Last week we went on a tear about architects and designers being terrible storytellers. There was some opposition to our thoughts which is a great thing. Thank you! Apparently we lumped all industry professionals into one basket without tossing out the bad apple.
Bad, bad, theviewfromhere. Tsk, tsk.
So before we rip into the profession again this week we want to apologize and bring some clarity to the term designer. By designer we mean Interior Designer and yes, we were being lazy by not typing out the full name. I suppose that alone is disrespectful to the industry that we are part of.
For that, we apologize.
What we won’t apologize for is the fact that Architects and Interior Designers are terrible story writers and by association storytellers. Here’s why (click me) if you haven’t had a chance to find out!
Let’s move on, shall we.
This week we are digging into that ubiquitous word BRAND and examining how Interior Designers have a difficult time interpreting a company’s brand effectively.
I know, I know.
Another broad brush statement that is surely to boil some blood!
We all know what a brand is and there have been scads of books and articles written about creating, evaluating, managing, growing and sharing a brand. The list goes on and on however all the evaluation, opinion and research doesn’t do much when it comes to defining the relationships between people and brands.
There’s brand identity. There’s brand reputation. There’s brand promise.
What do all these things have in common besides being great buzzwords?
We have argued here before that without people there would be no brand.
A simple equation. True or false? Why or why not?
We are not branding specialists or marketing professionals here hence the ask.
We can read the marketing material, talk to marketing people and make some pretty big assumptions but at the end of the day we have our profession and our skills and that profession has a need to integrate into what a company’s brand is meant to convey so we have a need to understand not only the basics of a brand but moreover that company’s business.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there are very few corporate Interior Designers who are successful at effectively articulating a brand in the space they design. Integrating a corporate colour, a detail, or a material because it’s cool is just not the way it is going to get done even if the client says their brand epitomizes cool.
This type of superfluous thinking is a considerable challenge in our industry.
I know this for two reasons; I have been guilty of it myself and more importantly in order to really understand a company’s brand we need to understand a company’s people, their culture, their management style and the way they treat their customers and stakeholders in order to fully understand their brand.
Many designers think a company’s image (the look and feel, per se) epitomizes their brand and that is where we have consistently fallen down.
As I mentioned, I am as guilty of this as the next Interior Designer.
Interior Designers who work in the hospitality and retail world seem better attuned to reflecting their client’s brand on a more consistent basis. It is an essential part of the success of their work. Maybe the nature of their work predicates a different approach to understanding the needs of their clients more holistically or the nature of the customer experience is closer to what drives their solutions.
Regardless, there is a component of the design process that the corporate Interior Design world consistently overlooks that seems to drive the retail and hospitality design vernacular.
So, what is missing in the formula?
Well, let me ask you, how do you find out what people are thinking? What do people think of the place they work? How do you discover what does a company’s customers think of the services they are offered?
Many projects have opportunity to create space for clients that is completely new but the general consensus is that many of those projects are not positioned to devote the time and resources to do the research required to truly understand the client’s drivers, their business process or their culture.
At least that is what I have heard from many design professionals.
It’s a common problem.
If other design industries such as retail and hospitality can figure out how to make it work and make the process effective then so can the corporate interior design world.
We have some ideas to share with you and the basis of those ideas is reallocation of effort. We touched on that as demonstrated by the brilliant examples at last week’s IDC Roundtable. We know it’s possible.
We just have to make it happen.
Yes, not every project can have the in depth research it takes to truly understand your client’s corporate brand but that’s the brilliance of scaling solutions. Just doing some simple fact finding and asking the right questions will certainly help along the way to augmenting a single visioning session or workshop.
No, the system is not broken, but far too little time is invested in understanding a corporate brand in lieu of pushing trends and known planning principles on a business because fee and time won’t permit us to delve into a company’s drivers for change. This approach results in a square peg in a round hole situation. Sure, we can round the corners of that peg but is it the right thing to do?
We need to solve the problem of reallocation of resources in order to remain competitive but we also need to demonstrate to our clients the value of the research necessary to understand them and their business better. Some clients will not understand and the effort will not be appreciated but until we ask more, engage more and offer the opportunity most won’t know to say yes.
We have a long way to go change our approach.
In a corporate environment research has traditionally been difficult to translate to tangible results. Research takes time and it is unproven to demonstrate savings in effort down the road.
The benefits of detailed discovery, communication to a project’s stakeholders and clear understanding of the business drivers that affect the planning decisions will affect how the user experiences the project through its lifecycle. If the only tangible benefit that comes from a project is that the customer is happier then we cannot see why the investment is not fundamental to our success as professionals. As Interior Designers there is no reason why we can’t take the time to integrate ourselves in their world, understand their problems beyond the surface root cause that drove them to make a change and involve them in the process beyond the approvals necessary to take the project to the next phase.
No, we don’t have all the answers but hope that you, no matter what profession you are in, are willing to share your thoughts on how a better understanding of your issues can help solve problems in a more efficient, effective and holistic way.
So, over to you.
What do you think about the idea that people equal the brand and understanding those people is the single best way to communicate a corporate brand? How do you approach a project when you don’t know the stakeholders well? How do you develop a relationship with your clients?