Updated: Apr 12, 2022
Anyone who does keep up with our blog, knows that I do not claim any ability to write well. l am never going to write to the masses, nor am I going to jump on the DIY trends for people to sift through. I will always write to reach fellow designers and decorators, tradesmen and women, team members, and of course, future clients.
We keep getting asked by fellow designers and team members to add to our original post "How Designers Work". I opted to just make it another blog post. At first, I was going to title this post "Things Designers Wish Their Client's Knew" but realized if we designers had better communication skills perspective clients would already know those things! SO...
Firstly, I want to preach to the choir so to speak. To artis, decorators and designers, just some random things for you to consider. If you, in the first consultation with your client tell them what to expect and what not to expect, you will have a successful meeting. Unrealistic expectations are only a problem when they aren't addressed. For my fellow designers and decorators...Client's want you to be upfront with them on what they need to know. Your second meeting (presentation of design) you should be able to give your client cost expectation of your project with a clear outline of your %.
I believe by nature most designers and artist love people, even though we as a whole aren't very outgoing, and tend to be a bit reclusive. Most of us have learned to adjust and present our products and our proposals quite well. Maybe sometimes, too well. Leaving some people, the sense of us being so fun, free spirited, and kind, that they can easily manipulate and/or take advantage of us.
I don't think most people are looking to take advantage of others, but I do agree that some definitely are
Most people that call for a design consultation may have unrealistic expectations, brought on by many DIY shows and videos, but that doesn't mean they are out to get you or take advantage of you. They often believe that a designer will just walk in and automatically know the perfect design for their space and is capable of laying all the wood flooring and tile work themselves. When in fact, the designer is about to get real about the style of home they are assessing and very up close and personal to downright nosey about the client themselves. We will ask the hard questions like Why? When? Where? The more we know your likes and dislikes, and what colors attract you, the better design can be created. It most likely will get a little uncomfortable if the designer is actually doing their job. A good, even great design can be made off designer created Pinterest boards, but a perfect design is custom created for the individual home.
Secondly, I want to talk with you out there that are not designers or decorators. Yes, you a perspective client. Designers are visual story tellers. Our job is to make sure each room is telling something about you and your family. Where you have been, who you are, or/and where you are going.
When your designer shows up, they are looking for verbal clues as to who you are, to help design the perfect space for your lifestyle. If you start the conversation with look, I have this sofa, or chair, or table, etc that I am keeping and need you to design around. Or with I printed off these from Pinterest and this is the look I want. Just know, that is exactly what that designer will do, design around those pieces and that style (if it works in your home). He or She will spend hours searching for things that will compliment your request. There is nothing wrong with this, but you need to understand, you are limiting them to actually custom create for you a complete design. Although, I always ask my clients to jump on Pinterest and be prepared to show me the styles that appeal to them, I am not asking nor do I want them to expect me to create that exact board in their home. Will your designer be able to use your existing pieces and create a design around it? Yes, absolutely. BUT just know you are not getting a complete designer's ability to create the perfect design for that space, when you tell them which pieces stay or go. I do encourage any family air looms etc to be shown to your designer, so they can work them into their design or into another room lol
Designers usually work on a % of project cost or decor purchases. Expect your designer to be able to tell you exactly what their % will cost you. If you aren't clear on what they are projecting your project to cost, be clear with them what you need help understanding. There is no stupid question when it comes to design or design cost.
Thirdly, back to design team...Understanding Your Client's Real Needs. It is important for the above paragraph to really be understood, not only by a client but by the designer. Sometimes, a client just wants someone to give them permission to design and shop for themselves. I call this the "girl/boy friend client." They are fun, and usually pretty well versed in design terms. You can learn a few insights into them as a whole but gleam nothing from their actual design needs. Can be pretty trying for a designer and for their client, unless the designer allows them to take the helm. Yes, letting the client become lead designer, but shares with them, honestly if the pieces, they are looking will look good in their space. Usually, these three questions need to be answered for them 1) does it work? 2) does it fit? 3) does it match? It might hurt your design pride, but it builds your client's self-esteem. As you know, I believe everyone has the ability to design and/or be an artist. Even if they never do either as a profession, they leave the relationship better equipped to design for themselves because of the insights given by their designer.
Other clients actually need a designer and not a girlfriend. How many times has a client said, I like this style (Modern Japanese) and this piece of furniture (very traditional) with this art (very bright and colorful) Will they work together nicely? Japanese Interior design is a minimal style that uses clean lines, natural materials, and a neutral color palette. Peaceful simplicity is a central aspect of Japanese aesthetics.... I call this client the "Know It All Client"
Yes, that actually happens more than the first scenario. They might have some of the lingo down but have no true understanding of symmetry. Remember, design is about symmetry of size, color, and style. This is a difficult client as they need to play a key role in the design process, but they will try to "out design" you with correct terminology but wrong design. These are the hardest clients as they have been all over Pinterest and watch way too many HGTV shows and feel like they really don't need you but see how fun working with a designer can be and like saying they worked with a designer and out designed them. Lordy, they need you to say the hard words "You don't win the prize" this ultra-modern design doesn't work in your very traditional built home. They might fire you, but if you don't meet this head on, you will be miserable anyway and they won't be satisfied.
I mention these two types of clients for a few reasons 1.it can be confusing to know the difference between the two hardest types of clients to work with. I hope this short post helps that young designer develope the skill of discernment, so they know the difference. 2. help educate the client themselves, as sometimes we as individuals don't see what kind of messages we send out. 3. teach designers and artist that sometimes it is best to pass on a few projects. The "Girl/Boy Friend" (can be male of female) client is worth working with usually. It might hurt your pride a little to allow their inner designer to grow, but they will be one of your most satisfied clients when it is all said and done. The "Know It All" one of you (you or the client) will fire the other before a complete design can be implemented, best case scenario. Worst case is you actually finish the project, and they blame you for the choices they insisted on making.
The ideal client... there really isn't an "ideal" client.
BUT there are clients that know the things they truly need help with. These clients usually say something along these lines... okay, this is my home. I don't know how to make it flow or look right. This particular client is the easiest client to work with even if they need you to simply design around using their current furniture.
The Perfect Designer... you guessed it there aren't any. We too come with flaws. If you feel we aren't listening remind us. Most designers truly want to please you and create the perfect design with you.
The Perfect Design... Totally possible! It does get uncomfortable and requires both client and designer to communicate.
Yes, most people have unrealistic expectations for designers to work around.
Yes, designers have unrealistic expectations that the client will just know certain things. But...isn't both statements true in every line of work? For instance, let's look at an artist. No matter how little or much an art piece cost, the client is going to ask for it to be cheaper... right? Yet, that same client will jump on the internet (and know they can't barter with the Wayfair etc.) and purchase the same or similar piece for 3 times the amount they could have purchased locally. Have you priced an actual hand painted, gallery wrapped, textured oil painting lately? Heck even to purchase one that has been 3D printed and then painted on, are expensive! 24x48 from unknown artist $350. to $600.00.
Still, if you offer your client a discounted price, they then assume it is a lesser piece even though you are offering them more for less cost to them.
If you know you gave them a fair deal or even more than fair, and they question it or ask for more. Walk away. Simply put, they are looking to take advantage of you as an artist or designer.
Lastly, back to potential client...
If you go to an interior designer for clothing advise, just know we will then reach out to a clothing designer for insights and to create that wardrobe for you. We don't have a program for clothing line designs. Interior designers have programs for floor design, and color insights. Furniture building programs, you guessed it, we don't typically have those either. We will know who to reach out to and work with to build your furniture as we rely on their insights for the design and build and they us, for the style and color. Also know, we rely on a team of experts...I have a pretty good handle on how to lay tile but would never consider laying tile for a client without our actual tile guy. He has been doing it day in and day out for over 30 years. I don't lay tile every day. I call an expert tile layer who does.
I usually never use "terms" when discussing design with a client. I not only want to remain in the same book but also the same page throughout the design process.
You know how uncomfortable you feel when you are at a doctor's office and the doctor starts using words that you partly understand (with your limited lattin) but certainly have no clue what they really mean? To a client, even one that watches tons of HGTV remodels, Japanese Interior Design truly doesn't mean anything to them but a concept of the actual design. I learn so much about what they know, what they expect from me, and their personal likes by simply not labeling designs and listening to them describe why they want a modern farmhouse design when they describe instead an actual farmhouse design. Just as designers didn't go to school to learn how to run a multimillion-dollar trade business, they didn't go to school for design. Right?
I hope this post helps to develop some conversation between a designer and a client. I truly believe the best design relationships are built through good communication between clients and the design team or designer.
Maybe it enlightened you on a design process you weren't aware of?
Maybe gave you permission to dabble in design with your designer?
Whether you are a designer or a client, I hope it inspires you to be a better communicator, listener, and learner. The areas we all truly need to strive to better ourselves in.
It's going to be a Beautifully Done Day! ~ Trish Whitsell