Friday, January 23, 2009

Design for entertainment

Recently I had an interesting opportunity that relatively few interior designers can boast of: I was invited to audition for a design/decor show that will air on one of the lifestyle television channels. Being such a variation from my expertise, at first I dismissed the idea without further thought. Weeks later however, I ended up at the audition.

We were 15 at the audition that day. Although there were a couple of carpenters present, the focus was on the production company finding a designer and a design assistant. You would think that the designers would have had things in common. The truth is that from youngest to oldest there was an approximate age difference of 25 years; educational backgrounds ranged from none to Masters degrees; experience ranged from none to 20 years; interests, hobbies, design beliefs and more were as contrasting as black and white.

Seeing that I am not writing that Idealspace Design will be taking the back seat while I design on a television show for an indefinite time period, the position was obviously not given to me. Initially I felt odd because there was no sense of disappointment on my part. The truth is, there are two questions that I had to ask myself: 1) Would I do anything different at the audition if I were to have it to do over? and 2) Did I do my best? The answer to both questions is "no".

The question isn't whether I possess both the skills and charisma to have been able to not only succeed at such a role, but to thrive in it. So what happened? It became an issue of values and compromises that were too great. When the director emphasized that entertainment value was the number one priority and design only ranked at number four on the priority list, I knew that this was not the opportunity for me. As a professional designer, design itself has to be my top priority; I can be entertaining in the conception and execution of my designs, I can be entertaining in my interactions with others involved on any project, but I cannot be an entertainer first and a designer second.

Design almost exclusively for entertainment value can never be good design, can never be realistic, and can never live up to my standards of professionalism. My television is often on HGTV and this experience doesn't change my opinions of the shows and designers I respect, but it reinforces that not all design shows are created equal, and certainly not everyone has the same respect or understanding for the profession that is interior design.