Design resource libraries have changed significantly since our last recession. Many of the factors that caused such a forceful change are continuing to create ripple effects in the way architects and interior designers research and specify materials for their projects. If your design firm has moved or renovated in the last three years, you are not alone. Dozens of New York design firms have relocated to lower Manhattan in recent years due to the ever-shifting real estate market.
Over the years, my company Streamline Material Resourcing has consulted with design firms looking to maximize their potential when it comes to product information and design inspiration. What follows is a short guide to how to organize a top-notch resource library:
- Plan your library with as much horizontal layout space as possible. Design libraries should not be treated as archives; I like to see them more as idea incubators. Firms with contemporary libraries understand that coordinated project materials on display reveal the design intelligence of the firm, which also happens to be great visual marketing for visiting clients.
- Video monitors are a must. Team meetings are happening in libraries more and more, and a digital interface to product selection when brainstorming is invaluable. Most of the firms I work with have discarded binders of furniture, hardware and lighting in favor of researching manufacturer websites, which are always more current than binders.
- Lateral files don’t work for library storage. The typical two-or three-drawer lateral files are meant to hold paper, and are an inefficient way to store material samples. I recommend the Office Specialty 9900 series with five six-inch drawers. Two or three units like this could be all a small design firm needs for an organized and easy to use sample library.
- Set up your library like a retail environment. That means all samples are accessible and everything is clearly marked with signage. I don’t like to store individual boxes of samples; box lids only keep designers from looking inside the box, and I prefer to group all of the same materials together, apples to apples, for the best library experience.
- A new product display can entice and inspire library visitors. Since most libraries are not managed by someone full-time, showcasing samples can be a serendipitous path towards design innovation. Every resource library, regardless of size, should inspire the people using it to make great spaces.
- Group materials ergonomically by application and association. This may sounds like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many libraries I have seen that have had 12×12 stone samples on a high shelf and wood flooring stored in three separate sections of the library for no reason.
- The more lighting options in your library, the better. Interior designers work on different color temperature environments every day. There is a great company out there called Lumenetix that makes color-changing LED light engine components for many lighting manufacturers in a variety of applications. Using these lights, designers can program in exact color temperatures that match the environment where their finishes will be installed.
- Include a sample return box. This may sounds like another no-brainer, but it is surprising how many design firms do not have a system to re-integrate samples into their library. Each resource library is an ecosystem, and the sample return is both the end and the beginning of that system. It is also a great way for the librarian to get to know what materials the firm is currently evaluating.
Peter Carey is owner of Streamline Material Resourcing, a company that manages resource libraries for architecture and design firms, as well as large facility departments.