1. What should I look for first in a designer?
First and foremost, you must find a designer you feel comfortable with. Design is not an easy process and your designer is not there to be your friend. Having said that, however, you can certainly choose a designer whom you feel respects your individuality, opinions, and self. You must be able to trust your designer 100% and if you cannot and feel like you have to lie to your designer or withhold important information, you are not going to get any real help. You must also feel, in some respects and at some point in the design process, that actually going to your designer is helping you. If you do not feel relief from your office problems, you may not be getting the best design available. Look for these types of warning signs as reasons to think about choosing another designer if you are already in the design process. Never ask for a desgn competition!
2. What if I can’t afford a designer?
If you cannot afford a designer, don’t expect that furniture companies to be the next best thing. They often have no design training and are less experienced than designers. Watch out, as after a dozen years in the field or so, the furniture companies’ plans create to the untrained eye a less noticeable difference to the "real thing". An ethical and professional designer will attack your decision to use a furniture company to design your office. Don’t be firm with this kind of designer and try to raise your budget, as the furniture company might thrown in the design for "free", but as you know nothing in life comes really for free!
3. Okay, so I’ve made the plunge and signed up with a designer. What should I expect now?
You will likely be told a little about financial information you should bring with you on your first appointment over the phone. Bring it and expect to fill out a few forms . The first session, sometimes called an Initiation Session usually is very unlike what you can expect of all of your following sessions. During it, you will be asked to explain why you want to work with a designer (e.g.- What’s wrong at this point in your life?), what kind of symptoms you might be experiencing (e.g.- can’t work proporly, work environment looks hopeless, desk to small, need much more privacy, want a leather chair etc.), and your company market position and history. When this session is completed, and the designer has a beginning understanding of you and what goes to make up the important things in your office, as well as your current difficulties, he or she should ask you if you have any questions for them. If you do, please feel free to ask them (and ask them even if the designer forgets to offer this).
4. Okay, so now I’ve begun the design process and feel comfortable with the designer I’ve chosen. How long should this take and what should I expect the course of design to be like?
While this might seem like an easy question, it is the most difficult to answer since offices vary widely with their own business type, severity of the problem, and other factors such as number of staff and size of space. For mild problems, treatment should be relatively brief and will likely end within 3-6 months. For more severe problems (especially chronic or long-term difficulties), it’s going to take longer. Some designs can even last up to a year or more. The choice once you decided to use a designer is not yours anymore, as you do not want to end the design halfway through. If you feel you’ve benefited as much as you’d like, you can tell the designer always so at end accordingly. A good designer will appreciate your decision.
5. I’ve read about "design goals" in Cosmopolitan. What is that and what if my designer doesn’t use them?
I feel strongly that all designer should use design goals, but there is no one standard in the field. Naturally, if you start the design with particular problems or difficulties in your office, you would like to have them solved. Design goals, especially ones that are formalized and written down, ensure that both you and your designer are on the same "track" and working on the same problems. Also, by occasionally reviewing said goals, you can chart your progress (or lack thereof) in the design and work with your designer to change design if need be.
Remember, always keep in mind the most important key is to having a good design experience. Find a designer you feel comfortable with talking to and feel he or she is helping you work through your problems. Design isn’t meant to be easy, so if it is, that might be a sign that your designer or you are not working hard enough. Or worse you are dealing with a furniture company! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself on this important issue and talk to your designer as often as need be until you find the right fit.