An Interview with Caroline Watts, Senior Designer at Studio DB

As a Senior Designer, Caroline leads the creative process, absorbing all core ideas to drive designs until it reaches the construction stage. In this blog, Caroline discusses why it is such a crucial aspect of workspaces, and how it has evolved in this ever-changing world.
2 Feb
Studio DB

Can you tell us a bit about your role as a Senior Designer here at Studio DB?  

As a senior designer, I am taking clients on a journey to achieve their desired office space. Designers are essentially documenting everything. We take clients on a concept design; understand their brief, their needs/requirements for their team, and their ways of working.  

The design team here at Studio DB works very closely with the strategy team. First, we need to understand how our clients want to work. This is picked up from strategy, and from that, we bring it into documentation.  

The concept phase is predominantly where I as a Senior Designer form the initial idea. I can absorb just enough of the core ideas and drive the design into a creative process. However, the developed design stage is where it gets exciting as this is where we start to get a clearer picture of what the space will start to look like. We bring materials, 3D renders, types of finishes, etc., and present this to our clients for them to be able to visualise the space coming to life.  

It is a common assumption that people think that being an interior designer is just about designing things to look nice. It is much more than that.  

After our developed design stage, we begin the construction documentation. This is where our technical skills come in. Our documentation is projected to the projects team allowing the construction to begin. That documentation set will be what they use for tender consent and construction.  

Ultimately, designers are in contact with our clients throughout the entire process. We become the main contact for design-related questions/changes and are always bringing alternatives on how people can utilise their workspace design to its fullest potential.

As you have mentioned, interior design can be a very technical skill that most people don’t necessarily think is important. From your experience, why is design such a crucial aspect in workspaces for companies?

It is crucial because you can have a strategy, and you can have people that give you the data to back up every single decision. You can easily get information about how many meeting rooms you might need, or whether a collaboration space is going to be more appropriate, but what you don't get is the overlay of how people interact in those spaces. That is where design comes in.  

For example, there is a meeting room that is a certain size and has a requirement that is formed from a strategy piece. This is the data that comes through. But what is next? Our clients want to have information on how people will use that space. There are lots of elements to consider:

  • What is the technology in that room?
  • What are the features on the walls/floor?
  • Is the room designed for internal or external meetings? What is the difference?

It is the additional overlay of information that designers bring in when designing a space that is considered crucial. The human aspects: how people will interact, and different usage of the elements will be the outcome of the final design.

What do you think is an important factor when it comes to design?

Understanding the user is the top priority. Designers have the ability to essentially design anything, but unless you understand who you are designing for, that is the main constraint. The design needs to have a purpose. Having the end user in mind is what drives the designs I create at Studio DB.

Since the pandemic a few years ago, can you tell us what changes you have seen from pre covid to now in terms of how companies are approaching design and how design has evolved?  

Sustainability is a huge factor. The more we understand what is possible, the easier it is to include sustainable elements in our projects.  

It is a little bit unfortunate that where we are placed in the world, we receive trends last. Greenstar is an example where other countries around the world have been implementing it for years, but New Zealand has only just started.

The biggest change I have seen from pre-pandemic would be businesses wanting to truly understand how the workplace can benefit their employees’ wellness. The office is no longer the place to grind, keep your head down at your desk, 9-5. The work-life balance is becoming an important part of employee wellness.  

How does the workplace benefit employees when they have proven that the work still gets completed effectively when at home? Trying to get employees back into the office needs to serve a purpose and creating different types of environments to assist productivity is what business leaders are looking for now.

With this being said, I am seeing a lot of trends in bringing the residential feeling into the workplace. Making people feel like they are at home and giving people different diverse types of work areas. It is not necessarily just a desk anymore; it's creating or providing technology and spaces that people can move around in different environments.  

Being a senior interior designer means that there can often be a lot of projects on the go. Can you tell us how you plan, organise, and priortise the work?

Forecasting! Being able to understand project programs and see where different deadlines align is how I can manage the program.  

In our world, things will change. That is the reality. Projects will either get pushed out or escalate. However, one aspect that is always consistent is the flow the projects go through in the different stages e.g., concept design, developed design, etc. The flow of my workload can be smooth at times when I’m finished with one project heading into the construction drawing phase, then receiving my next project at the same time. With this, I am able to always bank ideas in my mind for the following project. Being able to think about what's coming next, whilst designing something else, can be thrilling.

And finally, you have worked on more than fair few offices fit outs at Studio DB. Which one has been your favourite so far and why?

Internet New Zealand for the Wellington office would be my favourite so far. This was a pivotal project. It was the first Wellington project that was completed with an all-Wellington team. It was a significant project for Studio DB, being the first one in a new city and a successful project too!

For more info, get in touch with us, we’d love to chat!

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