Interior design has traditionally been an industry that relies on in-person interaction. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, most interior designers would tout the vital importance of communicating with clients and vendors face to face to build a personal rapport, touching and testing materials in different physical conditions, and overseeing installations with an uncompromising eagle eye.
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But adapting to the new normal of stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions coupled with mandatory quarantine caveats, and the risk of spreading the prolonged indoor interaction with others has completely changed how interior designers can proceed with business. With vaccines being distributed across the country, the hope is that 2021 will return some state of pre-pandemic normalcy to the world, but it won’t be right away. So how are interior designers rising to the challenge of meeting demand while remaining safe and compliant?
Inspiration to Installation Done Digitally
The main challenges that interior designers face are the same as everyone else, with some specific wrinkles unique to their business needs. These challenges have forced a new reliance on technology to get business done. How can interior designers embrace technology to accomplish their business goals?
- Get comfortable with videoconferencing: By now, we are all well-versed in how to use Zoom and FaceTime to virtually connect with those we can’t meet with in person. Not only should you ideally have a professional background, proper lighting, and functioning technology, which is particularly important for the many client calls you should be having, you should know how to make technology work for you. In the beginning of the pandemic, most people were using Zoom for pre-scheduled meetings, while now-savvy users are using Zoom more casually as well – which leads to our next tip.
- Invest in new technologies: There are several ways interior designers can use technology to improve their external communication as well as business management.
- Similar to how video conferencing is helpful for connecting internally as a team, other apps like the messaging service Slack can help you keep in constant, quicker contact with your team instead of relying on pre-scheduled calls or meetings. Slack also lets you integrate Zoom and Slack, making impromptu video calls easy.
- Investing in cloud-based business software is also an important step to ensuring your team can work remotely and call-up client information instantly, without having to call anyone back while you search through files.
- Make your client presentations pop with high-quality renderings and virtual walk-throughs of your visions. You can even invest in virtual reality experiences for your clients using companies like M2 Studio, which create an interactive, 3D digital realm using interactive, extended reality technology. To supplement your clients’ virtual, try Nicole Fuller’s analog solution to fulfilling the need for tactile comprehension. Nicole sends her clients a perfectly composed box of her materials selections, designed to resemble a luxury package from a high-end fashion retailer.
- Find inspiration through digital channels: The pandemic has created the opportunity for online arts and design communities to thrive, like virtual arts club, The Cultivist. You can also revisit old trips by scrolling photos and contemplating the creative forces behind pieces found on past travels.
- Leverage vendor capabilities and virtual event offerings: Many interior design industry events were cancelled in 2020, although a few were able to proceed, supplying virtual attendees with a plethora of 3-D showroom tours, informative panels, interactive social gatherings, and digital introductions to new products and practices. Check out what your favorite events are offering online to avoid missing out on important innovations and industry happenings, and keep tabs on how future in-person events will handle safety. Also be informed on the latest virtual showhouses, a new industry convention likely here to stay.
Safely Handling In-Person Interactions
Of course, there are some tasks that interior designers must complete in person. For one, installations are unavoidable and even if you oversee an installation virtually, you have to manage the safety of having installers in your clients’ space. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks, face shields, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and an absolute must for in-person meetings, installations, and any travel. Some other tips include:
- Having your installation team take COVID tests before installations
- Working on one room at a time so that clients can remain compliant with stay-at-home orders and get their own work done while their homes are being worked on.
- If you must travel during the pandemic, wear maximum PPE and carry a handkerchief that can cover your face in case you wish to sip on some water or sneak in a small snack.
It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the interior design industry. The forced reliance on technology has proven to offer more workable solutions for interior designers that can continue to be helpful when the world eventually resumes some level of normalcy. Interior designers have been optimistic about the future from the early days of the pandemic, and have proven they can rise to any challenge. 2021 will surely be another strong year for interior design.