SCR Sees Designer Role Changes Contract Jobbers Miss Retro Look

December 21, 1999

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New York - The designer's job description has changed, according to Ed Bajbeck, a 30-year veteran of the design world and Senior Vice President, Director of Design for SCR, a major specifier of corporate interiors.

''Designers are no longer educators but problem solvers and creators of value for money,'' he said. ''Today, the role of the interior designer is to get the office client the best value for money, the most creative bang out of the buck. There's a tremendous amount of negotiating because of the savvy end user. Our clients expect us to negotiate with the jobber. A national corporation with many branch offices throughout the U.S.A. will not allow each branch to operate on its own.''

''After WWII when the field of office design really began, designers had to educate end users in style, taste and function,'' Bajbeck said. ''We were educators and knew about materials...what would work or last longest. We passed this information on to clients. In the '80s the taste levels of corporate America have risen to the level of the designer, so the designer's role changed from one of educator to advisor on what materials will work best.''

''The client creates the standards and they want us to negotiate the best price and insure stock maintenance of the products specified,'' he said. ''With large corporate clients, Once it's decided which products will be used in all of the offices, the only thing we decide is the color scheme. The real fun for the designer is the one of a kind job of 5,000 to 50,000 square feet. Then, we're free to select.''

''The challenge is what you as a designer can do with fabrics. You can hang fabric from a ceiling or use it on a room divider. Stretch nylon can create rooms. Hidden projectors are used to change colors. I see more fabrics being used today to create a soft and quiet workplace. This means more eclectic contrasts like concrete floors and soft walls.''

''Everything has a 20-year cycle. I saw a piece of wood in the '70s. I was amazed by its highly glossed surface. With the emergence of the Internet generation whose average age is 28, we're seeing a retro look coming into its own for the office...pinks fur upholstery, kooky and trendy. Corporate America is relaxing the dress code. Casual Friday is commonplace. There are two sides to the office design today; a presentation side for the customer to see and a relaxed side where the work is done.''

''Some clients find themselves out of step now with the design of their office environment,'' said Bajbeck. ''They're in competition for employees from the Internet generation who want a relaxed atmosphere in the workplace. This includes the introduction of meditation areas or power nap rooms where executives nap from 2-3 so they can work from 7-8 at night. Everyone is sitting in front of a computer 8-10 hours a day. Now common areas may contain a pool or ping-pong table. Work areas are becoming more residential.''

To further illustrate the changes in the office, Bajbeck said he hasn't used wallcoverings once on an Internet project. ''The normal dress for the new generation is tee shirts, cut- offs, black high top sneakers and big socks. They want wild things in the office environment. Silk paneled walls for these people? I don't think so!''

''Clients want exciting, downtown space. That means young workers with sizeable stock portfolios who are computer literate; they shop for trendy clothing. The office must reflect this 'up' environment,'' he said. He felt that in general the fabric and fiber supplier has kept pace with the needs of the corporate client, specifically contract jobbers like Maharam and Designtex.''

''Few architects and designers rarely buy directly from a mill. None of us have the resources or the staff to know what's good, bad or current.'' Bajbeck said that he attends Interplan in New York City; NeoCon in Chicago and West Week in Los Angeles to keep abreast of furniture, carpet and fabrics.


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