Design Influencer Series Presents: A Conversation with Orange County Designers.
I recently held a Design Influencer Group at the Tidelli Outdoor showroom in Newport Beach. This event featured some amazing and influential creatives from Orange County and San Diego. For those unaware, there is a line of delineation between Los Angeles and Orange counties. crossing from (310)/ (323) to (714)/ (949) might as well require a passport, shots and letting the babysitter/ dog sitter know that you won’t be back for a while. It’s not just the traffic, although, I am quite sure that is one reason many in the A&D don’t venture south.
Fact is, the A&D is strong in OC and SD. There is a large base of talent in firms and individuals working on amazing projects, yet most receive no media love unless they are talking about LA, PS or Ventura County projects (SoCal) or NY, even international projects. Why? I wanted to find out. I took a trip down to the Tidelli Outdoor showroom and met with some designers who seem to have many of the answers, but it didn’t seem to bother them the way it does me. But they did have some feedback on this subject and many other issues affecting the A&D biz down south.
Starting at the beginning. Here is who came out. I wanted you to hear some ideas they came out to share regarding the state of design and trending design ideas……
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Okay, back to the Design Influencer Group. Some big issues came up. First of which were some thoughts on shelter media.
Shelter Media Doesn’t Pay Much Attention to Industry Happenings Down South. Shelter space media (magazines) don’t cover OC or SD unless there is a ‘celebrity factor’ to the project. It can be a celebrity, titan of industry or other public figure, but without that, there is little interest. There is also a lack of meaningful industry events in OC and SD. I found that surprising. Considering that there is so much retail, why don’t more industry events take place in support of the design and architecture professionals who work here? I am going to be looking into that and possibly working with partners to explore this idea. The other side of the equation must also be explored though. If there were trade focused events, would the A&D community support it? It is certainly an idea to consider.
Retail vs. Custom. There is a disconnect with clients between retail and custom as it relates to the difference between decorating and design. The majority of clients don’t seem to fully grasp the value of custom in relation to retail. Finding the right piece or having the perfect piece made is somewhat of a foreign concept to many clients. This can only be due to lack of client education.
Design Process Confusion. The design process is changing. Because there are so may different ways designers charge, it have created confusion in the marketplace. Clients don’t know what they should pay vs. what they are being asked to pay. What is true value for design services? This led to an in-depth conversation regarding pricing models themselves and it was surprising to me to find out just how many are in use. They Include: Flat fee + discount off retail, price per foot, hourly plus mark-up, flat fee for construction + hourly for post-construction design work, price per foot with “x” changes and mark-up, project management fee + hourly/ cost per foot or flat fee.
With so many different options (there are others but for sake of space, it was limited to these) it was determined to be crucial that the following must be employed:
Designers, architects and others providing creative services must have a comprehensive business plan that outlines the type of services and fee structures they are willing to accept.
Contracts must be written with specificity even if multiple forms of pricing for services are used.
Communication with clients is critical to the success of the project. Many, if not most clients will not read the contracts they are given. It was suggested that most will study the design boards and go straight to cost. If that is the case, it is crucial for creative service providers to do their best to make sure the client understands the process.
Editor’s Note: This ALSO includes the expectations and behavioral inclusions. If you don’t want texts at 8pm, specify your hours in advance. When you will be available to meet, talk, review and be on-site. You need to get editorial approvals and publishing permissions in advance and in writing.
Project Management Tools. One issue that comes up on a regular basis and did here as well is the desperate need for a project management tool for creatives. Specifically, designers. This suite of tools needs to include a CRM, a content management tool, billing, invoicing, social media management, and a resource tool for specifying. While many of these tools exist, none seem to accomplish everything in a scaleable and flexible way. Why? Not quite sure but expect this issue to keep coming up until someone solves for it.
Editor’s Note. This suite of tools should also include a mechanism allowing creatives to publish as well. Publish photos, newsletters, blogs, videos, podcasts. They should have a way to drop content into a template, tag projects, resources and social media all with one-button efficiency. Can someone get on that, please?
Client relations. This is a big issue that continues to come up and will continue to come up because there is no easy answer. Designers and architects, in my experience, don’t view themselves the same way as an artist or performer, yet in many ways, they perform in similar ways. Imagine if everyone who bought a painting from an artist could text them at 9pm with a comment about how the blue doesn’t really shimmer the way it should on nights with a full moon. Many designers have shared stories where clients will text them at night with a comment or a question regarding a product on order or a future install. There should be rules of engagement in planning, during the job and after the work is complete. While there is no fix for every situation, this goes back to expectations and deliverables on a contract. “Do’s” and “don’ts” should be in writing. By not doing this, creatives leave the standards of behavior up to each individual client. Do so carefully.
The Top 5 Most Important Issues Affecting Shelter Design Creatives in Orange County and San Diego.
1. Shelter publications are missing a remarkable opportunity to cover ground breaking design and architectural work in OC and SD.
2. Custom work is gaining momentum with more creatives completing one-off pieces for close to retail pricing.
3. Designers and architects should have well defined and easy to understand pricing and process for clients. This sounds like it should be universal, it’s not.
4. Project management tools for designers and architects are not user friendly and all encompassing right now. They should be and this presents a great opportunity fora company willing to do it right.
5. Client relations. Set the standards, terms and expectations. This applies to behaviors, communication and personal space.