Sales vs. Design

design_is_simpleAs usual, but more particularly (and painfully) obvious within the kitchen industry, the way business is conducted is backward. This happens because the incentives are all in the wrong places, and the portions of the process which are the most highly paid are, by far, the least useful to the end user/client.

The idea that you would buy something from someone who hasn’t an actual clue how to design it is simply stupid, and this fact is exacerbated by the complexity and scope of a Western residential kitchen project.

Training in kitchen design remains dismally inadequate, if not actually detrimental to learning how to design a kitchen in which someone can actually function. In the words of one well-known 40-year veteran of the industry “…the work triangle is not a design principle…and the NKBA has been slow to realize this…”.

The current model of “business” in the industry continues to serve the owners of kitchen retail operations and almost no one else. Salespeople wander around with the nagging knowledge that they’re basically frauds. Actual designers work away with the continuing knowledge that they’re being treated unfairly at best. Clients rarely get a decent design, much less a workmanlike execution; both because the designers have the salespeople standing between themselves and the client, interfering in every decision.

Since the salespeople are only interested in giving the client “what they want,” and since the client is most often ignorant of design (and therefore, what will actually serve their best interests), we wind up with “design by committee” at best. Worse yet, the committee consists of the two parties of three in the room most ignorant of design, as opposed to the one who might have a chance of knowing anything useful.

The only people making any real money are business owners, and because the model is so obviously flawed, it doesn’t really work for the owners either. As a result, they’ve got to be watching every second to make sure the people whose incentives are all in the wrong places don’t either deliberately cheat or cut corners, or simply bump along, phone in their work, and take the paycheck.

Then, let’s talk about the lack of training in the field of installation: No guilds, no unions to speak of, no apprenticeships, and worse, the pervasive (and moronic) idea that everyone in Murica is going to be a CEO or a doctor, lawyer, engineer, whatever. Somehow the idea of dedicating one’s life to a craft, a trade, or a technical pursuit is utterly without incentive support in the current culture. So even if a client does find a great designer and manages to eliminate the salesperson from the process, gets the design in place and educates herself well enough to fully understand it, she still has to fight her way though the construction process…

So let’s change this up…except, oh, right…there’s always Nicolo Machiavelli’s deadly accurate commentary on bringing change:

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.”

proximity_story_pete_walker-226x300.jpgMr. Walker is a nationally recognized professional  and has created functional and aesthetic modern living environments for more than 400 clients, in addition to having designed over 3000 kitchens in 33 years of professional practice.
He continues to develop the proximity | kitchensystem.   Pete is happy to take questions, comments and critique.  You can reach Pete through his email address:, or visit the website at

1 Comment on this Post

  1. Great Article Thank YOU for sharing your comments — Once you get through the Design aspect of any project though is the execution and there are a lot of individuals that purport to be remodeling contractors and we have found many get in way over their head! Make sure to encourage customers to select a single quality contractor that has the appropriate credentials and resources to deliver quality workmanship with quality products.


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