Created by BCBusiness in partnership with 34F Design

8 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Commercial Interior Design Firm

34F34F DesignCommercial design isn’t just about choosing the right colour palette, picking out the perfect light fixtures or planning the best traffic flow—it’s about creating highly functional interior spaces that reflect your brand, comply with (sometimes complex) regulations and codes, and influence the behaviour of your staff, guests and clients.

A well-executed interior design project can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, increase sales and even impact how your students, patients or consumers feel. The opposite is also true—a poorly-designed commercial space can a have negative impact on all aspects of your business.

Here are 8 key questions you need to ask when considering an interior design firm for your next company move, expansion or re-branding project.

ERICA WICKES, CEOErica Wickes, CEO, 34F Design. Photo courtesy of 34F Design.Does the Design Firm Have Experience in Your Industry?

Designing for offices, retail spaces, restaurants and other commercial spaces requires a unique skillset combined with hands-on experience. Choosing an interior design firm that has a proven track record in your industry makes all the difference when it comes to providing exceptional deliverables that match your budget and schedule.

Is the Interior Design Firm Focused on Commercial Projects?

Unlike residential interior design, designing for commercial spaces involves a host of additional factors ranging from stringent building codes to collaboration with lease agents, contractors and corporate brand specialists. While there are many exceptionally talented interior designers who extend their services to corporate clients,
the reality is that residential interior designers often struggle to manage the complexities of commercial design projects.

What Companies are Clients of the Firm?

Ask prospective interior design firms to provide a list of their former and current clients. This list can give you valuable insight about the caliber of companies the firm works with, which reflects on the level of service and the firm’s overall reputation.

Does the Firm’s Portfolio Meet Your Expectations?

Review the design portfolio of each prospective firm. In the world of commercial design, a portfolio is akin to a resume—it’s a visual representation of the work the firm has done, and it will give you a clear idea of the results you can expect. Be sure to examine projects that are comparable to yours and highlight what you like and don’t like about these projects.

Does the Design Firm Use a Strategic, Proven Approach to Project Management?

Look for a firm that uses a clear, measurable approach to your particular project that breaks down each task into a series of phases matched to your needs.

The first stage of every design project should involved strategic planning and analysis to collect the information needed to develop a clear, accurate cost analysis. This ensures all deliverables are clearly documented at the earliest stage of the project, expenses are negotiated up-front and the risk of incurring unexpected expenses is negated.

Ask if the planning process considers elements outside the scope of the design process, but nevertheless can have an impact of the final costs. Moving costs, utility connection fees and even updates to corporate contact information on marketing material should all be considered when costing a commercial design project.

Is the Interior Design Firm Qualified?

While a solid portfolio and strong client base are good indicators that a design firm is worth considering, it’s also important to look for industry credentials and qualifications that confirm the skills and knowledge of a design team.

Look for design certifications from internationally recognized organizations, such as the LEED Accredited Professional designation, building code qualifications from respective provincial authorities, and interior design qualifications from creditable sources. These include the Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia and the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications.

Is the Firm Accessible and Responsive?

Good commercial interior design starts with great communication that goes beyond discussing paint colours—it involves working with a design firm that truly understands your corporate culture, branding, values and goals.

To execute a design project in a way that meets your specific requirements, time-frame and budget, you need a design firm that is accessible, communicates with clarity and understands the importance of creating a design that accurately meets all of your goals.

Does the Design Firm Have an Established Network of Contractors and Suppliers?

Search for a full-service firm that has an established pool of vetted contractors and vendors who have experience in executing code-compliant design features and installations in your industry. Working with a well-connected design firm gives you access to multiple quotes and service options, providing you with the flexibility you need to select the right products, construction methods and bids for your application.

Will the Design Firm Follow Up Once the Project is Completed?

Although most commercial design projects are completed in a few months or less, industry standards provide a 1-year warranty period. Some commercial design firms voluntarily extend this warranty well beyond the mandated period to ensure that their clients remain satisfied with their work 2, 5 or 10 years after the project is complete.

When looking for a commercial design firm, ask about their follow-up policy.

Need Help Choosing Your Next Commercial Interior Design Firm? Let’s Talk.

At 34F Design Inc., our team of detail-orientated, results-driven commercial design
professionals is committed to delivering exceptional results to medium and large
corporations, schools and NGOs. We focus on serving commercial, academic and institutional clients in Vancouver, throughout the GVRD and across Canada.

To learn more about our full-service interior design firm, contact us at 34F Design

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