The Installer as Artisan

James Davies, Director of CEDIA member company, Drexler Hooke, discusses the importance of design in the custom installation industry. 

When working with architects and interior designers at the highest level, a shared passion for design becomes a key element in communication. Ultimately, our job is to help realise the designer’s vision. When we talk about design, we think about drawing layouts or elevations, but the architect is talking about something different… the overall finished aspect of the project; how lines intersect; how light dances across different types of surfaces and how fabrics can dampen or enhance ambiance. 

So how should we approach a job of this type? 

Clearly, the client’s mandate and practicalities need to be taken into consideration. Personally, I make sure I know the products I sell intimately, from colours and finishes to size and structure. I can sit with a client, and have done, to work through Farrow and Ball swatches so that we can match precisely our speaker cabinets to joinery finishes. 

Being in a position of expertise requires more than just the ability to know ohms law. It also brings a responsibility to be sensitive to design and take a real interest of it. This understanding has helped me a great deal in the past, whether a casual conversation about a client’s art collection, which led to the sale of a lighting system, or an inspirational visit to an exhibition, which resulted in making a stellar pitch. All design is important and helps stimulate the creative juices.

How do we express our design expertise in a meaningful way or a way that has value?

The reason I got into this industry was my passion for music. Firstly, Motown and Indie, and later Classical. I studied music at university and later took an interest in art and fashion. From a business aspect, I try to introduce what inspires me through every creative way I can, whether that is my headed paper, business cards or website. Continuity and attention to detail is what wins you fans, and fans are what attract clients, especially in this age of fast-paced, reactive social media. Generating content on Instagram and Twitter gives you the opportunity to seduce your audience and start conversations.

How can design be integrated with our world? 

The bottom line has got to be how we see ourselves. Do you think of yourself as an over inflated TV repair man or an artisan crafting your clients’ systems together by combining your many years of experience, expertise and knowledge? Can we compare ourselves to the watchmaker or the tailor? I think we can! 
We take hours building racks, we can spend days customising touchscreen layouts and weeks matching cabinet finishes. Some of us may already be doing the interior design aspect of the job as well, especially if you’re building fully furnished bespoke cinema rooms. 

So when it comes to design – get involved! Ask the architect what style they’re trying to achieve; modern, contemporary or minimalist. Tell the interior designer that you know a model of television or speaker that would work better with the industrial style they are trying to achieve.

How can technology integrators develop relationships with the design community?

To integrate fully with interior designers, architects, property developers, and other specifiers, it is vital that we build strong working relationships as well as an understanding of each other’s role.  

It’s for exactly this reason that CEDIA is inviting architects, designers and builders to its Lifestyle Technology Showcase on 11th October 2017 at The Building Centre in London. 

Many in the industry think that comparing our profession to architects and interior designers is like chalk and cheese. But, in my view, it’s about understanding and appreciating where they’re coming from, and educating them about how we can best work together. Ultimately, we all care about the same things: craftsmanship, design and excellence. So, let’s work together to achieve mutual success and a great system and scheme for the client.  

As featured in the September issue of Essential Install