How To Smash the Client Brief
THE CLIENT BRIEF IS THE STARTING POINT OF EVERY INTERIOR DESIGN PROJECT AND ENSURES THAT AN INTERIOR DESIGNER IS SUCCESSFUL AT PRODUCING A FINAL DESIGN THAT MEETS THE CLIENT’S NEEDS.
It’s so important that an Interior Designer has a full understanding of the client’s design preferences, lifestyle and how he/she uses the space so that the final design captures the individuality of the occupants, but also enhances their daily lives on a visual, emotional and practical level.
But for the Designer, it’s also an essential tool to help provide direction, kick start the creative design process (in terms of inspiration) in addition to understanding budgetary requirements and timescales. The Interior Designer should reference the client brief continually throughout the project (especially during client pitches/presentations and other consultations) to ensure that he/she is still meeting with the client’s requirements and to clarify anything as and when required; especially if aspects of the design change at a later date.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE ALL THE RELEVANT INFORMATION IN A COMPREHENSIVE CLIENT BRIEF AT THE BEGINNING OF THE INTERIOR DESIGN PROCESS, TO AID TRANSPARENCY AND TO PREVENT ANY PROBLEMS OR COSTLY MISTAKES LATER DOWN THE LINE.
What should the Client Brief Contain?
Client Details:- the client brief should contain the client’s name, address (and the address of the property you will be working on, if different), telephone number and email address. Check who the decision maker is and agree his/her preferred method of communication;
Project Details:- detail the scope of the project. For example, to design and source soft furnishings for a family living room taking into consideration two children and a cat; or create open plan kitchen/living by combining two separate rooms ensuring that the space fulfills all necessary multi-functional living. It is super important to get confirmation from your client at this early stage, of the scope of the project so that you can consider the budget requirements and avoid scenarios where a client adds to the project later on; and where you are unable to amend design costs (due to a poorly compiled client brief);
Lifestyle Questions:- these questions help you understand the functions of the space both presently and how the client would like the space to function going forward. This is particularly important in terms of disability considerations, young families, pets, multi-functional spaces and specifc lifestyles/interests (for example those with an interest in Biophilia or mindfulness). Establish who lives in the property and who is going to be using the space covered in the client brief. The onus is on you, the Interior Designer to ask as many probing questions as possible to tease out all the necessary lifestyle information, to help you gradually build a picture of the different aspects of your client’s life and how this impacts the design of the space;
Style Preferences:- some clients have a very clear vision of how they want their home to look and feel, whereas other clients may have absolutely no idea and are looking to you to offer ideas and direction. Even if your client gives you a preferred style (for example ‘Scandinavian’), you should still clarify what this means to them, as your understanding of a particular style may be different to theirs. Using magazines, photographs, and Instagram/Pinterest images can help to aid this process; even for clients who struggle to confirm their preferences, as many won’t feel confident in communicating this to you but may easily see an image of a style they like or hadn’t thought of previously. Explore preferred colours, patterns, fabrics, window treatments, lighting and furniture styles. It’s also important to clarify dislikes too!
Existing features & furniture:- discuss with your client which items will be staying in the room, as these will need to be included in your proposed design scheme. Discuss any architectural features that they wish to disguise or enhance;
Measurements:- at this point in the project it may be pertinent to take measurements, although this can also be done at a later stage, once your concept boards have been accepted. Take floor plan measurements for the room(s) you will be working with. Also note the dimensions of relevant features such as window sills and fireplaces (don’t forget about ceiling heights!);
Timeframe:- find out when your client wishes for the project to start, and to end. If there are other works going on in the property you may need to coordinate with other contractors, so finding this out upfront will help you to plan your workflow/schedule.
Budget:- discuss with your client what their budget is, and ensure that a contingency is built into the project. Be clear about your fees, and whether these are included within the client’s budget or whether they are additional.
AOB:- asking your client, “Is there anything else you would like me to know that I haven’t asked you about?” is a great question to ask at the end of your consultation. It allows for you to give them pause for thought, and to include anything you may have missed.
THE CLEARER YOU ARE ABOUT A CLIENT’S NEEDS AND WISHES, THE GREATER THE LIKELIHOOD OF A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT AND A HAPPY CLIENT.
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