Identifying business trends is important in every field; it allows companies to stay up-to-date, competitive and relevant. We’ve found it spurs innovation, too, as we consider how to offer products and services that are original, inventive and more effective than their predecessors. But this year we realized that 2019’s emerging commercial interior design trends reflect a major paradigm shift in our field.
Gone are the days when our annual trend assessment focused on just design issues, such as which fixtures, furnishings, color palettes and materials would be important to prioritize in projects. This year we found scope of commercial interior design has broadened significantly and become more analytical, data-driven and high-stakes than ever before. Given the high material and land costs, low margins and uncertainty builders and developers deal with today, as Urban Land Institute’s 2019 Emerging Trends in Real Estate report notes, whether a project is affordable or high-end there’s no room for mistakes.
Today ESG plays a foundational role in commercial interior design
That explains why there’s been such a sweeping sea change in commercial interior design. As we’ve designed public and private spaces in residential developments, hospitality settings and offices over the past year, we’ve found that our primary focus has shifted to ESG—the environmental, social and governance aspects of a project.
Thanks to ESG, a project’s target markets, functionality and physical resilience must be tied to its interior design at a project’s inception. And by putting ESG front and center this past year, we identified five commercial interior design trends that are significant for today and beyond, which we discussed in Buildings Magazine. These are psychographics, sustainability, wellness, community and authenticity. While trends for now, they are, in truth, a set of new fundamentals that will continue to be dominant, serious and far-reaching.
What our five new fundamentals mean for collaboration
These trends signal that entire teams from architects and commercial interior designers to developers and builders must embrace design thinking, the solutions-based approach to our craft. Also, they mean we must all work together from a project’s inception, long before it breaks ground. Since many builders and developers don’t realize what each of these trends entail, especially when it comes to commercial interior design, a synopsis of how each impacts a project is below (or read a detailed account about each of these commercial interior design trends in our column on Builder and Developer magazine).
Demographics, the quantitative study of gender, age, income, educational level, marital status and race, have always informed the commercial interior design process. But this past year, psychographics have been more important than ever, especially in model homes and apartments, amenities, hospitality areas and community spaces. Psychographics tell us the attitudes, values, interests and lifestyles of our target market (or markets), and are qualitative. When we use both tools together, we get a deeper understanding of whom we’re designing for, and what they need and want. More significant, they help us design spaces that resonate with their target markets so projects sell, rent and/or see a lot of use.
Every structure or development we work on today is built with leaner, greener building techniques, but this is only part of what goes into making structures sustainable. While we design environments that embrace renewable, recyclable and low-waste building materials and systems, we must also use design strategies that won’t compromise residents’ health. Rather than building green,our goal must be to create homes and communities that allow people to live better now and in the future.
Where we live determines how healthy we are, the Center for Active Design notes. That goes for not just our communities but our homes and their surrounding environments. In fact, our homes determine up to 90% of our health outcomes,a Global Wellness Institute 2018 report notes. Accordingly, the homes, communities and workplaces we design must encourage proactive behaviors and habits that drive wellness. Design strategies can be as elementary as putting features in every project that encourage physical activity (think pretty stairwells, community gardens, exercise facilities and walking paths).
Forget the notion of home as a private sanctuary. Evidence shows that relationships should be a public health priority, Scientific American reports. Loneliness is a public health crisis more critical than obesity and as significant as smoking and drinking, popular Washington political site The Hill notes. Social connectivity has a deep and positive impact on health and wellness, so our physical environments must invite social interaction. Our focus is to always design amenities and public spaces that cause residents to interact with each other and build community, which inspires us to make the amenities we design more multipurpose, durable and engaging than ever before.
Authenticity is an antidote to today’s increasingly digital, and impersonal, world, which has made establishing it in projects a critical part of making homes, offices, restaurants and hotels feel warm, welcoming and relaxing. To do so, we must find ways to balance artificial connections forged online with the natural experiences generated by live relationships and activities. As commercial interior designers, we integrate character-rich yet relevant design elements into buildings, which can range from incorporating local materials and vernacular features into structures to commissioning art for community spaces that pay homage to a community or locale.