The basic principles of design that should be used when planning how a space will be used
No matter what kind of space a designer is working with, they should always follow these rules when drawing up a floor plan:-
Check and double-check the dimensions of the space: Measurements should always be checked at least twice, preferably by two different people. Making errors early on in the planning process can have significant ramifications for the latter stages of the project.
Adhere to building standards and regulations: There is no point in putting together an elaborate plan for a space if it entails illegal construction methods or materials. For example, it may not be safe or appropriate to dismantle an interior pillar or wall. In the UK, designers need to consider Planning Permission and Building Regulations. They are often confused, but are two distinct sets of legislation. Planning Permission refers to the process of obtaining authorisation to create a building, to use it in a specific way and to design the exterior in such a way that it does not cause any inconvenience to those living nearby. Building Regulations govern the ways in which a building is actually put together – this includes requirements for ventilation, fire escapes and other aspects that govern quality and safety. An appointed official from a local authority can be used to certify that a building has been erected in accordance with the relevant standards.
Always take travel paths into account: Almost all spaces are designed for everyday use. This means that the way in which people actually move around the space needs to be a designer’s primary consideration. Sketches and plans need to be based around the premise that people will follow particular paths from the moment they walk through the door and avoid positioning furniture or fittings in the way. These paths should be marked out using arrows or dotted lines.
Think about how the materials to be used will raise or lower living costs over the long term: Some styles and fittings increase a client’s bills over the long term, whereas others will save money. For example, wall-to-ceiling windows may look attractive and fit with a client’s aesthetic preferences, but they could result in higher heating bills. Certain types of bulbs are more cost-effective than others, which can result in lower electricity bills over the long term.
The steps involved in putting together diagrams and floor plans
The first step is to make a sketch of the space and potential layout of key pieces of furniture. It doesn’t have to be exactly to scale, but the more accurate it is, the better. Interior designers often use graph paper and a pencil at this stage. The aim is to jot down initial thoughts and impressions. These are not usually shared with the client – they are for the designer’s use only. Although there are many computer programmes available that assist designers in planning spaces, most people favour old-fashioned drawing materials at this stage.
It is extremely unlikely that a designer’s initial sketch will come close to the eventual result. It is common to draw and redraw a preliminary floor plan many times, experimenting with various layouts. At this point, it is important to suspend judgment and internal criticism. This can be difficult for those with perfectionist tendencies, but drawing ideas quickly and intuitively will encourage you to devise and evaluate lots of potential concepts within a few hours. With practice, you will become adept at experimenting with various layouts in a systematic yet creative way. For example, if you need to decide on the location for a dining table, there will only be a certain number of places in which it can be positioned. Each position will have its advantages and disadvantages. Designers develop their own unique ways of drawing up rough sketches. Some use bubbles to mark out key spaces on a rough sketch. Others prefer a cleaner look and “box off” areas within a space. There is no universal industry standard that must be followed, when committing these early ideas to paper. The final step is to generate a 3D model showing what the proposed layout will look like. This is usually done using computer software (see below).
What tools do interior designers use when making a plan?
Pencils, pens and paper still play a key role in putting together drawings and plans. Even in this era of computer-assisted design (CAD) and computer-assisted modelling (CAM), interior designers and architects still learn how to produce technical drawings as part of their training. Technical drawings contain industry-standard symbols that denote the components of a design, such as doors, stairs and recessed lighting. There are also industry conventions for use of lines in plans. For example, dotted lines are used to indicate objects in a room that are hidden from plain sight. Designers use symbol keys to indicate the coverings, materials and surfaces to be used on walls and floors. For example, a circle with a “1” inside it could denote that a particular section of floor is to be covered in laminate flooring, whereas a circle with a “2” inside it could indicate a section that is to be carpeted - and so on. Pencils, drafting boards, triangles, tracing paper, vellum, templates, parallel rules and leader holders are still to be found inside most designers’ toolkits.
However, CAD and CAM are now the industry standard for putting together plans and construction drawings. It is easier than ever to produce interactive plans on-screen and the major advantage of this approach over traditional drawings is that amendments can be made quickly, designs can be shared immediately with others working on the project and an infinite number of copies kept securely. A team may work on plans using cloud computing. For this reason, it is important that everyone understands the order in which files are created and why. For example, if a set of construction drawings is to include a drawing showing structures that are currently in place, together with a drawing showing potential amendments, all team members need to be careful to avoid adding details to the wrong file.
Some applications can produce 2D plans, whilst others can produce 3D virtual models. VectorWorks, Allplan and AutoCAD are three popular applications used by designers looking to replicate traditional-style plans in a digital format, whereas SketchUp, Modo and 3D Studio are three examples of 3D modelling software. The major advantage of 3D modelling is that it gives a designer and their client a better sense of how the space will appear upon completion of the project. Design software can be complex and take some time to learn, but contemporary interior designers must have a good grasp of how they work, as these tools represent the industry standard.
Quiz: Tools Used In Interior Design
Q1: What does “CAD” stand for?
A) Computer-assisted Design
B) Computer-altered Designs
C) Cloud-assisted Design
Computer-assisted design refers to design work carried out with the use of computer programmes.
Q2: A paper-based plan that outlines the structure and design of a space and makes use of industry-standard symbols is often referred to as which of the following?
A) A detailed drawing
B) A technical drawing
C) A preliminary drawing
“Technical drawing” is the term given to a paper-based plan created using either manual or digital tools, showing the layout of a space.
Q3: Which of the following is a popular 3D modelling application?
SketchUp is a popular application among interior designers and is used to produce impressions of how a planned space will appear from all angles.
Presenting a plan to a client
Before any work commences, the client should know precisely what will happen and when. They will want to see evidence that the designer has been working towards the brief and that they have been putting in an appropriate amount of work in arriving at their ideas. There are three main techniques in widespread use that allow designers to communicate information to clients - design boards, sample boards and digital presentations.
A design board should serve as a means by which the client sees the “story” of the space and the narrative behind the designer’s plans. It will typically include a number of plans that capture the proposed space on a range of levels, from high-level sketches with relatively little detail, down to drawings showing the precise measurements of all fixtures and fittings to be used within a space. Drawings may be 2D or 3D and from a number of perspectives. Clients rarely have any training in interior design, so design boards should be put together with this in mind. Boards are usually broken down into several small sections, separated by white space, coloured borders, annotations and any other elements a designer feels will adequately communicate key information about the project. They can be either portrait or landscape in orientation.
Sample boards are collections of materials that provide the viewer with a quick overview of the elements planned for the space. They demonstrate the paint finishes, floor coverings, fabrics and even metals that a designer intends to use. For example, if the floor is to be tiled, it would be appropriate to attach a few square inches of tile to the board. In general, it is best to keep the sample sizes in proportion with their intended use. Notes and annotations are also essential in explaining exactly how and where each material will be used in the space. Although the term “sample board” implies that a single sheet of card or board is used, a variety of formats are possible. Some designers like to use a book or flipchart-style presentation. Whatever the type of presentation used, the board should always be presented in an appealing, professional manner. A client is likely to make assumptions about the quality of a designer’s work based on the care and attention they give their sample boards.
Activity: Putting Together a Sample Board
(Time: 10+ Minutes)
Look online or in a magazine for an image of an interior that appeals to you. Imagine that you were responsible for putting together a sample board communicating the key ideas and materials behind this vision. What would you include on the board and why?
Finally, digital presentations allow a designer the opportunity to present their ideas at a pace that suits them, giving a client the opportunity to ask questions along the way. Using PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or another presentation-building application, allows designers to build attractive presentations that keep them focused on the most salient content. A presentation will often begin with a summary of the project brief, the key considerations a designer had to keep in mind when drawing up their initial ideas and an overview of their work so far. A breakdown of the estimated budget and potential project schedule are other typical inclusions. Presentations should be simple, yet effective in appearance. Drawings translate well to presentation slides, but photographs of samples are not advisable, because the camera will not produce a true reflection of the colours and textures. It is best to bring copies of samples to the presentation instead.
Fact: Most people will only remember approximately 25% of what you say during a presentation.
Source: Harvard Business Review
Using project schedules
Whilst there will be some variation depending on the working preferences of the designer, the typical phases that make up a design project are as follows: Programming, Conceptual Design, Design Development, Construction Drawings and Construction Administration. As outlined above, the programming stage entails gathering vital information about the overall scope and purpose of the project. At the Conceptual Design stage, plans are drawn up and aesthetic options considered. At this point, the client is invited to give their input as to the kind of “look” or finish that they are hoping to achieve. Once a client has chosen an overall design direction, a designer can commence the Design Development stage. This is perhaps the most “fun” of the stages, as it entails considering further the type of colours, furniture, fittings, lighting, electrical and communication systems. However, the project should be a collaboration between client and designer and the latter should seek the former’s input when making aesthetic decisions.
The next step is to create construction drawings. If architects and builders are also working on the project, they will use these drawings as a guide. Construction drawings should be detailed representations of the furnishings, fixtures, fittings and other elements that will be used in the space. At this point, a designer will also work with the client to ascertain what kinds of contractors they will need to appoint and may draw on their network to recommend specific individuals or firms. Their recommendation may depend on the nature of the project. For example, some builders specialise in small residential spaces, whereas others focus on commercial interiors. Good communication between designers, builders, decorators and architects is important when putting together a schedule. For example, the core structure of a space needs to be taken care of before window treatments, which in turn are established before the floor materials are fitted. A designer will visit the site on a regular basis, as the contractors undertake the work. They should communicate with the client at least once or twice a week, to ensure that the project is proceeding in line with established expectations. Designers should be proactive in checking up on the quality of the work and ensuring any repairs or alterations are carried out promptly.
Contracts and fees
Some designers charge on an hourly basis for their work, meaning that even if the client decides to discontinue the project in the early stages, they will still bill for time spent discussing the project and putting together preliminary designs. If the designer is charging on a “per project” basis, it is usual for a client to pay an initial deposit once the designer has presented them with a satisfactory vision for the space. Clear communication is key, in order to prevent disputes and misunderstandings later on. A designer should make it clear what is and is not included in the final price. A contract must be drawn up in clear language and all parties should be aware that it is legally binding. Depending on the nature of the project, a client may also need to draw up contracts with other contractors, including painters and decorators.
Handling the budget and planning for the unexpected
Before the work begins, both designer and client need to be clear on all costs associated with the project. Costs and fees are divided into two categories – “hard costs” and “soft costs”. Hard costs include those associated with fixtures, furniture, equipment and construction. Fixtures, furniture and equipment are often assumed to be around 10% of the construction budget. Soft costs pertain to the expertise a client is “buying” and include the designer’s fees, project management fees, contractor’s fees and contingencies.
Contingency costs are sums of money that a designer will advise a client to reserve in the event that they will need to fund unexpected expenses during the course of a project. They include design contingencies, which are costs related to unknown elements. This is particularly important during the earliest stages of assembling a budget and provisional set of design concepts. For example, a designer may not be certain how much will be needed to cover the cost of covering a floor in a particular material, or a client may be undecided as to how many units they want installed in their kitchen. Design contingencies often account for up to 10% of the project estimate. Another type of contingency cost is escalation contingency costs, which covers expenses arising from any increases in labour and materials. Sometimes, there is a considerable period of time between the design and construction stage, so it is sensible to account for this in the budget. Commonly, 3-5% of the budget is set aside for this purpose. Construction contingencies should also be considered if the project entails refurbishing or renovating an existing space, especially if it is an old building. It may not be possible to predict the condition of an underlying structure and unforeseen costs may accumulate as a result. For example, a contractor may discover that the existing wiring in an older building is unsafe and advise that the client must pay for crucial amendments to be made.
As a general rule, the larger the project and the more contractors are involved, the higher the likelihood that something will go wrong! Professional designers accept that it is their job to adapt when circumstances change or a project hits a stumbling block. It may be necessary to choose different materials, to recruit new contractors and to amend design plans.