Although unregulated and formally undefined, the role of the interior designer is an important one in the construction specification process, with practitioners undertaking the planning and design of commercial and domestic building interiors, for both new build and redevelopment projects. On larger projects, the interior designer is likely to work alongside the architect and other consultants, and, in addition to preparing detailed designs, his/her responsibilities will frequently include specifying materials, products and components, preparing budgets, obtaining planning permissions and building regulation approvals, etc.
In some countries, the professional interior designer might describe him/herself as an Interior Architect, but, in the UK, this would be illegal unless s/he was also a qualified architect and registered with the Architects Registration Board (see Marketing to Architects). In September 2019, the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) published a helpful article entitled An Architect or an Interior Designer explaining the different roles and responsibilities of the interior designer and the architect and illustrated where these roles sometimes overlap.
There is a very small number of large interior design practices in the UK, since a characteristic of the sector is that many professionals are sole practitioners or often work on a freelance basis for developers, architectural and multi-disciplinary practices. The Society of British and International Design (SBID) says, “77% of interior design businesses have a turnover of less than £100,000 per year. These are mainly small businesses with one to three members of staff but they make up 80% percent of the sector in the UK.”
The UK Market
Because it is an unregulated market, anyone can call themselves, and practice as, an interior designer. However, many practitioners will be registered with one or more of the sector’s professional bodies, such as the Society of British and International Design (SBID) or the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID).
The SBID is a professional accrediting organisation for the interior design industry and its members must demonstrate that they meet the Society's minimum professional standards in order to maintain membership: the Society also provides an accredited CPD qualification. Similarly, the British Institute of Interior Design requires its members to demonstrate that they meet the Institute's minimum standards and they must also undertake CPD throughout their careers “...to ensure their continued expertise in design process, practice and regulatory matters”. The BIID merged with the Interior Design Association in 2013 and describes itself as the only professional organisation for interior designers which has been granted the accolade of 'Institute' status.
Like architects in the UK, the geographical spread of interior designers is uneven, with a disproportionate number based in London (particularly) and the South East. In 2010 the Design Council produced a survey of the design industry (not just interior design) and found that some 40% of all designers were based in London and the South East. According to Reed, the recruitment agency, the average salary in the UK for an interior designer is £31,402 per year. However, specialist recruiters the Adrem Group have published a table giving the average range of salaries depending on seniority and experience, and this shows that graduates earn £21,000 at one end of the scale and Design Directors earn £75,000 at the other.
Marketing and Promotion
Successful marketing to interior designers (one of the creative specification roles) will parallel that to architects and therefore the approach is likely to be the same, i.e. focusing as much on a given product's technical and performance attributes as the aesthetic ones. The UK Interior Design Bureau - a marketing agency dedicated to helping product manufacturers access the interior design specification sub-sector – says, “An emotive message, being a more consumer-orientated approach, will not match the interior designer’s professional mindset when sourcing products or the urgency of the task. If the properties of the product have not been successfully communicated, the sale can quite easily fall through when exposed to long project lead times. Further challenges to a successful purchase will come from other influencers and the intense pressures that the fit-out and construction team will impose.”
There are numerous and varied trade show opportunities for manufacturers and service providers to target the sector. In order to research those offering the most targeted exposure to interior designers, log on to consult our calendar of 280+ UK Construction Exhibitions, which also provides previous attendance data and approximate space-only exhibiting rates. Many events will target specific sub-sectors of the industry and, thereby, attract interior designers. For example, after the 2019 edition of 100% Design (now called Design London), the stated visitor total was 25,098. Of these 88% were said to be trade visitors of which 80% were architects and designers.
Decorex International describes itself as the UK’s longest-running interior design show. In November 2019, the event website advised that the previous event had received 14,903 ‘high profile interior designers. The event includes many floorcoverings, wallcoverings, surface materials, door and window fittings, lighting, etc. Many shows focus on specific sub-sectors, such as the Flooring Show, the new Restaurant & Bar Design Show, and the more established Surface Design Show, which welcomed 5,071 visitors to the 2019 edition, of whom 42% were described as being from interior design practices.
Similarly, many of the industry's journals reach interior designers. In order to identify the most appropriate journal for your campaign, log in to browse our index of 330+ UK Construction Industry Journals, which includes contact data, together with circulation and advertising data (when given) and a short profile of the target audience for each title. In specific sub-sectors, publications include titles such as DARC (lighting in architecture), Healthcare Design & Management, and Hospitality Interiors. More broadly, interior designers can be reached through titles such as Interiors Monthly, Interior Designer and eSociety (digital only) the house journal of the Society of British and International Design. Dezeen is an online architecture and design magazine which the publishers claim receives 2.5 million unique visitors per month.
For circulation of press releases, the database mentioned above includes named editorial contacts (with email addresses).
Other Resources and Channels
Log in to browse our indices of directories and online portals, which provide details of resources used by construction professionals, including interior designers, such as The Interior Directory, The Interior Design Index, and Design Curial, as well as a wide range of sector-specific directories covering areas such as housing, lighting, bathrooms, kitchens, blinds and shutters, flooring, etc.
Promotional Opportunities via Trade Bodies
The British Institute of Interior Design provides an online 'Supplier Directory' to which suppliers of products and services to the interior design industry may submit their details for inclusion. Further opportunities are available to product suppliers via membership and becoming a BIID Industry Partner, which provides the “opportunity for suppliers to gain commercial advantage. Companies are encouraged to engage fully with the (BIID) membership by undertaking sponsored events and provide Continued Professional Development (CPD)”. (See also Construction CPD and Marketing).
Similarly, the Society of British and International Design (SBID) runs a programme of CPD events, which can be supported by relevant product manufacturers.
Construction project lead generators, Crannull Consulting, maintain details of leading interior designers and offer product manufacturers and suppliers a dedicated sales support service whereby they will make contact to introduce product(s) and canvass potential interest / arrange appointments, etc.
Supporting this feature we have undertaken extensive research to produce a comprehensive index of over 800 interior design practices, with named contacts, in the UK. The database has been compiled with a focus on identifying prominent practitioners in the country who are active in the broad design of building interiors, both commercial and residential. Consequently, specialist designers who focus primarily on designing particular environments such as kitchens or bathrooms, or those focused on designing furniture components, have been omitted.
In addition we have included (and indicated on the database) most of the (relevant) practices featured in the latest edition of the 'Top 100 Interior Designers', a league table published by House and Garden*.
In addition to named contacts, addresses and telephone numbers, the database includes email addresses for each entry. Whilst many of these are generic addresses, such as design@, info@, etc., it should be remembered that the majority of the entries represent sole practitioners or practices with just two or three staff members. If you are logged in, you may now download the database here.
Our listing of Specialist Contractors also contains a number of firms who carry out fit-out and interior design, mostly on the commercial side.
* Whilst primarily a domestically focused consumer magazine, the House and Garden index of interior designers includes practitioners working in all sectors of the industry, including commercial and new build. The journal undertakes extensive research into the sector, interviewing leading experts, and the resultant Top 100 list represents their view of the leading interior designers.