What do you see as the future of design?

We're giddy with anticipation for the 30th Annual Interiors Awards Breakfast tomorrow. And, in preparation for the event, which includes the official debut of our 2009 Designers of the Year, we have now our last poll of previous winners. As you know, Contract asked past Designers of the Year (or, as we affectionately dub them, our DOYs) for their thoughts on a selection of industry-related questions. 

The last question for the series, appropriately, looks not to the past, but to the future. We wanted to know: What
do you see as the future of design?

Carol Groh
Carol A. Groh Design; Greenwich, Conn.; DOY 1987

I feel the key word for
the future of design is "Economics." All designers need to research
and educate themselves continuously on less expensive and green products. They
will need to become more creative in incorporating them into their future
designs while maintaining overall quality.

Karen Daroff
Daroff Design Inc., Philadelphia; DOY 1990

I am not sure whether I am supportive of the growing collaborative design-build trend to deliver client projects as a unified and coordinated process, but I do firmly believe and support the collaborative process where each team member has the authority, right and responsibility to participate in each aspect and phase of the project. In my view, the classic design + document + bid + build (fit out and furnish) and then punch list and commission process seems to no longer functional effectively in our "bigger, better, faster" commercial society.
Whether we move away from the AIA protocol that seemingly still encourages this design + document + bid + build and punch list process and indeed participate within (and profit by) the rewards that are clearly available when we take the business risk of a design-builder, or whether we collaborate as designers with third party builders, is an interesting and rather important "future of design" set of issues.
I see the designer taking a broader role in the future. Based on our wide range of global contacts, clients and project types, we have begun to find ourselves, more-and-more, in the role of assembling the developer, investors and other professional team members and consultants. It is interesting that we are now able to capitalize on these long and wide ranging contacts and relationships, to form project design-build development teams “from the inside-out."
I want to underline that I firmly believe that the future of design is all about collaboration on a world-wide basis, across the many and varied professional skill-sets that are required to create successful projects for each and every one of our clients day-by-day.

Debra Lehman Smith
Founding Partner, Lehman Smith McLeish; Washington, DC; DOY 1995

Creativity through


Neville Lewis, FIIDA
Consultant/educator; New York; DOY 1997

more civility and pushing the design envelope and creating environments that
serve humanity


David Rockwell
Founder and CEO, Rockwell Group
New York, with satellite offices in Madrid and Dubai; DOY 1998

In terms of
my own practice, I want to continue to break down the boundaries between the
design disciplines, bridging the gap between hospitals and spas, hotels and
classrooms, restaurants and cooking schools. I also want to further experiment
with and explore new materials and production techniques, weave these
discoveries into all of our projects, always being alert to the possibility of
new juxtapositions, unexpected collisions, and to the wealth of inspiration
available from cultural landscapes around the globe. Even though our scope
includes everything from theater sets to hospitality projects and products, I
want the plurality of our designs to continue to expand.


William McDonough
Principal, William McDonough + Partners and MBDC; Charlottesville, VA; DOY 1999

Design is the first signal
of human intention. I delight in the prospect of seeing designers signal their
global intentions for a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world with
clean air, soil, water and power—economically, equitably, ecologically and
elegantly enjoyed.


Shashi Caan
Principal, The Collective; New York City; DOY 2004

Glorious…Design is the gap between a dream and
reality, between desire and actualization. The design process has finally
permeated every area of society and it touches everything and everyone.
Designers need and must cultivate a deeper self knowledge which in turn will
provide greater clarity and vision in their orchestration of design for all.


Ken Wilson
Principal, Envision; Washington, DC; DOY 2005

The design profession, in all its manifestations, will be the most important
profession of this century. Almost everything we know of will have to be
redesigned to be smarter. I believe that politics will play a big roll in the
future of design. Governments will need to set high standards as well as
provide incentives for reducing the impacts that human beings have on the
environment. I believe that the design community will not only meet these
challenges but exceed them.


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