Interior Designers & Technology
I recently read a blog about interior designers and technology by Alden Miller of Alden Miller Interiors located in Pacifica, California. It was written so thoughtfully, I couldn’t help but pick up the telephone and call her complimenting her insight. In her blog, she brilliantly pointed out how an interior design firm who embraces and leverages today’s technology offers a better customer experience than those interior designers that do not.
I considered how many clients find us after reviewing this website and blog. If you are looking for an interior designer in Portland, Oregon you may do what most of our clients do. You review our design portfolio, you read our bios, you may read a blog or two, and then you evaluate if we are a good fit for your project and personality – and then you call or email us to schedule a design consultation.
Reviewing our design portfolio unfortunately won’t show you an important but distinct difference in our approach from other design firms in the area. We utilize technology that allows us to increase efficiency and provide a better client experience. We take our client’s service experience seriously. We may talk about how our streamlined process and communication is fine tuned and efficient but what does that mean to you? Well, let’s talk about some of our tools and why we use them – and why it should matter to you when selecting an interior designer for your next project.
Tools to Help Build Your Vision
Early in the process, we use sharing on sites like Houzz and Pinterest with our clients to understand their vision. We also use our iPad at your home and showrooms having your personal selections and specifications at our fingertips, cutting back not only on wasted paper, but the time it takes to locate loose paperwork when specifying options for a project. We are able to send, save and update drawings like elevations and floor plans online. We use tools that store on the cloud allowing us to access information at our clients homes, at showrooms and wherever our projects take us. Choose a interior designer who uses technology to actively engage the interior design process – and as Alden says – more of your investment dollars will go towards interior design.
For many clients, we also use digital design boards to communicate the vision and cohesiveness of a palette – and how each component works with the rest of the space. This isn’t to say we aren’t fans of beautiful design boards, we still use design presentation boards when they make sense for a project. But in many cases we find clients don’t want to invest in having a design team glueing surfaces, floor plans and textiles on a presentation board. We can do it quickly and efficiently electronically, and changes or additions can be done immediately.
I have a two design mentors still practicing interior design in Portland that are in their late 60s and early 70s. These two are my heros! I am in awe of the processes they had to put in place to run businesses by hand, without cell phones, and without computers. I think one of the reasons interior design used to be mostly for just the luxury class was because it was so time consuming to do the backend work of documenting and communicating design to all the tradespeople and vendors. At that time it was all done by hand. How these designers working in the 1980s and earlier got their job done without a computer and technology baffles my mind. There is a lot of backend work, details and timing in an interior firm that is tough at first glance for a client to fully appreciate.
Let me give a simple example to illustrate my point. Let’s say we designed and furnished your master bedroom. One of the items we specified for you were custom draperies. Just that one finished component that you see could easily have 6 vendors associated with it: the company who provides the fabric, the company who provides the contrast fabric, the company who provides the window treatment hardware, the window treatment installer, the company providing the drapery lining, and the workroom fabricating the drapery. It is my job to coordinate having those bolts of fabrics and notions checked for color accuracy and stock for you. It is also our job to communicate who does what, what gets sent where, what the final dimensions and details are so there are no mistakes, and I need paperwork to support each of these orders. I also need to communicate to you the total cost and estimate an installation date. This is just for your window treatments you might recall. Imagine the details multiplied for a full home or even just one room.
The Next Generation of Tools
We use a slick, scalable, efficient interior design specific software tool called Studio Webware that is an integrated specification, ordering, accounting and contact management system. The cloud based system offers detailed proposals for our clients that detail out specifications, pricing and even images attached so you can visually see what you are ordering. Communication and orders are sent through the same enterprise system to the fabricator and manufacturers. This ensures checks and balances. The system saves time needing to re-enter information, and reduces errors from omitting or to transposing information. We also allow our clients real time information if they want it about ship dates, shipments and arrivals.
Interior Designers without an enterprise system commonly use a myriad of programs that don’t speak to one another like Quickbooks for Accounting, Microsoft Outlook for contact management, Microsoft Excel and Word for writing work orders, and an Email system to send orders and specifications. We do all this in one program, making efficiency and tracking easy and all in one place.
Choose a interior designer who uses technology to actively engage the interior design process – and as Alden says – more of your investment dollars will go towards interior design, not the backend process.
Alden Miller writes in her blog:
Is Your Designer Tech Savvy?
When hiring a designer, consider these questions:
How does your designer update you on project info? With Studio Webware, both my office and my clients have access to their project information, anywhere anytime.
How can you track or comment on the progress of the design? In my projects, clients can interactively view items, proposals, or invoices and make notes on any item in addition to the pdf email attachments.
How do you approve purchases before the designer proceeds? Clients easily approve items online and the days are not wasted with paper in the mail.
What is the process for purchasing? Using Studio Webware, the purchasing experience is more of a collaboration done in real time.
Is it possible to customize the reports, or send shorter reports if you need a quick update? I can send up-to-date reports showing as little or as much information as is necessary.
What, and how many, programs does your designer make use of for project management? I use the same program for budgets, specification, proposals, tracking and invoicing so nothing is wasted (or lost) in duplicating the same information to multiple systems.
A picture says a thousand words, so it’s important that you see what you’re getting before a purchase is made. What is your designer’s process for communicating this? Many interior designers still use Photoshop and other time-consuming tools to attach images and specs to orders. With Studio Webware I can simply attach images to items in the system so all parties are clear on the order.