On Thursday 16th June 2016, the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) hosted its fifth annual conference, entitled ‘Interior Identities’. Taking place at the magnificent Royal Geographical Society’s HQ in London, the conference attracted over 250 attendees from across the design spectrum, including BIID members, design professionals, academics, design students and media.

This year’s programme was themed around concepts of identity in interior design. The talks explored the speakers’ perceptions of ‘interior identities’ and highlighted a plethora of inspiring concepts, creative ideas and contrasting perspectives. Highlights included:

  • Charles Leon opened the conference by exploring the starting point of all identities, the human mind, and particularly the designers mind and discussed how we define identity and its modern consequence, the ‘brand’. He posed the question; ‘Is creativity a universal human trait or do designers use their minds differently?’
  • Ariane Steinbeck’s talk, A Sense of Place? Cultural Identity and Hospitality Design, was among another of the day’s highlights. Tackling the complexity of hospitality design, Ariane discussed the challenges designers must face in creating a space that fits with an overall brand identity whilst also reflecting its geographical place and the varying mix of identities it must appeal to.
  • Iconic designer Karim Rashid flew in from New York to participate in an ‘in conversation’ session live on stage, hosted by Deputy Editor of Homes & Gardens magazine, Giles Kime. As one of this year’s BIID Honorary Fellows, Karim Rashid captivated the audience sharing personal anecdotes of how he began his career in the industry and revealing what inspired his designs. He explained his design aesthetic to the audience commenting; “the artist is selfish, the designer is selfless”.
  • Renowned designer Orla Kiely joined Giles Kime on stage for another enthralling 1:1 interview. Once described as the ‘Queen of Prints’[1], Orla’s vast, multi-disciplinary design experience, impressive credentials and personal story made for compelling listening and a  truly memorable session.
  • Laura Glithero from Gilling Dod Architects, explored ‘mental health’ in design and highlighted ways designers can have a positive impact on the recovery, treatment and wellbeing of patients through design. This session helped explain how good design can influence deeper emotions within an individual for health benefits.
  • Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council took to the stage for an afternoon session on craft, design and identity. In her talk, Rosy argued that craft and interior design are inextricably linked and almost all successful interior design projects depend on designers and crafts people working hand in hand. She extolled the exciting innovations happening in craft, and the part interior designers can play in this future.
  • In an engaging and informative talk, Mark Robinson from Living Architecture explored the challenges of creating interiors in buildings that are designed to shift the mind-set of those who stay in them, how to approach a project when there is no client in the traditional sense, and how to create a space that can balance relaxation and education.
  • The day concluded with a thought-provoking panel debate on ‘The Interior Designer’s Dilemma: Reverence vs Reinvention’. Catherine Croft, Graeme Brooker and James Dilley participated in a lively discussion using their diverse personal experiences and opinions to address several key questions – such as discussing whether the responsibility to respect the design intention of the creator of a building, should impact the creativity of a designer? The audience also had the chance to share their opinions and pose questions to the speakers during a compelling Q&A sessions after the talk.

“We are thrilled with the success of this year’s BIID annual conference and would like to thank everyone who participated and attended”, comments new BIID President, Susie Rumbold, who officially took over the BIID Presidency from Daniel Hopwood on the day of the conference. “After celebrating the Institute’s landmark 50th anniversary last year, we had a hard act to follow, but I believe this year’s has truly been the best conference to date. From the inspirational and entertaining discussion with Karim Rashid to the insightful sessions with the fascinating Orla Kiely, the day was filled with a great energy from start to finish. It was wonderful to network with BIID members old and new, and enjoy a day full of engaging, innovative and creative discussion.’

The conference featured a presentation of this year’s BIID Honorary Fellowships. This award recognises the contribution and impact each individual has had on the progression and success of the interior design profession in the UK and internationally. This year’s recipients included Alain de Botton, Catherine Croft, Rosy Greenlees, Orla Kiely and Karim Rashid.

Alain de Botton is the creative director of the social enterprise, Living Architecture and is a bestselling author in around 30 countries.

Catherine Croft is Director of the 20th Century Society and is the editor of the well subscribed C20 magazine. Prior to this, Catherine worked for English Heritage as a buildings inspector in London and the Midlands and has amassed a well-respected knowledge for period interior design.

Rosy Greenlees is Executive Director of the Crafts Council, which promotes the value of crafts, craft businesses and holds thought-provoking exhibitions and international fairs to support every aspect of contemporary craft in the UK.

Orla Kiely is an acclaimed Irish fashion designer who has designed a variety of award winning items including a fashion range, handbags, kitchenware, stationary, furniture and cars.

Karim Rashid is one of the most prolific designers of his generation. With over 3,000 designs in production and over 300 awards, Karim attracts interest across the world, working in over 40 countries.

Sponsors of this year’s BIID Conference included headline sponsor and leading lighting manufacturer, The Urban Electric Company as well as Selectaglaze, UK Hide, Trade at Houseology, Hamilton Litestat, Iglu Cold System, Junckers and Roca. All sponsors exhibited their brands for conference attendees to visit throughout the day.

[1] The Guardian