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Expanding Your Reach

Advances in technology and social media have allowed designers to collaborate and connect on a global level, opening doors for forward-thinking firms.

02/01/2012 By Peter Conant

How do we as interior designers best use digital tools to improve what we do? How does technology affect what we do as interior designers? Our creative process and passion for what is fresh and new has always been our fuel; technology, however, is the facilitator, allowing us to work effectively and be successful in the current business climate.

There once was a day when the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) reached its members solely through snail mail and phone calls. Then came the advent of “ActionFax,” a newsletter which was delivered to tech-savvy designers on that awful fax paper of the 1980s. Fortunately, those days are long gone—today, technology has changed our entire relationship with members through instant communication via smartphones and social media.

The emergence of social media in particular has allowed IIDA to create streaming, two-way conversations (as opposed to one-way marketing campaigns). Social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Google+ and Twitter allow us to engage with members and industry professionals in real time. This allows us to receive feedback, respond to comments and spark mutual value between the association and members.

Social media tools are also helping IIDA to reach a broader audience than we ever thought possible. This has, in turn, opened us up to new connections, partnerships and business opportunities around the globe. Our organization has grown from almost no followers on social media channels to more than 45,000 in just over two years. These days, when we post a link, it not only gets seen by our members, but gets shared and retweeted hundreds of times. All of this activity serves to support the first “I” in our brand—International—by reaching interested members and professionals, no matter where or when.

IIDA recently shared the newest insights on social media with leading designers and industry manufacturers at our 15th annual Industry Roundtable, “Work: Who, Where and How: The Intersection of Culture, Workplace and Social Media,” facilitated by IIDA executive vice president and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA. Bringing together the manufacturers and design professionals who work so closely to provide client solutions, the program focused on how the design community is using and accessing social media in the workplace, the way social media has changed the definition of “work,” and its potential to elevate a brand. You can check out the resulting white paper at

The phenomenon of social media is not going away, and that’s why I encourage other business owners and interior designers to not only embrace it, but to cultivate it. When done right, it can help promote your business, expand your client base and further enhance your brand. A company’s online presence is the first impression a prospective client receives, and it can either attract new clientele or turn them to another firm. That makes it essential for businesses to be up-to-date regarding all relevant technology trends. When is the last time you Googled yourself? That’s what your prospects are doing.

In addition to social media, the evolution of technology has changed the interior design field by adding efficiencies to our process and creating a seamless stream of information from the start of design through construction completion. We can now collaborate and communicate with team members, clients and consultants all over the world to achieve a faster and more optimal outcome than ever before.

The opportunity to work remotely is revolutionizing the entire workforce, but the interior design field in particular. Working remotely allows designers to have an international reach through technology, which enables them to gain new clients and compete with larger firms. IIDA has also harnessed remote technology to create and maintain new relationships with global partners through international competitions such as the Global Excellence Awards, an annual worldwide design competition established to honor and celebrate excellence in interior design and architecture projects. This year’s competition featured entries from 92 design firms and 32 countries, and is just another example of technology making the world smaller.

That’s not to say that technology’s presence in our day-to-day lives is all to our benefit. Yes, it has made information almost immediate—designers can find any content they need with the click of a button—but as a result, projects are becoming extremely fast paced, with clients expecting an almost immediate response. Clients demand that designers meet aggressive schedules, leaving little latitude for error and potentially compromising the time and process needed to provide outstanding, innovative design. This is why it is more important than ever to manage our time and accessibility. Whether we are working in the office, connecting virtually or face-to-face, each hour is vital to the success or our projects.

These days, we need to be proactive and deliberate in our work. We need to be accurate. We need to be thinking about next week, next month and a year from now. Technology is the enabler for success; when used to enhance efficiency and encourage collaboration, we can help provide outstanding quality service globally.

IIDA President Peter Conant, IIDA, AIA, LEED AP is the founder of Conant Architects in New York. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at