Creating Fame in (Your) Name

by WOHe

I walked into my office one Monday to hear a half a dozen people
waxing poetic about the new DiCaprio movie, “The Beach.” It was
gripping, they said. It was powerful. Whoever wrote it deserved an
award.

“Who did write it?” I asked, torn between admiration and envy
for the wordsmith who undoubtedly had a life glamorous enough to
encompass hanging out with Leonardo DiCaprio and travelling to
exotic tropical locales far more interesting than the little coffee
shop where I get my morning caffeine.’

Six faces looked at me blankly. “How would I know who wrote it?’
one finally asked. “But man, whoever did was great.”

It shouldn’t have surprised me, I suppose. We, as a culture,
love to idolize projects, with little thought given to the
creator.’

And the kitchen and bath industry is no different. Every year,
we see stunning designs, beautifully photographed kitchens and
baths splashed across the pages of consumer and trade magazines, or
mounted on displays at K/BIS. The winning designs from NKBA’s
Design Competition, for example (see related story, Page 88), are
so widely touted, I’ve frequently heard them discussed months or
even years after the fact. But if the designs themselves are well
publicized, accolades for the designers are often far more
modest.’

Take a trip across the Atlantic, though, and things are
different indeed. As a judge for the sixth annual Bathrooms &
Kitchens Industry Awards, sponsored by Bathrooms & Kitchens
magazine (see related story, Page 54), I had the opportunity to be
present at their recent awards ceremony in the UK. A posh, black
tie affair, the awards drew some 730 industry professionals, and
looked and felt like a night at the Oscars.’

I sat in awe as the formally gowned and tuxedoed guests stared
in rapt attention while the names of their winning colleagues were
rattled off. Winners’ names elicited gasps of delight and
thunderous applause, and I wondered if I’d somehow fallen into a
time warp, into some mystical land where kitchen and bath designers
were celebrities (and kitchen and bath editors might even get to
visit exotic tropical locales!).

Even more impressive, the competition honored not just designs,
but industry pros themselves, with awards for best marketing, best
showroom and master retailers something we’ve only just begun to do
here with the 1999 advent of K&BDN’s Industry Leadership
Awards.

Some time later, I chatted with NKBA president Stephanie Witt,
who was also present at the awards ceremony. After commenting about
the extraordinary level of recognition given to these designers by
their peers, I asked for her opinions of the winning
designs.’

“You know. . .I hate to admit this, but I never saw them,” she
replied.
And it struck me at once that she was right ‘there were no
displays of the projects at the awards ceremonies, no photos posted
for all to admire, no slides set up on the projector, which instead
touted names and photos of the finalists. Clearly it was all about
the people.

Interestingly, the U.S. design industry seems to do just the
opposite. We do a marvelous job of promoting our designs, but
sometimes it seems like the designers get lost in the shuffle.

Perhaps a part of that has to do with the fact that many
American designers still seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of
promoting themselves. Or perhaps we’re still not quite sure how.
Despite seminars on everything from building portfolios and
promoting ourselves to the media to ‘Net marketing, we continue to
struggle with the idea and specifics of “tooting our own
horns.”

Yet, the personal and professional credibility that come with
self-marketing are not only critical to the success of each
designer, but to the recognition and respect accorded our industry
as a whole.
To this end, we can take a valuable lesson from our English
counterparts. As we support not just our creations, but the
individuals who make up our industry, we increase our professional
credibility, and enhance the respect society has for all kitchen
and bath designers.

Picture it: fame and fortune (or at least a bit more visibility
in our communities). . .the respect and adulation of our peers .
.thunderous applause and an awards ceremony fit for a king. .
.
Who knows? Maybe even Leonardo DiCaprio will show up. . .

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