The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) hosted its 15th Industry Roundtable from January 6 to 8, in part exploring social media’s role as it affects designers, architects, and manufacturers from some of the most present brands in the design community. Although a White Paper on the event won’t be available until next month, Contract had the chance to speak with Lira Luis, one of the panel speakers at the two-part discussion “Work: Who, Where, How. The Intersection of Culture, Workplace, and Social Media,” that looked at how social media is changing the way the A&D industry conducts business.
How has social media changed your definition of “work”?
Lira Luis: Social media—whether I’m designing a core and shell building or an interior space—has enhanced my work as an architect; I see it as a tool. For example, in a recent restaurant project, I was in search of consultants to work with, so I reached out to people in my social media network for recommendations, particularly on LinkedIn. I also ask colleagues about their experiences with specific manufacturers when searching for products to specify.
How has it changed your work environment?
Luis: The work environment has become more and more collaborative. The experience of one colleague becomes the shared experience of others in the profession from which we can all learn.
Has social media changed how you relate to clients? Manufacturers? Brands?
Luis: Yes. What I normally look for when I select products/manufacturers, aside from quality, are experiences dealing with them. I ask questions like, “Will this manufacturer help make it easier to accomplish the design objective?” Or “Will this manufacturer or brand cause delays on the project?” Then I look to SoMe [social media] for those kinds of experiences to be translated, like how responsive they would be to my questions [from their level of interaction].
As far as clients, or potential ones, I find that if you add value to connecting, more often than not it results in project leads. Sometimes it may not be directly with the person, but it will be someone from his or her own network. It's like the online version of word-of-mouth marketing.
Has it solved design-related problems you had experienced in the past?
Luis: It doesn't directly solve design related problems, but it does add another platform to make communication lines accessible to everyone in a project team.
Has social media created any problems in your work?
Luis: While SoMe has enabled the ability to constantly be in touch with others more than ever, this has become a double-edged sword. I find that if we rely solely on this type of platform for communication where body language is absent, it can lead to miscommunication.
Do you have any advice for designers looking to use social media to their advantage?
Luis: It can be a very useful tool for designers or it can be a tool for wasting a lot of time. Knowing what you want to get out of social media from the beginning is key.
Lira Luis, AIA, RIBA, NCARB, UAP, LEED AP BD+C, is a global American architect specializing in organic architecture and is the founder of Atelier Lira Luis, LLC. To learn more about her work visit liraluis.com.