The short answer is both. Interior Design is a multi-faceted practice, part rooted in physicality, part deeply psychological. In order to evoke broad scale shifts, designers must put themselves in the bodies and minds of the user to understand what transformation looks like, feels like, and means to them.
Transformation is not merely a result or the effect of design. It is the entire process. It is not a before-and-after photograph. The transformation lies in what happens next: The activities that unfold after the professional photographs are taken, once people start interacting with their new environment, making it their own, and creating their own stories inside of them. The transformation can be defined as a shift in focus, an improved culture, or setting the stage for a new path forward.
Tactile vs. Abstract
In order for interior design to be fruitful from a tactile standpoint, the mental groundwork needs to be pre-established. A designer must acquire a deep level of understanding of a client’s transformational goals; even those that are unspoken. While certain project goals are straightforward and can be simpler to ascertain- such as projected growth or expansion, it’s the unspoken, abstract transformative goals which can prove to be a challenge to pinpoint.
Architecture of Happiness
As designers, we must not forget the subconscious mind…
Even the most carefully-designed, code-compliant spaces can fail if the people inhabiting the space don’t feel “good vibes” (yes, I said it!) in them, or feel a sense of connection to the space. Having positive associations with one’s space – whether it be one’s place of residence, work or play, has a lasting effect on our wellness, productivity and our overall happiness.
Feel & Function
It’s clear to see why some spaces shine from an interior design standpoint; spaces that uplift, that exude natural light and keep your eyes moving in the proper pathway. Spaces that lack these characteristics can make us feel anxious, chaotic or uninspired. Many of the reasons why humans tend to devalue spaces are directly related to how they function in and with said environment, and how they feel when they are inside of it. Straining to hear a friend’s conversation at a noisy restaurant, sitting in an uncomfortable seat for an entire performance, these issues seem quite small, but they immediately set a negative tone. What makes a designed space feel positive or “right”? These answers are more abstract. This is where it gets personal. Striking a balance of color, tone, texture and composition is part of setting the mood or atmosphere of a space. Arguably the larger part of it is knowing and understanding the idiosyncrasies and motivations of those who will be using the space, before you set out to design something functional and beautiful. This can only be done by employing empathetic design.
It is a rewarding task to design spaces that people enjoy. A greater responsibility and challenge we have at hand is to design for the true human condition: To design for all, not just for some, to place human welfare and spatial equity above individual ego or individual aesthetic desires.
A Simple Understanding
A shift in mindset cannot stem from breaking down walls and building new ones. A shift in mindset takes a commitment from a team of people, who agree and understand transformation of physical space is one undertaking— but to transform the minds of those who inhabit it throughout the process, that takes a special level of commitment, attention and care.
At Strada, we “Design with People in Mind®,” as we recently gave name to a practice we continually partake in. It emphasizes how the people we design for are the backbone of our creations; they are the faces and the stories responsible for the transformation.