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Sorting Out the Truth: Tips for Curing Information Overload

Feb 2014

Design professionals are huge consumers of information, including building codes, products and materials, client requirements, changes in their professions and better ways to get their jobs done.  It’s easy to see why many designers and architects are becoming overwhelmed with information, whether from a college instructor years ago, or from a manufacturer’s representative who stopped by the office yesterday.

Cutting through the fog requires knowing what to look for and where to find it.  As I travel around the country, designers tell me they just don’t know how to manage it all.  Frankly, most of them don’t want to be caught in the middle of issues they think might somehow be controversial.  One designer I met recently said that she frequently specifies lots of vinyl on her firm’s healthcare projects, but she was concerned about how LEED version 4 would affect the way she makes material selections.  She was also interested in learning more about some of the misconceptions surrounding vinyl.  After all, as a design professional, her clients rely on her to make decisions in their best interest.

With so much information available today, the stream can become opinion-based and thinly-disguised as scientific and factual.  We see this every day in television news, and we tend to sit up and pay attention to any suggestion that a food or a chemical or a product might be harmful to us, or our families.  It often comes down to considering the source of the information we hear.

Part of the problem in the vinyl industry is that scientists and chemical engineers, who are used to communicating rationally and analytically, are now saddled with marketing their industry’s products to people who find it easier to make decisions emotionally.  Vinyl manufacturing has evolved and improved dramatically over time as the industry has completely re-designed the production process.  In terms of worker safety, OSHA data equates the vinyl industry to working in an office building and industry ensures emissions meet EPA requirements.

The Vinyl Institute is working to counter this misinformation in the market and create holistic sources of information and tools for the vinyl industry and product consumers. Part of that strategy involves channeling our message through websites that provide tremendous information and tools to the benefit of the industry.

The primary website for The Vinyl Institute,, has been completely redesigned to reflect the latest information on vinyl in all kinds of applications including, not only building and construction, but also medical, electronics, automotive, toys, water infrastructure and packaging.  It is also where visitors can find the latest industry news, scientific studies and other reference material, hot topics, and much more.  The VI has been evaluating user metrics for the site and in the coming months will use this information to continue refining our message and building out new tools for our industry and product consumers.

My role with The Vinyl Institute is to educate professionals in the architectural and design community.  Our website for this purpose is Vinyl In Design.  My message for continuing education is that vinyl is just one of many materials that is a part of the palette of materials designers have available to them.  Some materials are natural and some are synthetic, but all materials have unique property sets.  So the solution to any given design challenge might or might not be vinyl, but after each client’s project needs are taken into account, the informed designer will always be in a better position to decide. The Vinyl In Design website is a tool specific to building and construction.  It contains links to downstream trade groups, which can be excellent portals for research into specific applications.  I always try to refer to these groups at every presentation I give.

In the vinyl community we are proud of the progress that has been made in production, water and energy savings, corporate responsibility, overall durability and performance of the industry’s products.  These efforts have created a strong industry across North America and around the globe that is projected to grow substantially over the next several years.  The vinyl industry has so many great stories to tell and The VI is working hard to share our progress with industry professionals and the billions of people that use our products on a daily basis.  As we continue to refine and expand our message, our websites and additional communication efforts will provide more resources for combating information overload and many of the common misconceptions about vinyl as a material.

If you are in the vinyl business and are not familiar with the resources we offer, connect us and help tell this story.  If you are in the design community, visit our websites to obtain helpful and accurate information on vinyl and the products from which it is made.