There’s TV, and then there’s reality.

There is no such thing as reality TV, despite what network executives would have you believe. We already have mediums for reality- they’re called documentary film making and journalism (assuming that the individuals involved are actually trying to closely portray events as they happen, not as they create them.)

Design television is neither of these things. It’s entertainment (if you can call it that) that is there to push products for advertisers. It’s not much different than when you were a kid and a cartoon came out based on a toy. (not a toy based on a cartoon.) But once again I will say clearly that a lot of what happens in these shows is they claim they’re all about “giving people ideas.” Maybe, but apparently you have to specify *good* ideas, cause they’re sure not doing it. But beyond that, it gives people (potential clients, even) unrealistic expectations of what they’re going to get.

Let’s back this train up, and give some simple bullet points that will hopefully clear some of this up. I’m sure I could come up with more than five of these, but goodness knows I have a ton of work to do today as it is. All of these are really in the realm of residential design, because that’s what design television tends to be about, and that’s what their audience is concerned with. Please add this to the list of reasons I limit my residential design projects, if you can find room on the paper.

1. Designers are just like decorators.

No. Really, I wish that I could just leave it at “no.” but apparently I can’t because of how many times I’ve seen people confuse the two. The differences between designers and decorators could overflow the empty space at the Grand Canyon. Just because you can decorate your room doesn’t make you a designer. The list of things wrong with this misconception are so incredibly endless, I just assign them all random numbers, because there are just *that many* to list.

2. Design is a weekend project.

No. Constructing a shed from a kit is a weekend project. Replacing your doorknobs is a weekend project. Putting together some flat-packed furniture is a weekend project. And maybe, painting your room is a weekend project if you know what you’re doing and you plan it well. Designing a room and implementing that design is not a weekend project. (I blame DIY shows for this. I loved Hometime too, but even they admit that they liberally take advantage of the magic of video editing.)

When someone redoes a room in 48 hours it’s not design. It’s a game show. There’s a difference, people. Learn it.

3. Oh, I could do that for (insert so much less money and so much less time here).

This particular one is also the bane of anyone who makes anything by hand, too. My answer from when I was an artist full time was “Really? Do you think you can get me six of them by Friday? Because I’m low on stock.” When applied to design, it’s *usually* applied to decorating being confused for design. But when it isn’t, I like to start asking questions about building codes. People shut up pretty quickly after that. Like I said yesterday- this is a technical job.

4. But they did it for $2000 on TV!

Sure. They did it for 2k on tv. 2k in materials costs. The designer, in case you hadn’t noticed, isn’t being paid out of that fund(I know, shock- they need to be paid). Neither, I might add are the actual professionals that they have around in order to provide (much) needed expertise for things like carpentry and construction. And even *with* that, how much of it is a) simply decorating and b) travels into the realm of “design as handicraft project.”(and often so very, very badly.) If we use a simple formula for residential design based on a straight budgetary percentage (not 30% over net, which I know is standard in residential, but I don’t do it because I think it rooks the client) that 2k for materials is part of a $7000 design job. And when you look at the results, it’s often a LOUSY $7000 design job, too. That’s not to disparage the designers on TV, either. It’s just because it’s not reality, it’s a game show. It’s a tv show and not a real project.

5. Those design competition shows… (actually, it doesn’t really matter what comes after the fourth word.)

What design competition tv shows do show you, is who was willing to jump through the hoops of the producers to get on the show. That’s more or less it. All it tells *ME* is that they were willing to run the (almost sure) risk of being wildly manipulated on camera and in post-production. I was courted very heavily by one of these shows in 2006 and in the end, I made it very clear that I was *not* going to be herded into a role typecast for me- that I was a design professional, not an actor, and not a circus clown. I didn’t wind up on the show (almost certainly because I put my foot down really hard on that one), and let me tell you how grateful I am to have dodged that particular bullet, knowing what a trainwreck played out on screen when the series finally aired.

One thing that TV isn’t lying about though is that sleep deprivation becomes a way of life. That much is true, but that’s about it.

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