Most people envision design industries as glamorous, exciting, and fun. Who doesn’t love to decorate and design? But the fact of the matter is that interior design, fashion design, graphic design, architecture or any other design businesses are about are businesses first, design second. While that sounds bad, I would like to share my experiences and perspectives on a subject that I feel is often overlooked and misunderstood...and why putting business before design is not a bad thing.
I was recently contacted by a concerned mother whose daughter has a knack for decorating and is contemplating a career in interior design. She wanted my advice, and so we corresponded via emails. I provided her with the ins-and-outs of the business, shedding something of a harsh reality on the subject. I started my career in fashion design in Manhattan many years ago and have (for good or bad) talked many young, starry eyed students out of going into that field just because they like clothes!
What I explained to these students, and this concerned mother, is that you can make a career out of design if you really LOVE it. But you must be thick skinned and work long, hard hours with a variety of clients and attitudes. Design is a business. You have to sell your services design if you ever hope to make it in this business.
Her final reply to me was;
The information you provided is the key of what I been trying to explain to her, as you may appreciate she is young and full of ideas which is great but not realistic in terms of the spending in education and all the licensing she must go through afterwards. I don’t want her to be discouraged, but I want her to understand and know that as you explain in the previous e-mail it is not all glamor. She is a fan of HGTV decorating shows and you see that they too glamorize the industry. I thank you again for your tips and information because it always good to learn from businesses who have been doing it for a while.
For most designers, the ‘creative’ process of the business—envisioning the perfect room, developing client relationships, and seeking out the perfect textiles, furnishings and hardscape materials—offers the greatest enjoyment. —a client pays for a designer’s style and sensibility, not a product that can be immediately seen or touched.
All too often though the client does not (and indeed, cannot) understand the amount of work and effort that goes into interior design. A designer must be very specific with clients about what they do; talk about access to vendors, how paint colors are selected, explain knowledge of renovations, electrical plans, and understanding of how a person moves through a space, all while staying up to date with the latest materials and styles.
Being a good designer requires being a good business person. It requires balancing the design you want with the budget you have. Given unlimited time and money, most people could eventually design for themselves an adequate look. But doing design as a business means working within the parameters the client sets. If you can’t meet the client’s desires and budget, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best designer in the world, you won’t be in business long.
Staying power in the design world requires a focus on honesty and pride in the product and service you provide over the long haul.
As the author, Keith Granet says in the title his book; 'The Business of Design' is to balance Creativity and Profitability.