In the recent article “Taking on the World” (Canadian Interiors July/August 2017 vol. 54 No. 4), writer Leslie C. Smith provides a condensed interview with the three principals at DesignAgency: Anwar Mekhayech, Matt Davis and Allan Chan. DesignAgency is a renowned Canadian hospitality design firm currently earning international accolades. I have written about their recent Toronto interiors at the Broadview Hotel, so I read this article with great interest.
What I like about this piece is that the author strikes the right balance between journalism and criticism. She showcases the designers’ voices and lets us know what questions they were asked. She provides insight into their design practice by reporting anecdotes revealing their values and how they do their work. We get just enough biographical details to feel like we know Mekhayech, Davis, and Chan a bit better. But in-between the quotes and the stories – the stuff of good journalism – is insight into what makes Design Agency’s design projects special. We learn, for instance, that customization of key design elements in response to the project site is an important strategy that the firm works hard to get right. We also learn that the spatial effect of furniture layout is a particular strength that one notices again and again in their project work.
Journalists writing for design trade magazines face a tough job. Word counts are reduced and timelines are tight; stakeholders expect stories with well-researched details, clear descriptions, and correct identifications; and then, the photographers get all the love. I imagine that it’s challenging, in this context, to make space for critical insight into the design work that distinguishes firms like DesignAgency. Nevertheless, we should expect this expertise and idea content from our design writers. It is important to discuss design with an informed critical perspective. That’s why I enjoy seeing someone strive to get it right.