1. In-house Physical & Digital Product Libraries

Many companies maintain physical product libraries as well as a digital database, with USBs being circulated by manufacturers. We ask the designers if these library styles are still working for them? Who maintains the physical space, or manages this data? And is it available in a streamlined fashion?

The response was not necessarily positive. “Space is always an issue!” was a common one. Quite often, the physical libraries are neglected, leading to a messy room that is used as a dumping ground. Some larger companies with extra resources have a dedicated person to manage the space, organise, clean up. But there is no accurate knowledge of discontinued product lines, and valuable office real estate is taken up by years of samples being collected and forgotten.

“We try to move away from catalogues,” said several designers. “They are not good for the environment. They just sit there, and nobody touches them. We always end up on Google.”

Post pandemic, many design firms have had to trim down on resources, and so have done away with physical libraries, however, designers continue to maintain the importance of physically experiencing a product. Our findings on product libraries were mixed. 

“Physical material is important,” add the hospitality designers. “Fabrics, in particular, need to be touched and felt. Another issue with digital libraries is that, depending on your screen, colours change so much.”

Majority of the group were in favour of some sort of takeback solution for carpet samples. “They are just an environmental disaster. They take up too much space, and are just dumped on us with no one picking them back up.”

All designers maintained that they did not need samples for products that they had sourced and specified in the past, agreeing that it was best to keep product info in a Digital Library. “And then if we need anything, we’ll just contact suppliers and order a sample.”


But are in-house digital libraries the answer?

Not necessarily, as many designers admit to having libraries on their database that are in dire need of housekeeping, with all manner of products dumped in there, many of which may have become obsolete or discontinued. Furthermore, there is still a need for pre-existing knowledge and familiarity of the product to be able to specify it with confidence. This is where the new recruits in a design firm suffer, as they are going in blind with no prior knowledge.

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