Seamless communication is key to any relationship—within families, among friends, with coworkers, industry colleagues, and clients. How to streamline communication is a learned skill, one that design business owners struggle to achieve. Studio Designer users have cited enhancing communication within their organization and effectively communicating with clients as major pain points. So, we asked a few Studio Designer clients what methods, software, and tools they use to facilitate communication. Here’s what they reported back to us.

A Strong Communication Foundation

First and foremost, it’s vital to establish a solid foundation of communication both within a design business organization as well as between a design studio and its clients. According to Studio Designer client Nina Magoon, founder and principal of her namesake Houston design studio, “The key to effective internal communication is establishing clear lines of communication and trust among team members. It is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that each team member knows the roles and expectations of everyone else. It is also essential to create an atmosphere of listening, respect, and collaboration.” Essentially, good communication evolves from each design team member feeling heard and understood.

Similarly, Studio Designer client Daniella Villamil, principal designer at her Las Vegas-based interior design studio, urges, “Effective internal communication starts with each team member understanding their roles and responsibilities. It also stems from effectively implementing processes and procedures that are easy to follow and allow them to communicate among each other in a simple way.”

In terms of dealing with clients, Magon advocates for transparency about processes and expectations. As with her internal team, she sees that it’s essential to build relationships. “Demonstrating empathy and understanding will help to build trust and make clients feel valued,” she says. “Furthermore, providing timely updates and being available to answer questions will help.”

Villamil says that with clients, she keeps the process simple and summarizes the project progress via email from one team member at the end of each week. “All correspondence is done via email,” she explains, “so we can have a record of all communications with the client.”

Staying Connected Seamlessly

Online meeting

The value of efficient communication cannot be overstated or undervalued; it is at the crux of everything for a high-achieving design firm. Magon says that she understands that effective communication has been essential to her firm’s success. “We prioritize clear and timely communication, both internally and externally,” she explains. “By taking the time to communicate effectively, we are able to ensure that … that our projects run smoothly.”

But the critical question is how can design studios best foster efficient communication to help their firms to execute a smooth, seamless workflow? In this digital age does it still hold true that the hierarchy of communication within a business organization is: 1) in person; 2) via phone; 3) via email or messenger? Or are there better, more technologically savvy, and productive tools and software to facilitate communication?

Studio Designer client Chris Barrett explains that her design studio that’s based in Los Angeles and Palm Desert functions via a hybrid method of working remotely and in the office. And with a design team that’s dispersed among various locations, she says, “It’s important to me that everyone talks every day. We do a staff meeting every Monday at the same time, which is when we review all of our projects. We then speak, usually with Google Meet, as the need arises, multiple times a day.”

In Studio Designer’s 2022 Design Business Fees and Salary Report, Studio Designer founder and CEO Keith Granet goes on the record stating that he believes a hybrid of the partial work from home and in office is here to stay. And 88 percent of survey participants agreed that working from home will continue, with the hybrid method being the most popular means. Thus, with this new prevalent way of working, tools and software that facilitates communication among teams at remote locations becomes ever more vital.

You’ve Still Got Mail

Woman looking at her phone

Barrett and Villamil swear by email as the tried and true mode of communication between their teams and clients. “We haven’t really found any other tool [other than email] that makes life easier for both clients and our team,” Villamil explains. “According to clients, making them use other tools is inconvenient. Because most of our clients are busy entrepreneurs, they say they don’t have the time to be checking other software to keep on top of the projects.” However, among her internal team, Villamil uses, a cloud-based management workflow tool, “to keep track of daily and weekly goals and tasks,” she explains, adding, “We love that it’s easy to use, and we can see what’s pending and what has been achieved by the team.”

In addition to using Google Meet for internal communications, which Barrett favors for its simplicity—”No need for an invite,” she says. “We leave the link in our calendars and just go back to it all the time.”—her team uses Zoom for virtual face-to-face meetings with clients. They also employ ClickUp to manage projects so that all team members can see what needs to be done on any given day. And Barrett says she relies heavily on Studio Designer’s tools, including the Work in Progress report and custom budget report as a means for her team to stay on top of projects and orders, manage accounting, and pay vendors.

Many of these content management and project workflow tools actually facilitate communication, as all design team members are able to monitor progress and stay abreast of project criteria and deadlines. It’s a way for teams to remain in constant contact without the interruption of a phone call or email to impede a designer’s creative thought process and flow.

Making Good Use of New Communications Tools

People in the office looking at the laptop

Magon’s team melds several tools and software to facilitate communication within her team and with clients. She explains that to share documents they employ Gmail with Google Drive, as well as Microsoft OneDrive, which allows access to documents from any remote location. Like Barrett, Magon’s go-to tools for video conferencing are Google Meet and Zoom, citing that both are “great for our out-of-town clients, so we can meet with them and keep them up to date and stay on schedule with our project deadlines.” For project management, Magon’s studio relies on Asana and Harvest. “Asana helps us assign tasks to team members and organize projects to do lists and deadlines and [track] project status,” she explains. “Harvest allows us to track the time spent on each task within our projects, which helps us to relay to clients accurate time spent on certain parts of the project.”

Whichever of these communication tools your interior design firm decides to adopt, it’s critical that the program works for your studio’s individual needs and how your team does business. While the three Studio Designer clients we interviewed didn’t mention any instant messaging platforms, Slack and Microsoft Teams offer viable chat software to send and receive instant messages within a design studio, as a more immediate communication tool than email. In fact, Slack is the most popular instant messaging platform among businesses.

“Communicating with clients is an essential part of the job, and having the right tools can make it much easier,” Magon acknowledges. When reviewing the variety of options available, she says it’s important to find the ones that work best for individual interior design studios and their clients. “From online collaboration tools to video conferencing and instant messaging, there are a number of ways to stay connected with your clients and ensure that their needs are met,” she offers. “I am confident that with the right tools, you will be able to provide excellent service to your clients.”

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Studio Designer is the leading digital platform for Interior Designers managing and growing their design businesses. Featuring fully integrated project management, time billing, product sourcing, and accounting solutions for the interior design industry.

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