Why it’s Critical to Understand your Client’s Brand before Designing
I talk a lot about branding as it relates to you or your design business. But, what about your client’s brand. Today, we are talking about why it is essential to understand your client’s brand, how it affects your design, and tips on determining their brand even if they don’t know. You must understand the company or even personal brand before you begin designing their space.
You may think that this applies to just commercial design, but the truth is, it also refers to residential design as well. Understanding who someone is and what beliefs they hold is branding. To deliver a look, feel, and function that works for the client, you need to understand their branding concept.
Why Understanding a Client’s Brand for Interior Design
Designing decisions should be made with the company or person’s brand. If your client is a highly reputable, family-owned financial advising business, you will not want to design their new offices with bright colors and outrageous finishes. Most likely, a financial firm will want colors and finishes that elude trust, authority, and commitment. This client uses the simple psychological view that those three values make someone say yes to investing their money.
On the other hand, if you are designing a fantastic new shoe store that caters to the nightclub crowd, then yea, you need to step up the outrage. Your design is going to be young, vibrant, and fun. This client will most likely be all for flashy colors and crazy finishes. Again, simple psychology tells us that the young nightclub crowd isn’t going to buy shoes from a place that looks like their grandma shops there.
In design, to really understand our client and their needs, you must understand who they are as a company, what they stand for, and who they want to attract. Neon lights will not attract someone to a financial planner, but it very well attracts someone ready to hit the town, dancing in a pair of new shoes. This insight can help you be a better designer. The best way to understand your client is to understand their brand before thinking about design.
How does Branding Improve Your Interior Design
Branding can help you in several ways. It can help you determine the visual representation that needs to be presented, determine the attitude and function of a space, and help you provide value beyond the design itself.
Let’s break down visual representation, as that is the easiest one to understand. Every client should have branding guidelines that include logo, tagline, colors, and visual representation requirements. When you design a space, you need to take into account this information. If the primary color is blue, don’t use red. Depending on the level of brand equity, a brand’s colors can represent so much more than just color.
Just as you learned how colors can affect mood, color studies also tell what colors attract people to buy. For instance, red and yellow are often used in restaurants. Red encourages the desire to eat. Don’t discount that the client has put in the research necessary to determine what colors work for them.
Also, look at the logo and treatment. This can tell you a lot. Is the logo curvy and free-flowing, or is it very modern with straight lines? Key into those little indicators will help you determine which design elements to use.
Next, the attitude and function of a space can be directly derived from a company brand. If a company uses words like efficiency and timely, you know that you need a similar space. You are designing the space to represent efficiency and timeliness.
Whereas if their tagline has some attitude, you need to design with some attitude. A great example of a brand with attitude is Big Ass Fans. They have mastered branding and playing off their fans’ tongue-in-cheek concept of being as big as an ass. They produce videos that play off that fun, tongue-in-cheek attitude. They even give out stress balls shaped like a donkey with their brand name. Although I haven’t been to their headquarters, I bet it was designed with a bit of attitude.
Finally, as the designer, it is also your job to serve your client by adding value beyond the design. You can design a beautiful space, but if it doesn’t represent or sell the client, then what was the point. At the end of the day, your client is in the business of making money. They have spent a lot of time determining what sells their products or services, much like you have with your own branding effort.
Utilize what has been done and take it to the next level in your design. This means adding to the value of the business. Value can be added by helping a business function more efficiently, therefore getting more work done.
Value can also mean driving more sales through design. Branding is a perception the customer feels about a business. If your client’s workspace reflects that brand, then customers are more likely to purchase. It is that simple.
Determining what is a Client’s Brand for Interior Design
Now that you understand why it is essential to understand a client’s brand, you need to know how to capture the information. During the early meetings, you will want to ask for their branding guidelines. Many businesses will have (or should have) a brand guideline document that spells out the approved colors, logo, taglines, and visual treatments. It will also include fonts that support the brand. You may also read the branding statement or value proposition that supports the brand. This will give you insight into how their brand is dictated throughout their marketing materials.
If the client doesn’t have that information spelled out in a document, then look at their website, marketing materials, and sales materials. This can be insightful on how they represent their company to their clients. In some cases, you will find your client is just as confused about their own brand as they are about the design they want.
Next, you will want to ask your client questions about their clients and how they serve.
- Who does your business service?
- What are the expectations of your customers?
- What value do you offer clients?
- Why would a customer do business with you rather than your top competitor?
- How do you want your client to feel when they leave your business?
- What comments, good and bad, do customers say about your company?
- Where do you see this business growing in five to ten years?
- What do your employees complain about within the workspace?
- What is your biggest challenge in the business?
I always tell my design students to be nosy. It will make you a better designer. With that said, don’t bombard the client with a rapid-fire of questions, but listen closely to how they talk about the business. Position your questions with statements your client has made. Use observations to ask questions, such as “I notice you use blue a lot in your marketing materials. Is blue a vital element of your company’s brand?"
The more you know about your client’s brand, the better prepared you will be to design an amazing space that helps them succeed.
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