Posts tagged ‘Design Economy’

Style Definitions

So somewhere in the blogosphere I came across a link to a style definition quiz and it turned out to be a fine way to spend a sticky summer afternoon. My problem is I don’t have one “style” I like, but many different looks, and I’m in a constant struggle between the “mom” in me who wants everything spic, span and in order and the “boho soul” who enjoys the visual adventure of found treasures, piles of books, etc.

So, on my first go-around with the style quiz, I was dubbed a “Home-Coming Queen” with the following general definition:

“Nothing – budgets included – stops you from putting your all into creating a dream home. Your look is quintessentially feminine: cool, pretty colours; layered patterns and textures; and flawless attention to every detail. You like to spend every spare moment on home improvements and making your fantasy become reality. Your home is as pretty as a chocolate box and almost good enough to eat.”

And here’s one of the key photos I choose in the process, a modern classic living room by Fox Nahem Design. I definitely love it, but it’s not totally me.


Fox Nahem Design

Fox Nahem Design

So I went in search of other photos that perhaps represent other other facets of my style and this is what I came up with.


Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison

Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison



By designer Matthew Smyth

By designer Matthew Smyth


From Inside Out magazine, date unknown

From Inside Out magazine, date unknown




A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

All of these bedrooms speak to me, each appealing to a slightly different aspect of my style personality. I went back and took the test a second time and ended up with a different result…I might just drop by on a regular basis!

Take the test and let us know your results.


6 August 2008 at 9:07 am 2 comments

Design & Our Marketing Assumptions

Sorry for the long break between posts. Things got busy with ICFF and NeoCon and several tight deadlines and then some family issues…but I am going to sincerely try to drop the ball for that long again! 

During my time away from posting I’ve been having some very interesting conversations about the design business. Talking with designers, manufacturers, product developers, etc. I’ve been told over and over again that at “the high end” the market is doing fine. But when it comes to custom design, what is “the high end”? Is it based on your hourly rates? The materials you use? The type of work that you do? And this is where we start to get into the murky and often uncomfortable muddle of emotions and justifications that often passes as analysis among many designers. Take a look at the statements below and see if you recognize yourself in any:

1. My designs are more valuable because… Fill in the blank: I use couture methods, my work is better designed and better constructed, I only use the best fabrics, linings, etc. 

2. Unique, custom designs should command a higher price in the marketplace. (Command? Who are you talking to? Or trying to convince?)

3. My work is valuable because of how much care, effort, concern, detail, etc. I put into it.

4. I should be fairly compensated for doing what(ever) I love to do.

The main theme: It’s all about you. You want to get paid because you’re proud of what you do, you believe you do it well and you work hard doing it. But how much value does that have to your customers?

I know design is important. I know it can change lives. I know that good design improves our lives and that poor design can be harmful. But design does not, can not, exist in a vacuum. It has to be put out there in the world and experienced; because if design is just put on display and not used, it’s merely style.  

Follow this train of thought and you begin to see that a designer’s job is not just about creating; but about making work that is functional, practical, usable and real. It’s about stating the case not just for your designs but for DESIGN, good design, as a worthwhile, valuable practice. 

Designers face many real challenges when it comes to setting a price on their work and finding the language with which to promote it, but don’t add your own emotions about why you do what you do to the mix. Instead become an advocate for the design values that matter to you and brought you to this work. It’s often a tricky balance––we get into the design business because of our passion to create, but you can’t let that passion overwhelm the dollars & cents of being in business.

17 June 2008 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Developing Your Innovation Muscle

I just came across another interesting piece on innovation, in The New York Times business section, and it also references kaizen, the Japanese technique of small, incremental improvements, that just mentioned in a previous post on innovation. But this article focuses more on how to make changes in your thinking and your way of approaching problems, challenges and new information, in order to foster innovation and creative flexibility.

“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of The Open Mind. “But we are taught instead to decide…and to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. Innovation is…exploring the many other possibilities.”

Markova and her partner M.J. Ryan the executive consulting firm Professional Thinking Partners work with what they call three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is all your existing thought patterns and processes; stress is when a challenge is so far beyond your current experiences as to be overwhelming; but stretch-where new activities feel awkard, unfamiliar, but interesting-is where true change occurs.

“Whenever we initiate change, even a positive change, we activate fear in our emotional brain,” writes Ryan in her book This Year I Will… “If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response is set off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off that instinctive response.” Instead you keep thinking, wondering and innovating.

This idea of continuous mental stretching also turns out to be good for your health. Researchers who asked study participants to do something different every day-listen to a new radio station, park their car in a different spot-found that they lost and kept off weight.

As creative professional we’re used to applying this kind of thinking to our client issues…how to disguise an awkward window, unify an odd space, we’re always searching for something new, interesting, innovative and inspiring. But we’re quick to fall into habitual patterns within our own business.

So, take a look around at your business and your business habits. Do you see any small, gradual changes you’d like to make? Let us know.

12 May 2008 at 4:22 pm 4 comments

Redefining Luxury

Contemporary luxury is, in large part, removed from product. Most consumers today describe luxury as immaterial: time, peace of mind, space, tranquility, etc. Luxury is what is missing from our over-scheduled, over media-ed society, and what’s missing is certainly not product!

So how do you take your product offerings, your skills, your services and redefine them in the client’s mind as a form of contemporary luxury? Take a look at the success of California Closets. They took the process of reorganizing your closet (ugh) and transformed it into a vision of your home as a calm, well-thought out space. (aaah) 

How does what you do:

     * provide more free time (for family/friends/personal interests)?
     * create more or improved space in the home?
     * improve peace of mind?

Think about your products and services in terms of what intangible things you’d most want in your life and try out some messaging around this dematerialized sense of luxury.

1 May 2008 at 3:36 pm 1 comment

National Press Opportunity: Act NOW!

A freelance reporter for BobVila.Com is looking for window treatment specialists for a piece she’s working on. Here’s her request: 

“I am looking for information about all the available options in
window coverings for a piece I’m working on for From
protective films to Roman shades to blinds encased in double-paned
glass, I want to hear about all the options consumers have. I also
am looking for ideas on when it’s best to use each option.”

Deadline: 5:00 pm CST, April 23.

For many of you, “getting press” especially national, was listed as a goal on one of your first assignments. Well here’s your chance: Go for it!

contact: alyson(dot)english(at)gmail(dot)com

16 April 2008 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Four Great Content Ideas…

When it comes time to work on your business, rather than in your business, do you sometimes struggle with what to include in your next newsletter or an interesting theme for your next promotion? If so, here are four easy and effective ideas.

1. What’s the biggest design disaster you’ve experienced and the lesson you learned? 
I know it seems counterintuitive to tell your clients and potential clients
how you may have screwed up in the past; but people want to deal with
people, not faceless, soulless corporations, and people make mistakes.
Or, if you feel uncomfortable being that confessional, flip the concept
and explain how you solved an unusual decorating dilemma.  

2. Offer a time-saving tip.
Everyone realizes that in our over-scheduled world, time is indeed
a luxury. So give your audience a time-saving tip: how to clean blinds
faster and easier, how to organize their design inspiration files, the
top five questions they should ask when interviewing a designer, etc.

3. Give them an “Industry Insider’s” secret or perspective.
Consumers today are information sponges, looking to absorb as much
as they can about a subject that interests them. Help them out by
giving them some insider knowledge: a drapery dressing or styling
trick; a preview of new fabric collections or products that won’t be
launched for a few months yet; it can even be as simple as defining
a few industry specific terms for them.

4. Provide a tutorial or guide for a complicated process.
This is a bit like #3 above, but more detailed and specific. It could
be in the form of word document, describing all the steps, it could
be a complicated pattern that you further customized, or it could
even be in the form of a video. Perhaps you have a complicated
install coming up: A series of time-lapse photos, showing your
arrival in the morning, the removal of the current window treatments,
the process of installing the new treatments, the dressing and styling,
the clean-up, etc. All of sudden it’s hours later…and that’s just one
part of the job! This concept of giving away a bit of your specialized
knowledge helps the consumer truly see that there’s in much more
involved than they ever realized!

Are any of you already using any of these approaches? If so, please tell us about your experiences.

15 April 2008 at 2:32 pm 2 comments

Storytelling: The Followup

At the DBRx meeting in Atlanta, we started you off with the “10 stories” scenario. Here’s one way to take that idea and apply it more directly to your business.

Ask yourself:

What has happened in your life, good or bad, that would be the most useful to share with others?

Answering this question helps define what separates you from all the other design choices out there. Because most likely whatever services you provide and skills that you offer, there was a path that led you to want to do what you do—and people are interested in that path. Telling people your story—how you got to where you are and why you are doing what you do—makes a connection. It helps potential clients get to know you, learn to like you, and to trust that you are who you say you are.

This story, your story, will help you answer the “So, what is it you do?” question with more than just the generic “I’m a designer”, or “I’m a window treatment specialist.” It gives you an authenticity and uniqueness that no one else can match…because no one else has your exact story.

The goal is to be able to answer the “What is it you do?” question with a honest, clear and compelling statement that leads them to then say…“That sounds really interesting, I’d like to know more…”

Remember, being a designer is no longer enough.  Design clients, like all consumers today, want more. How do you make the design process faster, easier, more enjoyable, more entertaining, more fulfilling, etc. What is your design niche?

For example, if you were a high-school guidance councilor, saying, “I’m a guidance councilor“ is not particularly interesting. The person asking already has their own idea of what a guidance councilor is and does. However, saying, “I help kids plan and prepare for the future they believe in,” may just prompt them to ask, “Really? Tell me more…”

Ask your current clients what benefits they receive from working with you. You may be surprised by their answers, and those answers will help you craft a compelling answer to the “What do you do?” question. When you ask your clients this question, get them to think past the superficial. Ask them to get to the root of what value your service gives to their lives. Ask them to describe the most enjoyable, most surprising and/or most unexpected aspect of doing business with you. 

14 April 2008 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

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