Maintaining Designer and Client Happiness


With great interior design, comes great responsibility, and achieving design success requires a delicate balance of client expectation and designer execution. A successful project is more than just the end result, but is a collection of the weeks, months, and maybe even years leading up to the finished space. We too wish that the collaborative efforts between the designer and the client could be as effortless as the look the design was intended for, but we know that much deliberation, discussion, and disagreement goes into creating the chic sanctuaries we call “home”. When it boils down to the aesthetics of a space (the paint color, fixtures, furniture, etc.), we have a few tips to make the design approvals and personal differences seem like mere wrinkles, as opposed to tearing a relationship apart.

1. Communication is Key: Yes, 50% of successful communication is just listening. Simply listen and take into consideration the personality, vision, and expectation of your client, even if you think it’s unreasonable. Most of the time when the designer/client relationship starts to take a turn for the worse, it’s because you or your client doesn’t feel “heard”. Effectively hearing your client begins with understanding who they are as a person. We find that many Ivy Designers send out surveys when they are hired for a project in order to get a sense of what the client is expecting, their lifestyle, and how they use their home. “Who’s style do you admire?” “Where do your children like to play?” “How often do you entertain?” “What pieces do you want to keep?” These are personable questions that should be asked right away so you can get a true understanding of how they use their space, and get to the designing quickly.

2. You’re Getting Paid Because You’re the Expert: As an interior designer, you were hired for a specific purpose; to create a space that is enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing. Often times, your client hired you because they were attracted to your aesthetic, so having confidence in your skill is important. In order to effectively communicate your vision, it may take a little educating. Lesson 1: think of yourself as a design scientist that must convince your client of a new theory. This entails explaining (and sometime re-explaining) your reasoning and providing solid evidence either in the form of a vision board, or by showing samples and past examples. This will keep you and your client happy and keep the negative engagement at bay.

3. Remodel the Relationship: Sometimes, as a designer, you have to learn to adapt. Plans change, ideas get scratched, and budgets become tight…it all just comes with the territory. However, it’s important to streamline these modifications and be able to adapt quickly, as to not extend the deadlines of the project or upset your client. Getting products pre-approved, setting up “yes” or “no” scenarios, and being able to provide plan B at the touch of a button will efficiently reduce the endless back and forth that occurs. Clients of Ivy Designers love the Ivy approval feature on proposals because it streamlines the endless ping-pong and creates an easy way to progress your project to the next stage.

4. Keep Your Cool: Conflicting opinions can sometimes turn into a complete disaster, especially when personal preference is involved. However, when a disagreement arises, the ability to emotionally detach and remain professional will go a long way. In order to achieve success and establish longevity with a sensitive client, it’s vital that both you and your client feel comfortable being open, and work in a collaborative manner. Designing a remarkable space often takes a little risk and a lot of trust, so providing options, scenarios, and demonstrating your vision clearly has a significant impact.

5. Be Crystal Clear: Trust, trust, and a bit more trust. Chargebacks, missed communication, un-matched expectations – these are a designer’s kryptonite and a one-way ticket to a project ending on a bad note. It’s important to remember that humans are messy, so to help with the unpredictability of projects, be up-front with your client. Allowing your client to be an active part of the design process, while you lay out the project in a clear and manageable way, will save you both time and a headache or two. Creating product approvals, streamlined invoice templates, and scheduled deposit requests are all tools to make your client understand how the design procedure works. Every project may be different, however, creating a system that works with your business will help to build a strong foundation for a positive relationship and mitigate any potential misunderstandings.