As a designer, getting to know your client in order to provide their ultimate dream decor can be a truly challenging task. The early stages of the design process involve a wide range of ideas and inspirations that inevitably will be narrowed down into the alluring space your client could never have conceived of themselves, yet seems almost plucked from their imagination. Well… hopefully this is the result we can try to achieve and a method I have put to use in order to accomplish this, is the ‘Client Questionnaire.’
A series of questions, designed to cover as much ground as possible in regards to your client’s lifestyle, property, preferences and needs. The Client Questionnaire can be a tricky thing to devise – you need to identify a great deal about your client and their home yet do not want to ask too many questions and have them fill out a whole book’s worth of information about themselves. Within my own Client Questionnaire, I have broken down the questions into 5 categories:
- Property Specs
- Evocative Needs
- Something a little extra
This helps organise as well as prioritise the functional needs and aesthetic wants of your client. I also find this makes the procedure of filling the questionnaire out a little less time consuming and bothersome for your client.
I start with the logistics and practical questions that are fundamental, including the schedule and budget of the project. It is paramount to establish whether your client has a realistic time frame for what they need, with you then able to prioritise what can be done now and potential ideas for the future. Another common question in this section is whether the client has worked with a designer before. It can be a good indication of what their expectations are, and certainly can assist you in understanding the best way to move forward and communicate with your client.
The next section is all about the property – the current style, what they want to keep, what needs to change and most importantly the motivation behind the project. Find out how they use their home and space, for example do they chuck their handbag down on the chair when they come home or does the dog sneakily jump up and enjoy the cosy nook. As much detail as possible will give you a far greater perspective and sense of their home life, therefore how they utilise the space.
Identifying styles of decor that makes your client tick is the most delightful aspect of the design process. Determining other homes, restaurants and hotels that they love the feel and look, really benefits you in discovering their ‘personal style’. In addition to the Client Questionnaire, a fail safe way to continually learn more about your client is a shared Pinterest board, where over time you should begin to see patterns of styles, colours and textures emerge.
A crucial element to the questionnaire is exploring the colour choices of your clients, and in particular their emotional response to any given space, palette and design. As much as you need to reveal what your client likes, it is crucial that you establish what they do NOT like, and especially at the beginning of the design concept. Eliminate wasted time researching ideas that will not come to fruition, as well as frustrating your client and losing their confidence.
My Client Questionnaire has a ‘something a little bit extra’ section near the end which not only helps reveal more about the client’s personality, but also injects an amusing and unexpected moment for them. I have included questions such as “What’s in your bathroom cabinet?” and “Name a country you would like to visit?” these questions are usually divulge a person’s true character, humour and aspirations more than a chat over coffee could ever do.
Ending a Client Questionnaire with a space for them to add any comments they may feel is crucial is a good way of rounding off and you are left with a broad overview that will hopefully assist you in progressing successfully to the next stage of the design process.