I was able to see so many COD graduates, either working at or attending the event. As I am counting off the names to myself, I think there were at least 15 graduates and about 10 current students. College of DuPage was certainly well represented!
We were treated to interesting and informative sessions, combined with a vendor show of local resources. The keynote speaker and leader of many of the workshop sessions was Donna Vining. I had seen her name before as she is a past president of NCIDQ, but never had the privilege of meeting her or hearing her speak. Let me just say that I am now a fan. In the Keynote Address entitled “To Fee or Not to Fee” she discussed how interior designers get paid. In a session just for students and emerging professionals, she gave some great advice on what employers and clients are looking for.
I wanted to share some of the things she presented to us, especially in the student workshop, because I cannot over-emphasize how much I agree with everything she said. She was talking about how students/designers should present themselves to employers or clients, but I feel that it applies to all situations, whether professionally, at home, or here at school. I took lots of notes so I wouldn’t forget anything that I wanted to share with you.
What (Interior Design) Employers Are Looking For: (note here: nothing is mentioned about design ability, your portfolio shows that, and you can be trained to work with their procedures).
ATTITUDE — ETHICS — WILLINGNESS TO HELP — ENTHUSIASM — BEING A CONTRIBUTOR — KNOWLEDGE — A GOOD REPRESENTATIVE OF THEIR FIRM
Follow-up notes and additional insights:
ATTITUDE: a “can do” attitude; cheerful; gracious; respectful; don’t act like you are better than anyone else.
ETHICS: admit your mistakes (just try not to make too many) and focus on making things right; never forget the “Golden Rule” and treat others the way you want to be treated; keep your promises, even when it hurts; always tell the truth.
WILLINGNESS TO HELP: interesting quote from Zig Zigler: “there is no traffic jam on the extra mile” (sadly, it’s true), so go that extra mile.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ETIQUETTE: respect; be comfortable with others and make them feel comfortable too, it’s key to good communication; apologize for things you do wrong; address conflict as a “situation” rather than a personal problem.
MORE BASICS: remember to be courteous; THERE IS NEVER AN EXCUSE FOR RUDENESS; consider others’ feelings; don’t lie; or gossip; always be on time;
ESTABLISH GOOD COMMUNICATION: ask questions and be willing to wait for the answer; encourage and address questions; make the effort to understand someone’s view before you try to make them understand yours;
At this point I had to leave to catch the train back to Glen Ellyn so I could be on time for my Lighting class that evening. I would have loved to hear the rest of what she had to say.
“TO FEE OR NOT TO FEE” Lastly, I want to go over some of the points discussed on how independent designers charge for their services. Donna also mentioned a few related skills that she felt should be included in an Interior Design education: Selling skills (we all have to sell our designs); Psychology (understanding our clients); Business & Marketing; and the importance of Building Good Business Relationships;
What should our fees be? How do we determine that?
Fees should be based on three variables: EXPERIENCE, REPUTATION (why ethics are so important), AND EDUCATION.
Designers tend to stress competence whereas clients stress performance. They judge performance based on service, by how well the designer is responsive to their needs, and gives them value for their budget.
Designers must understand the relationship between QUANTITY – QUALITY – COST. If a client can give you two of those elements, you should be able to provide the third. Interesting point.
If someone asks why you charge what you do, you should always have a good +/- 50 word answer (see above).
Realize that each client is different in regard to how much attention they will require and how much their ego is involved.
It’s VERY important to know and have good relationships with vendors and contractors.
There were many more interesting points and areas of discussion regarding business practices, fees, retainers, contracts, and solving legal issues, but I don’t have the space to include it all here. Some of these subjects come up in classes, and hearing this discussion will help me better address those questions.