The other day, I took a 10-year-old to The Counter, a very successful build-your-own-burger chain that began in Southern California and now has outposts all over the world. Kids always go crazy for the multitude of options available—apparently there are more than
300,000 combinations possible—and my lunch date was no exception. The
burger he created was one-of-a-kind, to be sure, but totally inedible. Let’s
just say that apricot sauce, bleu cheese, black bean salsa, and bacon were
never meant to coexist.
Can’t find the perfect luxury handbag at Nordstrom? Mon Purse will help
you design that dream bag online. The site allows you to select the silhouette
and type of leather, then decide what color you want each part of the bag
to be—front, sides, handle, strap—and finish off with the lining, hardware,
fringe, monogram, etc. Four weeks and a few hundred dollars later, your
bag arrives in the mail. The website contains an algorithm that prevents you
from producing a truly heinous Franken-bag, but the number of possible
combinations—and missteps—are still staggering.
The idea of freedom of choice is as ingrained in our national psyche as
apple pie. With today’s proliferation of just-in-time manufacturing, global supply
chains, 3D printing, and instant communication, consumers can create nearly
anything they can dream up. Custom goods used to be available only to the
wealthy; today anyone can go online and design sneakers, lipstick, sofas,
and lamp shades. But, is all this choice actually improving our lives?
Back in 2000, a psychologist discovered consumers will say they prefer
an assortment of two dozen jams, but they will end up buying more jam
when they’re given only six choices. Similarly, three-quarters of employees
invested in a 401(k) when they were given only two investment portfolios,
but when faced with 59 individual options, only 60 percent invested. In other
words, too much choice can be paralyzing
and impair good decision-making.
This leads us to interior design. The
notion that everyone should have access
to good design is a development that we
all welcome. But today we’re constantly
bombarded with a cacophony of images,
ideas, and advice. The public still doesn’t
understand that televised design isn’t realistic,
a knock-off Eames chair is an insult to the
original, and the cheap rug in their nursery may be off-gassing their baby.
Good design marries aesthetics and performance, and enhances lives, whatever
the budget. The average consumer, however, has no idea what to look for
beyond what’s on the surface and the price tag.
This is why there will always be a need for professional interior designers.
Sure, anyone can decide what color they want to paint their bedroom
walls, but an interior designer will know what colors help assisted living
residents navigate hallways better; a teacher knows how to arrange students’
desks for a particular lesson plan, but an interior designer will know which
chairs allow active kids to fidget unobtrusively and actually learn better;
an office manager can select a task lamp, but an interior designer can specify
circadian ambient lighting that will help workers sleep and digest better at
night. The list goes on.
At ASID, we believe design impacts lives. In order for that impact to
be a positive one, there is a real need for experienced and knowledgeable
experts to help navigate the limitless options available today and avoid costly
mistakes. In other words, with a professional interior designer on hand, you
won’t end up with a space that’s the equivalent of an apricot, bleu cheese,
black bean, and bacon burger—something I hope never to see again.
Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA, is the Chair of the
Board of Directors and a principal and the firm-wide interior design practice
leader at Steinberg Architects. Learn more about ASID at ASID.org.
By Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA
Mass Customization or
a Custom FIASCO?
The limitless possibilities with build-your-own goods and products can be overwhelming—that’s where design professionals come in.
Good design marries
whatever the budget.