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Are designers threatened by consumer facing companies?

Like every other venue the interior design market is changing because of what’s going on in tech. A lot of that change is good, especially regarding software tools to help a designer run their business and imagine and manage projects. But there’s a danger as well: the designer being cut out of the process.

Very few non-design-trained people can truly create a space that’s interesting, in harmony with all the elements in balance, and finished with the detail necessary to make it truly special. The thing about talented interior designers is, they make it look easy.

Some clients think they can just do it themselves and save money (especially those who haven’t worked with designers before and don’t understand what it takes to get a high quality result). Some tech companies want to sell directly to ‘consumers’ and capture the revenue that normally goes through an interior design business. Here’s a few points to remember:

  • Design firms have multi-billion dollar annual buying power in the industry, collectively. How you want the market to be organized matters to your suppliers. Reward suppliers who only sell to the trade with your business and make sure they know it.
  • As a designer, your clients are your business. They should not be someone else’s business. Make sure you have clear, strong contracts with your clients regarding the purchase of goods and services for their project.
  • Find out what the business model is for the tools you use. If a company is incentivized towards the consumer market they may not have the designer’s best interest in mind.
  • Use software tools that do not give your clients information about ordering from suppliers unless you want them to have it.
  • Don’t put images of your work in places that will use them to go around designers. These platforms can try to sell the goods in the images directly to consumers. Keep a portfolio on your website and, carefully, in a few other places. Don’t do the design work for someone else’s profit.

The consolidation of the interior design market in terms of connecting suppliers directly to consumers is not a foregone conclusion. One big negative for quality suppliers would be that it would force them into a ‘race to the bottom’ for pricing, like vendors for Walmart or Amazon. Design is about quality, as much or more than pricing.

Interior designers are business owners. Their work has high value and is much more than ‘shopping’ or ‘ideas’ or ‘project management’ on some consumer facing platform. Not all market disruption works.

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