Interior Design Process – A Powerful Design Workflow For Your Design Service Company

There is no one right way to develop an interior design process, but following a few basic steps can help you get started and make sure your projects are successful.

Key Takeaways

  • The interior design process involves a series of steps to plan, design, and execute functional and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces. It requires collaboration with clients, adherence to design principles, and careful planning and documentation.
  • Processes are essential in any business to ensure consistency, quality, and customer satisfaction. They provide a structured approach and allow for improved efficiency and creativity within the design firm.
  • Internal processes focus on the correct execution of tasks within the firm, while external processes involve interactions with clients and delivery of services.
  • The creation of an interior design process should ideally start when establishing your firm. However, it is important to gain experience and knowledge of how things work before developing a process. Continuous improvement and refinement of the process are also necessary.
  • The typical design process includes marketing, sales, onboarding, planning, design, sourcing, installation, finishing, offboarding, recurring customer creation, and referral processes. Each step has its specific goals and activities to ensure successful project delivery and client satisfaction.

I’ve been designing processes and systems for over 20 years. My clients range from one-person-by-choice companies to 8-figure brands. I used to be a global process manager for global IT & Management Consulting firms with over 24 000 employees, but nowadays, I geek out on designing processes for small business owners like you.

One thing I know for sure: Most entrepreneurs, particularly the creative ones, come kicking and screaming (not really) when they embark on the process and systemization journey.

But, out of the work comes well-defined, profitable services and business processes, and happy owners and team members.

Now, let’s dive in!

Developing a powerful interior design process
Developing a powerful interior design process

What is An Interior Design Process?

The interior design process is the series of steps that interior designers take to plan, design, and execute the creation of functional and aesthetically pleasing interior spaces.

The process involves collaboration between the designer and the client to ensure that the design meets the client’s needs and preferences while also adhering to design principles and industry standards.

The interior design process also involves careful planning and documentation, which helps to ensure that the project stays on track and within budget.

By following a structured process, you can avoid costly mistakes and ensure that all aspects of the design are considered and accounted for.

Standard Operating Processes – SOP – For Interior Designers

A term widely used for processes is SOP – Standard Operating Processes, which means that once you have created your processes, then you should turn them into SOPs by documenting each step thoroughly. This can be quite time-consuming, but essentially a really important step in creating your process flows.

Why do processes matter?

Processes are the backbone of any organization. They are the steps or actions that need to be followed to achieve a goal. Processes can be simple or complex, but they always need to be documented and followed in order to ensure consistency and quality.

When processes are not followed, chaos can ensue, which can lead to poor-quality products or services and dissatisfied customers. That is why it is important for businesses to have well-defined processes and for employees to be familiar with them.

In the modern business world, processes are usually defined in conjunction with the organization’s culture and values. For example, a process might be referred to as “a way of doing things” or “the way we do things around here”.

Interior design is a creative field, but service delivery is just like any business, and the more structures your processes are, the more successful your deliveries are.

Many designers avoid implementing processes because they fear that a process will remove their creativity. However, when you have proper processes for delivering your excellence in place, you will have peace of mind that everything is working as it should, and you will also have more time and mental space for creativity.

Without a process, your firm looks and feels amateurish.

If you are looking to attract big projects with large budgets, a structured approach and specific processes are central. Also, when you grow your design firm from one person to several professionals, processes are elementary to ensure the quality of work and a positive return on investment.

Internal vs external process

Every professional has internal processes and external processes, whereas the internal ones are about making sure that things happen correctly, for example, the bills get paid on time.

Many processes are both internal and external, for example, in invoicing – your internal process is to make sure you sent the invoices to your customers, and that they have the correct line items and dates, whereas the external process is to make sure your customer will receive and pay them on time.

When should I start creating my interior design process?

You should start drafting your process the same day you decide to start your firm, but in reality, you cannot create a process before you know how things work. If you have worked for a bigger design firm for a long time before you venture out to build your own firm, then you most likely know what a proven process looks like, but if you haven’t worked in the field then you most likely don’t know how the delivery process looks like.

My recommendation after having worked with hundreds of professionals in design and other industries is this: always keep track of your projects and take notes, to be able to determine what went well, and where’s a need for improvements.

You should have an internal process to have a project audit every time you close one and learn from it. Then you can start designing your external, client-facing delivery process once you have determined what works and what doesn’t.

Finally, once you have nailed your process, you should keep improving it to become the standard for your firm.

What does a typical design process look like?

The interior design process is typically broken down into five steps: planning, designing, sourcing, installation, and finishing.

However, there are also key steps before this process can take place, and those are typically the marketing, sales, and onboarding processes.

You should also think about the processes that start after the project is completed, including offboarding, recurring customer creation, and potential referrals.

Interior design process steps

Here are the typical design process steps:

  • Consultation – as part of your Onboarding Process
  • Planning Process
  • Design Development
  • Sourcing Process
  • Installation Process
  • Offboarding Process

Also, the business processes I’d like to add are:

  • Marketing Process
  • Sales Process
  • The Recurring Customer Creation Process
  • Referral Process
  • Publicity Process

Consultation – The Kickstart of Your Interior Design Process

The consultation phase of the interior design process is typically the first step and involves meeting with the client to discuss their needs, preferences, and budget.

During this phase, you will ask questions to gain a thorough understanding of the client’s lifestyle, design style, and functional requirements for the space.

This may include questions about the purpose of the space, how it will be used, who will be using it, and any specific design elements or features that the client would like to incorporate. You will also take measurements and assess the existing conditions of the space to determine any limitations or opportunities for the design.

Based on the information gathered during the consultation, you can develop a design concept and present it to the client for feedback and approval before moving on to the next phase of the interior design process.

The consultation phase is part of your client onboarding, and it’s critical to the success of the project as it sets the foundation for the entire design process and ensures that the designer and client are on the same page before proceeding with the design.

Should The Interior Design Consultation be Free of Charge?

No, never. You can take a free call as part of your interior design sales process, but a consultation where you dive into the specific requirements of the project is part of your paid service.

Should the Consultation take place at the Client’s premises?

Probably yes. If you are going to do a full-home or a commercial project, you likely need to walk through the space.

Some designers have a 2-step consultation process: one at the client’s place, and the second one in the designer’s office.

Planning Process For Interior Designers

The planning process involves creating a plan that outlines the goals of the project, the budget, and the timeline. In this process, all the key stakeholders need to be aligned with the objectives and understand the project steps, timeline, budget, and deliverables.

Design Development Process For Interior Designers

The design development process is a crucial phase for interior designers, as it involves taking the initial design concept and developing it into a detailed plan that can be executed. This phase typically involves several steps, including:

  • Space planning: you create a detailed floor plan that shows the placement of furniture, fixtures, and equipment within the space.
  • Material selection: you select appropriate finishes, such as flooring, wall coverings, and paint colors, that complement the design concept and meet the client’s needs.
  • Furniture selection: you select furniture pieces that are both functional and visually appealing, while also considering factors such as comfort, durability, and budget.
  • Lighting design: you design a lighting plan that enhances the overall look and feel of the space while also providing appropriate illumination for the various tasks and activities that will take place within it.
  • 3D modeling: you create a 3D model of the space to help the client visualize the design concept and make any necessary revisions.
  • Presentation: you present the design development plan to the client for feedback and approval before moving on to the next phase of the interior design process.

The design development process is critical to the success of the project, as it ensures that the designer and client are on the same page and that the final design meets the client’s needs and exceeds their expectations.

This is also called the schematic interior design phase, as it consists of various drawings that map out the exterior, interior, and systems of the building.

Sourcing process For Interior Designers

Sourcing starts once the design and planning processes are completed. At this stage, the design specification is done and approved, and the design team can start managing the project. This process typically involves several steps, including:

  • Research: The designer will conduct research to identify potential suppliers and vendors that offer the materials and products needed for the project.
  • Budgeting: The designer will establish a budget for the project and identify products that fit within the budget.
  • Product selection: The designer will select products that meet the design requirements, including color, style, and functionality.
  • Ordering: The designer will place orders with the selected suppliers and vendors.
  • Tracking: The designer will track the orders to ensure that they are delivered on time and in good condition.

Sometimes, the lead designer will drop the project at this stage and allow the project management team to complete the sourcing process.

Installation process For Interior Designers

The installation process is the final phase of the interior design project, and it involves the physical installation of all the materials, furniture, and accessories that were sourced and selected during the previous phases. This process typically involves several steps, including:

  • Preparation: You will prepare the space for installation by ensuring that the area is clean and free of any debris or obstacles.
  • Delivery: You will coordinate the delivery of all the materials, furniture, and accessories to the installation site.
  • Installation: You will oversee the installation of all the products, ensuring that they are installed correctly and according to the design specifications.
  • Quality control: You will conduct a final inspection of the installation to ensure that everything is in good condition and meets the design requirements.
  • Client walkthrough: You will conduct a walkthrough with the client to ensure that they are satisfied with the final results and address any issues or concerns that may arise.

In many cases, the construction process starts simultaneously with the sourcing process.

Offboarding process For Interior Designers

The offboarding process is about completing the project. The clients have finally received their dream home, office space, or business, and the project is officially done.

During this process, it’s very important to celebrate the project regardless of the obstacles along the way. Even in difficult projects, it’s important to celebrate the completion and officially hand over the responsibility to the client, and close the service.

Many designers want to take the opportunity to photoshoot the completed project, which also often involves styling for the photo session. Also, all remaining costs are cleared, and the design team hands over the design project folder consisting of all important materials, electrical guides, guarantees, and recipes.

Before-and-After Design Process

Now, that’s the typical design delivery process. Let’s talk about the processes that lead to design, and what you should do after your project is complete!

Marketing process For Interior Designers

The marketing process involves everything a firm does to introduce its business to new and current clients.

This could be a certain activity, such as invitations to the showroom for lunch’n’learn, speaking at local events, or posting marketing materials to potential customers.

Of course, digital platforms offer excellent options for marketing locally, nationally, internationally, and globally.

Sales Process For Interior Designers

The sales process takes over where marketing stops, and sometimes they go so hand-in-hand, that it’s difficult to say where the marketing process ends and the sales process starts.

And, in reality, it’s not the most critical thing to be able to say, it’s more critical to understand how they differ because marketing and sales are very different processes with different activities, and most importantly, measured differently.

However, many professionals try to measure marketing with sales metrics, only to conclude that their marketing is not working… it’s most likely working, but the measurement is wrong. Marketing, even though the most critical activity to get clients, is not the same as sales, nor should it be measured as such.

The recurring customer creation process

In case the design firm has smart, recurring interior design services to offer, then those services can be initiated at this stage.

This could be, for example, a process to make sure that the customer’s long-term needs are taken care of, and also to ensure more projects with the client.

Referral Process For Interior Designers

The referral process is very important for designers, where many clients come through referrals. As a designer, you want to create a process for getting referral clients when you have successfully completed a project and have yet another happy client.

Publicity Process For Interior Designers

Getting publicity is an important aspect of the interior design business, as it involves promoting the designer’s work and establishing their brand in the industry.

Important to think about when developing your interior design process

Every designer is different, and every firm has a different way of doing business. You should focus on creating a process that works for you, and avoid the one-size-fits-all processes.

However, what is common for all designers, brands, and businesses is the need for a process. Without a clear, solid process your job becomes haphazard, things start to slip and your stress levels increase rapidly.

Also, with a clear process in place, well-documented, and most importantly: property illustrated, your customers will understand how you work, and gain trust in your services.

Uplevel your process with a well-designed brand & business suite!

FAQ – Interior Design Processes & Workflows

Interior Design Process

What are the steps of the interior design process?

The interior design process typically consists of several steps including initial consultation, design concept development, space planning, material selection, furniture selection, lighting design, and installation.

Interior Design Process

What is the first step of the interior design process?

The first step of the interior design process is usually an initial consultation with the client to understand their needs, preferences, and budget.

Interior Design Process

How many steps are there in the interior design process?

The number of steps in the interior design process can vary depending on the project and designer, but typically there are 6-8 steps involved.

Interior Design Process

How long does the interior design process take?

The length of the interior design process can vary depending on the scope of the project and the designer’s timeline. However, it typically takes anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete an interior design project.

Interior Design Process

What are the interior design deliverables by phase?

The deliverables of an interior design project can vary depending on the designer and project but typically include a design concept board, floor plans, elevations, material and furniture selections, lighting plan, and installation plan.

Interior Design Process

How do I create the Interior Design SOPs?

If you want to learn how to create your SOPs, continue reading more!

Read: create your standard operating procedures in 5 simple steps!

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