What is a Commercial Designer?

Posted on October 08, 2018

A commercial interior designer’s role in developing a project is to help a client, usually a business or agency, from conceptualization to the full realization of a completed space for business and public use. While the training and knowledge base is similar to that of a traditional residential designer, a commercial designer plays a much bigger role in how a space can support a larger population and helps their client or business to thrive.

In dealing with homes, residential designers are focused on creating a livable and welcoming space for private use, relaxation, and family entertainment. However, a commercial designer is not only thinking about the needs of the individual client who has commissioned them, but of the many other people who will use, work in, or visit the space. They are frequently working on a larger scale, and balancing style with an increased emphasis on functionality.

Office interior made by a commercial designer

Recent PureModern Project for Ausonio

What Types of Businesses Can Benefit from Commercial Designers?

In general, commercial spaces are any buildings or spaces used for business, recreation, or service, and can range in a wide variety of sizes and needs. Some commercial designers work with a variety of building types, while others may be a specialist in a particular area, such as government building, the technology industry, medical facilities, retail spaces, restaurants and bars, historic structures, entertainment areas, or sustainable building.

Each different type of industry or business has a variety of specialized needs, and it is the commercial designer who can best help the client identify and incorporate those needs from the beginning of the project to the finished structure. For example, hospitality and luxury spaces, such as hotel, spas, and cruise ships, need to consider not only the finished atmosphere they wish to create for their guests but how the space is divided into all of the amenities they expect. From planning how to fit the number of beds the hotel wishes to have, to planning lavish bathrooms, ideal views of the surrounding landscape or city, entertainment and fitness rooms, outdoor spaces, business services, and bars or restaurants, as well as considering all of the kitchen and service areas needed to maintain the space and support the guests, commercial designers do it all. It is in this way that designers in commercial interiors must consider the full function of the building, as well as the finished aesthetics.

Additionally, retail companies or shop owners should consider the value of a commercial interior designer for creating well-designed retail spaces that are attractive to customers and encourage people to spend time in their shop. Designers are also there to help establish and develop themes for restaurants or entertainment venues and are in charge of following through the process of making sure the details are cohesive and welcoming in the completed space.

For office spaces, a commercial designer will help a company realize a finished design that is functional for business, but that captures a company’s corporate image, such as a modern, contemporary design for a tech company. In addition, they can greatly enhance the way a space is designed with consideration towards the workers.  Specialists in office design create workspaces that are both an appealing and productive environment for employees but also fully utilizing the space to its best advantage. They consider the employees’ satisfaction regarding space, air quality, light exposure, and a variety of other elements that improve worker health and satisfaction—therefore increasing productivity and retention.

As a big part of their job is to be able to plan spaces that are stylish and aesthetically serve the business’ key clientele, while still being safe and up to code, commercial designers are closely involved with the contractors and manufacturers throughout the renovation and construction process. The designer will participate in decisions related to architectural details, lighting, floor and ceiling design, window placement, and technology needs.

What Skills Does a Commercial Designer Possess?

Among the skills that they bring to a project is a thorough knowledge of the building process, from architecture to finishing details. With training in everything from understanding structural supports and building codes to interior design finishes, a commercial designer knows how to adapt existing architecture, obtain building permits, manage a budget, and communicate with the many different professionals brought in over the course of the job.

One of the most important relationships is that between the designer and architect, with whom they will work closely to determine the finished goal of the space. This includes any special codes and policies that affect the building and finishing process. For example, creating and maintaining sterile environments for medical or healthcare facilities, incorporating appropriate space for guests in hospitality buildings, as well as safety regulations for exits, stairwells, and windows. In addition, most commercial buildings need adequate numbers of easy-to-find restrooms for the anticipated pedestrian traffic. And all of these elements must also be approached with knowledge and consideration towards accessibility, which is an entire segment of the design field in itself.  

An important part of the job, therefore, is to build and maintain strong relationships with other professionals in the field. From working closely with architects, construction and contracting professionals, to having strong ties with businesses that provide the finish details and furnishings to achieve the final look. Having strong partnerships throughout ensures that your project goes smoothly and that the finished design meets all the needs and expectations that were required of it, and clear communication will help keep the project on time and on budget.

The Canvas is Set


Building interior designed by a commercial designer.

Recent PureModern Project for Ausonio


After the building structure is complete, the commercial designer’s job shifts to the aesthetics and interior functionality. The inspiration for the designer frequently comes from the type of business, how the client wants their customers to feel on entering and is shaped by the brand’s image or corporate requirements, as well as the functional constraints of the space and building codes. There is still a personalized aim in commercial design as in a residential setting, but there is a different palette of design choices, textures, and space needs that are required.

By this stage, the designer has already discussed with the client their design ideas, perhaps with digital or painted renderings of the final space, and provided samples of materials such as fabrics for upholstery and window treatments, wall and floor finishes, and lighting and plumbing fixtures. It is in many of these details that the commissioning business’s style and audience are focused on aesthetically.

Like residential designers, commercial interior designers have extensive knowledge in periods and styles of design, as well as contemporary trends in the field, and can advise a client on how best to use the design elements to create their final goal. Their thorough knowledge of design styles and trends helps to guide this conversation. Modern and contemporary designs are popular for tech companies, edgy boutiques, or restaurants, where clients will want the cutting edge in design, while regional architecture or thematic restaurants might dictate a specific style or historical period. This knowledge from the designer covers not just furniture, but also wall, floor, and ceiling treatments, lighting, and artwork.

From drafting building plans to preparing the final décor elements, it is crucial to work with a commercial designer who has the ability to understand and expand upon the clients’ ideas, as well as to abide by the style and branding of a corporate image. Their full comprehension of the needs of the space both aesthetically and functionally will be key in a successful final product. Creating visually interesting spaces isn’t always about the noticeable details, but rather the subtle elements that have an impact on the customer, client, or patient experience, and improves the space for those who spend time in it.

Posted in commercial design

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