I’m often asked how the process works when you enlist the help of a designer. Every firm is different, but here’s insight into how we manage the initial phases of our projects at High Street:
Step 1: First Contact
When a client contacts us for the first time the initial discussion via phone or email is often quite short, especially if they’ve seen our work online or been referred by someone in our network.
As designers we want to understand the scope of the project, your expectations, but also get a feel for whether or not we’re a good fit. The truth is it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario until we see the space and meet in person. At the very least, we’ll jot down high-level details, your contact info and schedule a time to meet onsite.
We may also discuss high-level costs to ensure we’re in the right ballpark. It’s difficult to compare one designer to the next since each project is unique and everyone prices differently. When in doubt, ask for the firms hourly rate which in Toronto ranges anywhere from $75 to $1,000 dollars an hour. Many firms also offer package deals, but beware of those that make up seemingly low service fees on kick backs from the products they recommend.
Like most things, you do get what you pay for when it comes to design services. Many firms will also pass on trade discounts to help cover their fees depending on the agreed upon rate.
Step 2: Onsite Consultation
Not all designers or firms are created equal so I always recommend meeting a few before deciding whom you’ll work with best. Knowing how personal and difficult this decision can be, a lot of firms won’t charge for their initial consults.
The initial consultation allows us to meet in person, see the space, discuss your requirements and gain a better appreciation of the projects scope. Most importantly this meeting allows both parties an opportunity to access fit face to face. Style and vision are important, but personalities and approaches differ so this is a critical step. The goal is for both parties to enjoy the collaborative process as much as possible while also minimizing each other’s stress.
During this initial meeting we discuss practical as well as aesthetic needs, determine your wish list, take measurements and photos, define the overall scope, discuss the budget and establish a rough timeline. I also typically provide a few ideas or details during this phase to ensure we’re on the right track.
As designers we also get a better feel for your personality as well as your style. I’ve always been good at reading people – both verbal and nonverbal queues – so I have a much better appreciation for what a client needs & wants after meeting face to face. I also pride myself on designing spaces based on my clients style and not my own personal preference or bias.
Step 3: Visualizing & Planning
My initial planning process is most likely different than most. I often lie awake at night after seeing a new space. One way or another by the morning I wake up with an initial visual concept as well as next steps.
At this point I start gathering inspiration images, sketching ideas and estimating the total budget.
Step 4: Proposal Doc & Contract
Once the concept is complete above I draft a document that serves as a project proposal and contract. This document outlines the clients contact information, the projects name, overall scope, estimated budget breakdown, design fees, timeline etc. and may include a few inspiration images or sketches – everything we need to agree on before we start working together.
Step 5: Sign Off
I prefer to meet clients in person during this step to ensure we’re on the same page in terms of the contract but also my design concept. If not possible, we typically finalize details over the phone and/or email until we agree on project priorities, total budget, timeline and co-sign the document.
Step 6: Final Planning & Execution
Completing the planning phase is always the most creative and fun aspect of the process but often the most time consuming from an hours perspective. Once I’ve presented the concept and we’ve agreed to next steps, I begin executing by scheduling my preferred tradespeople, sourcing products etc. Depending on the client, their involvement tends to vary during this phase. Some prefer to be involved in every aspect while others want everything completed on their behalf.
No matter how we decide to work together, thoroughly completing the initial steps above helps to ensure it’s a fun and rewarding process for everyone involved – designer and client alike.