowledge center in and beyond the education of an interior designer.

International design has long provided opportunities for career development and advancement in the industry, but as a new economic age develops around us, embracing internationalism is more important than ever before. Getting started with international design can be as simple as exploring an online gallery of international project winners or by connecting with other professionals through local chapter events. What we hope you will learn from these engagements is that good design is global design.


IIDA International President James Williamson, IIDA, LEED AP is a practicing interior designer and principal at Gensler in its Washington, D.C. office. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at iidahq@iida.org.


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