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5 Lessons From The DEA 2021

These tips from the Interior Design Confederation Singapore's annual awards will help you excel.

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a six-month-long collaboration we are doing with the Interior Design Confederation Singapore (IDCS) to examine how the industry can up its game.

The Design Excellence Awards 2021 (DEA 2021) culminated in an event on 3 December where the winners were announced.

The judging and voting process was rigorous and lively with many learning points.

We take you behind the scenes to share five digital-related lessons we learnt, drawn from the DEA 2021 submissions.

We believe if you apply this in your practice, it will greatly benefit the work that you do and the industry at large – and you might even win at this year’s awards too.

Lesson #1: Hire a marketing expert to manage your public image

Most of the Interior Designer of the Year 2021 and Project of the Year 2021 nominees engaged either a PR firm or had an in-house PR consultant to market them and manage their public image. They also had a strong and active digital presence across the social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. When I started in this industry 20 years ago, no one had a marketing professional working in their ID firm, and only the very top, international ones engaged a PR agency. Now, nearly every well-known ID firm employs or engages marketing and PR professionals/agencies as a high priority or necessity for the growth of their brand and business.

Lesson #2: Important to be active on social media

The Interior Designer of the Year 2021 award went to Cherin Tan, Founder and Creative Director of Laank. Tan has a strong portfolio that is multi-faceted in nature, from residential, retail, F&B and hospitality. The tipping point in her favour though was the strong community support she received. Part of the criteria of winning was votes from the public and Tan understood this well. She and her team were very active and engaged in calling for votes and promoting their nomination online. When asked for help, people are generally happy to render it.

Winners of the Interior Designer of the Year 2021 award Winners of the Interior Designer of the Year 2021 award

Lesson #3: Don’t neglect LinkedIn

While many winning ID firms were active on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn sharing about their award, it was the latter platform that saw the best quality comments and length of engagement (even up to 20 days after a post was created). This we noticed as IDCS was tagged (#idcs). The average number of reactions per post was 40. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of entrants had a LinkedIn profile. We encourage more ID firms to consider starting one to promote their firm’s projects.

Lesson #4: Use videos to supplements project photos

Overall, the quality of the submissions received in 2021 improved significantly compared to DEA 2020, particularly in the student entry categories. There was also an increase in the use of videos to supplement photos to explain the project, which the judges found to be very helpful to assess and judge the entries. Consider including a video of the designer sharing his/her vision and how it was realised in a project, to allow his/her voice to shine through. The use of videos grew from 3 percent in DEA 2020, to 5 percent in DEA 2021. We hope this figure will double to 10 percent for DEA 2022. To find out more about the quality of the submissions for DEA 2021, click here.   

DEA 2021 jury panel DEA 2021 jury panel

Lesson #5: Select photos carefully

As the main medium for anyone to learn about your project, this part of the process should be treated with great importance. For instance, if choosing photos to enter the DEA, start by researching the judges on the jury panel. Study their work and select photos that you think would appeal to them the most. For example, if Bill Bensley is one of the judges, be aware that he likes colourful interiors with a range of sustainable furniture and finishes. Be sure to pick at least one interior photo that reflects this and highlight the sustainability features in the submission. Also, ask your team for inputs by conducting a quick poll to choose the right photos. This will help them appeal to a broader cross-section of people.

Cameron Woo is the President of IDCS and Principal of Cameron Woo Design.

Cameron Woo
28 January 2022