It’s easy as interior designers and architects to push the importance of original design from the mind, particularly when working with a tight budget. This “the client is always right” mentality can seep into the design process, putting emphasis more on giving end users exactly what they want at the price they want it—or at least a solution that looks like the piece they want if it’s cost-prohibitive to go for the real deal.
However, when discussing his involvement with Be Original Americas (an industry-wide non-profit which aims to inform and educate manufacturers and design professionals about the importance of authentic design), Ricardo Nabholz, Assoc. IIDA, LEED AP, senior associate and creative director at TPG Architecture, said that committing to original design is more than morals: “Knock-offs are a liability.”
“There are important liabilities to consider in regards to knock-offs,” Nabholz continued. “It is illegal to important counterfeit goods, so there is a possibility that the goods will be seized at customs and destroyed. It is not likely that your client will get their money back or get replacements in time to meet their project schedule.”
Then there’s the liabilities involved if the product fails to meet standards because it wasn’t created with the original’s standard of care and durability.
“If the chair, for example fails and someone is inured, the injured party’s insurer will seek damages from the business that owns the chair, who will in turn seek damages from the specifier, who will in turn seek damages from the manufacturer. This is not a situation you want to create for your client or your firm.”
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Of course, there are the times when a client is insistent on getting the look of an original at a lower price point. In these cases, Nabholz recommends deciphering whether it’s the icon or the style the client is looking to achieve. If it’s the style, “then there are always alternates that can meet the design intent at a lower price point.”
But if it’s the icon itself the client is bent on having, they should know that beyond liabilities, it can be easy for someone to recognize that the piece isn’t original, which can become an embarrassing situation.
When asked about the importance of original design, Nabholz added, “I think the biggest barrier to understanding this issue is ignorance... Everyone should care about original design. Designers are real people with real families. Design is a career; it’s not esoteric or difficult to understand. You wouldn’t buy a knock-off car—you wouldn’t trust it. You wouldn’t put your money into a knock-off investment. Once you divorce the idea of original design from products and apply it to other aspects of day-to-day commerce, it is easy to recognize knock-off as a form of fraud that no just person would willingly engage in.”
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