Finding your surface design niche
Another year has gone, and a new one has begun, and I wanted to take a moment to share about goals for 2013, and how important it is to be true to yourself and find your niche in the surface design industry. As a surface designer who is actively working to build my brand, my credibility, and my expertise in the design industry, more and more I realise that I cannot be all things to all people. Especially as I work with very limited time that is juggled with mothering and running a household. I learn through trial and error that to truly succeed, and most importantly, to truly be happy in my day to day work activities (which in my opinion is the ultimate definition of success), I have to be in integrity with myself, who I am, what my skills are, what I love, and most importantly, what comes naturally to me.
When exploring all of these aspects of building a business, it makes it much easier to simplify. Since the Print Paper Cloth launch I chose to take some time away from my business to refine my business goals, and hone in on what it is I truly love, and am truly good at. I am now super clear about where I want to take this business and have very specific goals for the next 5 years, so from now on when presented with an opportunity I simply need to ask myself if it is in line with who I am and where I am going, and the answer is then simple.
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself when trying to work out your surface design niche.
1.What makes you special – different from the rest
As a designer, this is not something that is set in concrete as your skills and talents are ever evolving and growing as you build your expertise, but there is a style that you express in your work, in your life, in your home and in your environment, that is unique to you. Here’s a little exercise, choose 5 words that reflect that style, and apply them to a niche that interests you. For example, 5 words that apply to my own work are: organic, beautiful, contemporary, detailed, stylish – apply these to a niche (eg. interiors) and you start to see that within that niche, with a little bit more exploration there is a slice of the pie that suits your style, your work and you.
2. Establish what your niche is based on who you are.
When you put everything together that relates to who you are, what you offer and who is interested in your product, you’ll find what is sometimes called a ‘sweet spot’. A little exercise for you that can help you define that sweet spot is detailed below.
1. List 5 values that you prioritise in your life.
2. List your strengths/passions
3. Define who wants to buy your product based on those.
Put all these together and see what you come up with. For example, my values are authenticity, beauty, love/warmth, creativity and sustainability. My strengths are in using colour, creating moods, defining needs, communicating visually and verbally, and I am a very flexible designer with strong digital, illustration and painting skills. My passion is for interiors, fabric, textures, pattern and colour, and the people who buy from me are people who value and appreciate design, and who want to invite the love and warmth I create with my work, into their homes and/or environment.
3. Establish your target market.
Based on the previous exercise I am now better able to define my target customer.
The questions to ask yourself should include:
Is my target customer male/female?
What is their age group/demographic?
What kinds of products do they spend their money on?
What do they read?
How much money do they make?
Are they bargain hunters or are they connoisseurs?
How do they spend their leisure time?
Where do they shop?
What kinds of clothes do they wear?
What kinds of forums do they read/engage in?
This is an awesome exercise so you can get a clear picture of who your customer is. It might even help to cut out picture of people wearing the kind of clothes you think your customer wears, their car etc. Images embed deeply on the subconscious and working with the subconscious is great way to attract the kind of clientele that you want.
Here’s a snapshot of my description to help you along your way: My target customer is 35-55, most likely female but the occasional male as well, professional, most likely an interior decorator/designer, buyer for a mid to upper range homewares/soft furnishings company, or individual who has a strong design aesthetic. S/he is contemporary and stylish, wears classic lines but takes a few risks with interesting and beautiful accessories… you get the drift.
4. Establish your personal brand
Ask yourself what makes you, you. Think about your life, the people in it, your relationships, your style, interests, home and leisure life, your values and your personal story, and you will start to get a picture of a truly unique person. It is that unique blend of your nature and your experience that starts to build an image that is authentic and speaks to your audience. People are not only buying your designs, they are also purchasing a piece of you, and they are more likely to do that if they like and resonate with you. The key here is to be yourself, and be the best and most authentic you can be, not only in your personal presentation, but with all of your material, from your designs, to your branding and the way you communicate to your audience (eg. through writing, video, music etc. )
5. Communicate your brand effectively through all of your marketing.
This is where you need to tie in all of your bits and pieces to tell the story of who you are, what you do and what you have to offer that is worth your client’s money. Ensure you align your product/s with your client’s spending habits and needs, and you have a good foundation to start building your business from. Also, remember to make sure that your advertising should appeal to your target customer, and associate it with media outlets that are relevant and credible to them.
Good luck in 2013 everyone, and I hope that this article provided you with some useful information to push you along on your road to success. And let me know how you get on with the exercises!