Interior Designer

Finding Familiarity in the Design Process

Last week, I discussed how pleased I’ve been with my interior design course and the amount of depth we’re going into on the actual process of working with a client. In fact, for our final project — which we will work on throughout the entire semester — we are tasked with choosing someone in our life to be a fake client and then working with them on redesigning the room of their choice.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Rory and Melanie, have agreed to be my fake clients. They moved into a new apartment a couple of months ago, and it’s still very much a blank slate. When working with an interior design client, one of the first steps is meeting with them and asking a lot of questions to understand more about their lifestyle, how the room will be used, design styles and preferences, etc.

This past weekend, I met with Rory and Melanie in their apartment to find out more about what they’re looking for in their redesigned room. I had prepared a number of questions, but I also knew that other questions would naturally come up throughout the conversation.

The discussion came easy and was really enjoyable. It was fun getting to know them and their style a bit more. And it was satisfying when I brought up points they hadn’t even thought of.

Floor plan sketch and notes
It all starts with identifying needs

I’m sure a lot of the ease I felt during this first meeting stemmed from my familiarity with this stage of the process. Before I worked in marketing at Facebook, I was in business development at an advertising agency. In that role, I performed what’s often termed ‘consultative sales’ — I worked with clients to understand their specific needs and then put together a custom advertising plan for them. So, as you can see, very similar to the interior design process!

My meeting with Rory and Melanie brought back memories of this former role and how much I loved that part of the job. It was the phase where I got to build rapport with my client; I got to ask the right questions and listen; and, like a puzzle or code, I got to interpret and surface the needs. I got particular satisfaction from working with clients who weren’t very good at articulating what exactly they were looking for, which forced me to really work hard asking the right questions and sometimes reading between the lines in order to uncover the heart of their problem or need.

During this phase of the process, there is often a spirit of collaboration, inspiration, and creativity. No matter what career path I end up choosing, I can see myself craving this type of needs interpretation & analysis and the creative problem-solving that follows.

As I continue with this class project, it will be interesting to see how much of the design process mirrors my past client management experiences. It’s nice to realize that although I may be new to the interior design field, I’m already ahead of the curve when it comes to the skills exercised when working with clients.

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