BY CHERYL DURST
In the interior design world, project managers are artists, scientists, businesspeople, mediators and integrators. Clients put a lot of trust in the designer—to not only realize an interior environment design solution and create a tangible extension of the corporate brand, but to handle their budget from the project concept phase through execution and implementation. It's a huge responsibility. Project managers in the field need both the hard, technical skills of a designer and the soft skills of communication, teamwork and leadership.
Designers understand project management as a set of interrelated responsibilities and constantly perform a balancing act between the creative process and managing tight schedules, constant deadlines and multiple subcontractors—all while making a profit for their own firms and serving as the face of the firm with the client.
Younger designers are coming into the field with the desire to be on the project management track because of greater educational emphasis. It is widely recognized that project management requires a specific skill set—an array of core competencies best acquired through experience. Designers are both generalists and specialists and the higher degree of complexity inherent in today's design projects requires a professional articulate in the language of human behavior.
photography by CHIP WILLIAMS
In interior design, in part because of increasingly complex projects with tighter schedules, higher expectations and rapidly changing technological demands, project management has evolved in the past two decades to become a viable career path. Another significant influence has been the public's changing perception of what a workplace should be. The meaning of “work” has shifted from a verb to a noun, and today's offices reflect that attitude change. CEOs and CFOs are responding because they know that when people are happier at work, and in greater control of their work environment, they are more productive, which positively impacts the bottom line.
An interior design project manager is responsible for leading the team through the process, establishing schedules and executing work phases. Every project follows a standard process regardless of size or scope, and the project manager has to know how to direct every component from the programming phase when information is gathered and due diligence is done through design and conceptualization and into the design phase, when plans are pulled together and the subcontractor bidding process begins.
photography by CHIP WILLIAMS
The meaning of “work” has shifted from a verb to a noun, and today's offices reflect that attitude change.
Fifty percent of each successful project is its management—and much of that management is dealing with change. Sparked by a client, a materials provider or a subcontractor, change is constant in a design project. The manager has to know how to articulate changes to all parties and work changes into the budget and timeframe.
Design project managers constantly use both sides of their brains to integrate the design vision with the client's needs and budget while orchestrating various groups through tasks and activities to project completion. Their ability to seamlessly meld their creative, technical, business and communication skills in the midst of constant change is incredible and leads to success for both their clients and their firms.
OCTOBER 2005 | PM NETWORK