On June 11, James Kerrigan, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, was inducted as the 2017-2018 president of the IIDA International Board of Directors. With his global perspective—he has lived in the U.K., Australia, Ireland, and multiple regions of the United States—and long-time leadership in the industry, the design principal of interiors at Jacobs brings a unique worldview to his new role at the helm of IIDA. We talked to Kerrigan about his design philosophy, what he sees as the industry’s biggest challenge, the continued shift toward smart technology and flexible spaces, and design’s biggest opportunity.
IIDA: What is your philosophy as a designer?
James Kerrigan: I see design as relationship-based work. The focus is on being a partner, an advocate, and tuned in to the culture of an organization rather than imposing a design ethos or passing fad. I value the collaborative, integrated nature of what we do as designers. Listening to what our clients want is such a big part of our profession, and I love the challenge of working with a team to synthesize what we hear and bring solutions—both expected and unexpected—to the table.
IIDA: Where do you see the industry headed?
JK: Buildings are becoming smarter and more connected. What that means for design is that integrated technology will manifest itself as user-choice and user-influence over the space being occupied. With user-control, you’re going to continue to see a shift toward flexible design, less hard construction, and further support for adaptability in a space. Previously, people served the function of an office space, and now the space needs to serve the people.
IIDA: As a leader in this industry, what do you see as design’s biggest challenge right now?
JK: The ongoing commoditization of design is a challenge for our industry. Design is a critical and strategic business decision, but the idea that it’s transactional and price-driven is still prevalent. Clearly there’s a defined expertise and there are different levels of quality—you get what you pay for.
IIDA: How can the design industry overcome this challenge?
JK: I believe there’s a greater opportunity to demonstrate our value as an industry. Design is a service; it’s an experience; it’s people-focused. Once upon a time, design was transactional—we executed a design based on what the client told us they wanted. What makes design so successful now is that it goes far beyond choosing colors, artwork, furniture, signage, or a particular floor plan. It’s the holistic and integrated solution—the most effective interiors happen at the intersection of real estate and design, and reflect and support the culture, vision, mission, and brand of an organization.
"The most effective interiors happen at the intersection of real estate and design, and reflect and support the culture, vision, mission, and brand of an organization."
Evidence-based design has started to define value for commercial interior design, but the research is largely qualitative. Quantitative research—i.e., the return on investment for design—will bring additional credibility and ensure that outside of our industry, design is rightfully understood as a necessity that brings value and requires expertise.
To that end, providing essential industry content through a variety of mediums that continues to illustrate the tangible benefits of design is among my priorities as president of the IIDA International Board of Directors. We have a great opportunity to further the association’s position as the foremost source for commercial interior design thought leadership and research.
To learn more about IIDA content, research, and publications, visit iida.org.