Listening is important, but telling your story comes first for good design

The process of design is emotional. It takes a lot of vulnerability, patience, and openness to get it right. I have spent the last 17 years working on being able to hear my clients. I hope each day and each project I get better at this skill.


I think the most important skill for a designer is to be able to HEAR a client. I listen for clues in what you say and how you say it. I watch your expressions and actions as you talk. I listen as you lay out your goals, frustrations, joys, pains, and aspirations. This is how I can design for you. It takes time to really hear you. This is done through pictures, words, sketches – but all require conversation.

harrisonburg farmhouse

When I design I am not imposing my likes on your design solution, I am trying to translate what you have told me into the design you really want. It may not look like the picture we both had in mind before the conversation. It may look completely different from what you expected, but if I am able to really hear you, it will be what you love. I will bring my experience and understanding of design to the solution. I will push you to decide what you like and don’t like in the design options. I will challenge you to make sure we have the design just right before we settle on a solution. This is what we do.


The only way I can HEAR however is for you to be able to tell your story openly and as vulnerable as possible. You have to share open and honestly with me what you want. You have to be able to say yes and no to various options. Your job as the client is to tell your story and my job is to translate that into design. This is how custom design is different from purchasing an existing home. This is what sets apart your business interior from others. This is how you create a sense of place that is just right for you.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Charlie Van Hecke says:

    This is a fantastic point about client interaction. Listening is great but then I believe MOST clients want you to challenge their thinking. Great article!


    1. Indeed, the challenge part has to come with much humility and care, but it is important. I am designing solutions everyday, but each solution is custom for a very specific client. In order to listen, hear, and translate you have to try to keep ego out of the mix.


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