The Importance of Programming

Date: 10/01/2015

Q: What is programming and why is it an important part of interior design?
The “programming” process establishes the project’s preliminary concepts and identifies the components that are necessary to work towards a successful solution. Programming is not limited to interiors, it occurs at all areas within the project.

Q: What is your standard process for programming?
Programming efforts are tailored to suit each project and the Client/Owner’s unique personality, needs and goals. While the scope and scale of the project always varies, the process remains the same. The first step is meeting with the Owner and the core group of users to identify their needs, and asking: What are you doing now, and how can we help you improve that? Next we will move through each space while identifying the function and needed support elements for each. We look at everything from site access, health and safety regulations, and ADA compliance, to where the Christmas tree is going to go. Programming is fun, it is a collaborative effort and we are good at it because we enjoy doing it!

Q: What do you need to take into consideration during the programming process?
A thorough program will include a range of pertinent information. A new structure will begin with the site, establishing access requirements and utility considerations, views, topography, existing buildings, sacred trees, etc. The building structure is then broken down room by room, identifying specific needs to create sensible adjacencies as well as an overall hierarchy. We document the following types of information: room size/type, function, number of people using the space, storage/presentation needs, what is the space used for? For instance, the needs for an upscale office lobby/reception area will drastically differ from the needs of a commercial dish and pot washing room! We consider appropriate finishes: flooring type, base material, wall treatments, and ceiling type. Some additional items to take into consideration are lighting, day light, sun control, decorative and functional light fixtures. Programming is a group effort. Mechanical/electrical/HVAC, outlet locations, communications/data, security requirements, special equipment needs, ventilation, cooling and fire suppression/alarm are also considered. This effort results in a reliable document that the Owner/Client has had an integral part in creating, and it is something that the design team can reference throughout the process.

Q: What was the most interesting project you have worked on?
The Boeing Food Service/Cafeteria projects were quite interesting. I enjoy the complexity involved working through good design solutions when using large scale commercial grade equipment and highly durable but attractive materials. Our Boeing program team members were essential to the success of these projects. We also had a strong design team and produced great finished products for the Boeing employees.

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your experience, both in design and programming?
It is imperative that the Owner/Client is actively involved early in the programming phase, and included in the design process. LISTEN to what they are telling you and never assume that you know what they need better than they do. You don’t!

Q: What is the most important thing an Owner/Client should be aware of when beginning the programming process?
Budget! We can perform best when we know what exactly we have to work with.

Cindy McKean has been an interior designer since 1985. She is highly skilled in all phases of interior design.