How does an interior design create their signature ‘look’ and become successful?
For aspiring interior designers, or for that matter any designer, a signature look seems essential as a career statement and if any financial and publicity goals are to be achieved – the measure of success being a recognizable name and the business success that goes with it.
The “designer knows best” scenario often characterizes the achievement of such success, with clients being seemingly directed to accept what is fashionable or what the designer thinks they should have or indeed to accept a ‘complete look’ which can lead to a very raw end product. In such cases it can appear as if nothing has been acquired or contributed by the client at all and certainly the end result does not suggest how a home actually evolves – over time, with a slow accumulation of elements and choices.
Given that interior design is about ergonomics as well as atmosphere, function as well as decoration, there is clearly more to it than any purely stylistic fixation suggests.
So how should one go about educating a fledgling designer? Show them an approach to developing their ideas whilst asking them to examine who they are, in design terms. Why do they make the choices they do? How is his or her sensory perception different from everyone else’s? Once identified, personal taste or choice can be engaged when relevant or ignored when not, but certainly developed further.
Assessing a client is the most interesting part of the process, trying to identify empathy between client and designer is the key. When there is a clear meeting of minds and taste then the designer’s enthusiasms can be interwoven into the brief. If the client is a world away from the designer, not unusual and not the disaster it may sound, then clear parameters in terms of style and feel can still be set up and exploited to satisfy both parties.
This approach does not mean the designer is faceless, merely that the expertise called upon is subject to nuance, governed by the clients attitude to their space, even if it is the designer who articulates what that attitude might be. The result is usually a happy client who feels they have been listened to and as a result have been given a unique response, a unique space. The signature for such a designer is in the approach that allows every client to be seen as an individual. This in turn develops the designer’s originality, as the most valuable asset is a designer’s original mind, precluding any repetition in design terms from project to project or client to client.
Designers must have an approach which allows every client to be seen as an individual thus avoiding repetition.
An educators role is to unwrap that originality, help the fledgling to see why they have such a unique view and coax that view into a robust and powerful thing that will stand up to professional assessment and standards.
Whatever the ‘style’ of a designer, even if it encouraged the client to make first contact, a client will still want to get to know the designer, to see if there is a connection and then develop from there. As the relationship deepens the initial reason for the choice of a designer might be less important than the continuing dialogue that will create a suitable and successful space.
Alan Hughes. Principal: Inchbald School of Design.
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