Episode 010: The Business of E-Design
The Design Influence, formerly The E-Design Experience was born Spring of 2018, after noticing a void in the interior design community — support & education for online designers. As an online interior designer (exclusively) and also a content creator, I realized after undergoing my own journey of exploration, that many of the challenges fellow online designpreneurs were facing weren’t being specifically addressed, and so The E-Design Experience was born. It started as an online conference and here we are. But what is e-design?
This is a question I still get — from designers & clients alike.
What exactly is e-design?
How do you do it?
What does it look like?
Who is it for?
So many questions, and even more answers to go along with them. These answers, while for some give clarity, for others, it creates even more confusion.
So in today’s episode, I want to talk all about the business of e-design with you, hopefully answering some of those questions for you. I don’t know all things e-design, as I do believe we all have an obligation to do things with our own unique flare, but I can share with you what I do know, what I’ve learned, and how that’s translated in my business.
What is e-design?
E-design has forever changed the way we do design and exponentially grown in popularity with large firms expanding their service catalogs and new designers using this innovation to enter the field. Yet, a quick google search of “what is e-design” won’t get you very far. Hell, we can’t even agree on how to spell the damn thing! Capital ‘E’, lowercase ‘e’. Hyphenated, not hyphenated.
Exactly as the name implies, e-design aka online interior design is an interior design process that takes place remotely and/or virtually — completely in the digital space — allowing designers and clients to connect beyond the constraints of location. This works to everyone’s advantage in terms of flexibility and freedom. So many other fields and professions entered to the digital arena, so it’s no surprised that interior design would do so as well — what can’t you do online these days?
Online platforms are often given credit to the new age of e-design, but truth is lots of designers were doing “e-design” long before the term was officially coined, because at its core it’s all about providing the service remotely.
How do you do it?
Spoiler alert: there is no one way to do it, so let’s just get that out of the way. E-design can be done in a multitude of ways but at it’s core there are some fundamentals of e-design that can be agreed upon. There are three key components that separate e-design from more traditional design
When it comes to the interaction with clients, there isn’t any in person engagement, so you need to establish a reliable form of communication. Email, text message, virtual chat, video conference, and phone calls are all viable means of keeping the communication and effective. The communication is the “e” in e-design, so depending on the boundaries you want to set, your method of communication will vary.
As an introvert, as someone who’s struggled with boundaries, and as a designer who has worked on different e-design platforms, I found that the best means of communication for me was by way of my CRM — no digging through emails and no late night text messages — alongside video conferencing when necessary.
When I first started designing, I dabbled with with a multitude of ways of delivery designs, just like communication. I eventually graduated from text & email delivery to choosing a platform to host my designs. And this isn’t to be confused with working for a design platform, which, for all intents and purposes, is a completely different and later conversation since those platforms handle pretty much everything but the design itself.
I know many designers who simply email a PDF package while others put together tactile kit to mail to the client. Some create an online portal for clients to find their materials, while others video chat and walk clients through the design as though they were there with them. All allow for the same result — the client gets the benefit of receiving a beautiful design from you from the comforts of their home.
We’ve covered the ‘e’ in e-design, but what about the design? This is probably one of the biggest dilemmas I see designers battle their way through. And during an age where being an e-designer relies greatly on being both design & tech savvy, how do you choose — Photoshop or PowerPoint? Revit or RoomStyler? There’s software and platforms for every step of the design process, some free and some paid, not accounting for the traditional ways of putting pen to paper.
Personally, I am a student of technology — drafting by hand has never been my forte. For other designers, it is the complete opposite. What matters most is finding your strength and employing programs that support those strengths so that you can best execute your ideas.
What does e-design look like?
I like to keep my eyes and ears open to all things e-design, and where I have seen designers stumble in what their e-design process should look like. Because of the aforementioned exposure to different design tools, in addition to classically trained designers implementing e-design, so are design bloggers & influencers, taking their eye and passion for design, and coupling it with their influence to serve a growing need within the design space — all about supply and demand.
For many designers, e-design looks like providing the same exceptional designs and service, from inspiration to floor planning to product sourcing to directions for installation. However, there are many others that see e-design as a more abridged alternative to designing — get in, get out, get paid. The deliverables may simply be a mood board and shopping list, providing quick guidance on how to design the space.
All of these are right.
If you walk into any interior design firm right now, you’ll find that their way of delivering in-person services differ as well.
Can it be confusing? For sure.
But what matters is that you’re delivering exactly what you committed to, as a designer, and exactly what your people our needed & wanting from you. The type of audience your serving may want a detailed design plan they simply have to install without thinking while another designer’s audience wants to be more hands on, and there doesn’t require that level in intricacy or involvement from you.
Who is it for?
The question of “who” is twofold — who is the right client for e-design and who is the right designer for e-design. I can’t answer the former…not for anyone other than myself at least, because I know the type of clientele I’d. While I do believe e-design may not be for every client, when communicating with your audience, it would be up to you to define the “right” client for e-design. To that end, I also believe e-design isn’t for every designer.
Many designers enter the e-design space as a way of passively creating income, yet there is nothing passive about e-design, no matter how you choose to communicate, deliver, or execute your offering. It requires as much of your talent, even if not your time, as a full-service traditional design would — you were hired for your talent as a designer so I don’t imagine you diminishing that simply because the name of the service has changed.
So if you’re looking for a passive design service, e-design isn’t for you.
To that end, there is an element of technology involved with e-design that may exceed what is needed for traditional design. In addition to needing your time & talent to design, you’ll need to rely heavily on tools & software to make the process easier for both you & your clients. If you don’t enjoy the process of designing online, the process of working virtually, and cannot truly handle idea of being away from the project; if technology isn’t for you, than neither is e-design.
But Albie, I can always mail my design packages.
You sure can, but how far and for how long can you go avoiding new technologies, particularly if you’re looking to create a sustainable business model?
Lastly, what I have seen plague far too many designers is treating their e-design services exactly like their traditional services — with the same time intensive, labor intensive execution. While not necessarily a bad thing, these designers find themselves often burnt out and or resentful of the e-design process. Truth is, if you cannot find a way to deliver exceptional service in a more truncated format, e-design isn’t for you either. In most instances, for e-design to truly be what both you & the client want it to be, there has to be some level of distance from the process — especially for efficiency and profitability sake. Not cutting corners, but using your time & talent wisely.
E-design isn’t a substitute for traditional interior design services; it’s an alternative.
We live in a very tech forward time and through the power of e-design, designers have been able to share their talents & provide their services on a global scale that wasn’t possible before.
While there is a school of thought that e-design has “disrupted” the interior design industry, I say it has enhanced it. While it may not for everyone nor is there any one way to do it, it is undeniable that e-design is an exciting new landscape for our industry.
It has allowed me to explore this space by my own terms and in a way that aligned with my skillset and my lifestyle. I’ve been able to shape my entire business model in the online space and wouldn’t have it any other way because of what this has afforded me professionally & personally.
This may not be the case for everyone, so I’d love to know, do you consider yourself an e-designer?
Does the notion of online interior design excite or terrify you?
Is it something you’re looking to explore or are you already thriving in this space?
I’d love to talk about your understand of and experience with e-design, so when you’re listening, be sure to tag @thedesigninfluence on Instagram or Facebook so that we can keep the conversation going and, hopefully, help one another through these new exciting times of e-design.