Ace the Virtual Interior Design Service Workflow: Step by Step

a man and a woman working in the office

Hello and welcome to another virtual interior design professional post series! This article is the first part in a series of four articles on the virtual interior design process, where we guide you step by step through how an average virtual project is run.

The entire virtual interior design service workflow process covers eight total phases:

  1. Initial Client Consultation
  2. Concept Development
  3. Space Planning and Design
  4. Virtual Visualization
  5. Design Presentation
  6. Final Reveal
  7. Procurement and Implementation
  8. Post-Design Support

We discuss two phases of the virtual interior design workflow process in each article, beginning with this one. Here we dive into initial client consultations and how to get the ball rolling on the project and generate a concept for your virtual interior design project. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Virtual Interior Design Process : Consultation and Concept

Phase 1: Initial Client Consultation

Phase 2: Concept Development

*Ongoing Communication

Welcome to a world where creativity knows no bounds and design expertise transcends physical boundaries! As virtual interior designers, we possess the unique ability to transform spaces into captivating works of art without ever setting foot inside them.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the most efficient and effective virtual interior design process, from inception to the final reveal.

Phase 1: Initial Client Consultation

The foundation of a successful virtual interior design project lies in understanding your client’s vision, preferences, and requirements. To get the ball rolling, schedule a video call with the client to establish a strong rapport and gather essential information.

Use this opportunity to:

  • Ask the Right Questions: In this step you will inquire about the client’s lifestyle, design style, color preferences, budget, and functional needs. Their answers will provide the roadmap for your design journey.
  • Visualize the Space: In the second step of the initial client consultation you will follow up your video call with a summary of what you discussed. Request floor plans, measurements, and high-quality images of the space to be designed. Tools like virtual measuring apps can be invaluable for accurate dimensions.

Initial Client Consultation Step 1: Ask the Right Questions

women sitting on table with cups of coffee and laptop

In the initial client consultation call you will likely want to get a feel for your clients style and for their aesthetic vision for their space. You will also want to determine the scope of the work.

For example, which rooms will be renovated or decorated in the course of the project?

You will need to properly understand the parameters of the project in terms of space planning. 

Will there be any changes to the functions of existing rooms, for example? 

If your client is planning to redesign or reconfigure the interior space with your help (opening up a floor plan or removing partition walls, for instance) make sure that they will have a licensed professional look over the plans and confirm that they are safe to proceed with.

Inquire about the client’s lifestyle, design style, color preferences, budget, and functional needs. Their answers will provide the roadmap for your design journey.

The initial client consultation is a critical step in the virtual interior design process. Asking the right questions during this phase helps you gain a deep understanding of your client’s preferences, needs, and vision.

Here’s an elaboration on the key questions to ask in the survey process:

Questions to Cover with Your Virtual Interior Design Client

gray couch beside window

1. Lifestyle and Habits:

Understanding how your client lives and uses their space is essential for creating a design that truly suits their needs.

  • How do you use this space? Is it primarily for relaxation, work, entertainment, or a combination of activities?
  • Do you have any specific routines or habits that the design should accommodate? This could include morning rituals, family gatherings, or exercise routines.

2. Design Preferences:

Digging into your client’s design style and preferences is crucial for crafting a concept that resonates with their personal taste.

  • What’s your preferred design style? Contemporary, traditional, minimalist, bohemian, industrial, etc.
  • Are there any specific colors you love or dislike? Understanding color preferences can guide your color palette choices.
  • Do you have any favorite design elements or materials? This could be anything from wood textures to metal accents.

3. Functional Requirements:

Determining the practical needs of the space helps you create a design that’s not just aesthetically pleasing, but also highly functional.

  • Are there any specific storage needs? Consider items like books, toys, electronics, or hobbies that require dedicated storage solutions.
  • Do you have any specific accessibility requirements? Keep in mind factors like mobility issues or the needs of young children or pets.

4. Budget and Timeline:

Understanding your client’s financial constraints and desired project timeline is crucial for managing expectations and planning effectively.

  • What’s your budget for this project? This helps you curate furniture and decor options within their price range.
  • Do you have any specific deadlines or events that the design needs to be completed for? Consider special occasions or move-in dates.

photo of green plant and white wooden staircase

5. Inspiration and Influences:

Learning about your client’s sources of inspiration can provide valuable insights into their desired aesthetic.

  • Do you have any images or inspiration boards that reflect your ideal design? This could include magazine clippings, Pinterest boards, or Instagram posts.
  • Are there any specific spaces or experiences that inspire you? This could range from a cozy café to a luxurious hotel room.

6. Sustainability and Ethical Considerations:

Incorporating sustainable and ethical design practices is becoming increasingly important to clients.

  • Are you interested in using eco-friendly or sustainable materials in the design? This includes materials with low environmental impact.
  • Do you have any preferences for products that are ethically sourced or produced?

7. Communication Preferences:

Understanding how your client prefers to communicate and collaborate can streamline your interactions.

  • What’s your preferred mode of communication? Email, video calls, messaging apps, etc.
  • How often would you like updates on the project’s progress?

Most designers have their own versions of questionnaires that they develop over the course of their professional experience and that they use with their clients at the start of each project. Many find it useful to go over these questionnaires in person with a client in the video conferencing call. This way if any clarifications are needed it’s easy to get those answers without a lot of the back and forth that comes from written communication.

Use the guidelines above when preparing your own version, but don’t be afraid to change it to suit your needs. By asking these types of comprehensive questions during the initial client consultation, you’ll gather the necessary information to create a design that not only meets but exceeds your client’s expectations. 

Do make sure that you cover each of the points. This detailed understanding will serve as the foundation for crafting a personalized virtual interior design experience that resonates with their unique vision and lifestyle.

It is wise to have a virtual contract that you use for each project that covers the specifics of your service and your terms of service. You will want to make sure that you get your client to agree to the terms and sign the agreement, as well as pay any fees you require upfront before you get to the do any conceptual work.

Initial Client Consultation Step 2: Visualize the Space

female engineer holding floor plan

In this step you will need to do some design research so that you can get started with the project. For this you will need some supporting documentation from your client, and the more detailed the better.

Request floor plans, measurements, and high-quality images of the space to be designed. You might want to provide some guidance as to how best to photograph the room or to measure the space if the client has never done it on their own before.  Many virtual interior designers include a guide in their welcome package for the client.

It can be challenging to conduct design spatial research and measurements when you are not there to do it the way that you might prefer as a professional, but with some guidance the client is usually able to produce the type of images and measurements that you will need. 

The good news is that technology is on your side. There are some powerful apps that can help to make your job easier. For example, tools like virtual measuring apps can be invaluable for accurate dimensions when working remotely.

As you know, visualizing the space at the outset of the project is essential for creating an accurate and tailored design. To achieve this, you’ll need to gather the following crucial “programming” information:

a realtor looking at a floor plan with a couple

1. Floor Plans and Measurements: Ask your client for the floor plans of the space to be designed. These provide an overview of the layout, including the dimensions and proportions of the room. Accurate measurements ensure that your design elements fit seamlessly into the space.

2. High-Quality Images: Request high-resolution images of the room from different angles. These images give you a visual understanding of the existing architecture, lighting conditions, and any unique features that need to be considered in your design.

3. Virtual Measuring Apps: Consider utilizing virtual measuring apps to enhance the accuracy of your measurements. These apps leverage augmented reality to measure distances and dimensions with precision, eliminating the risk of inaccuracies that can occur with manual measurements.

Gathering floor plans, measurements, and images, as well as leveraging virtual measuring tools, gives you a solid foundation for your design process. This information will help you to get a feel for the existing space and any changes that will need to be made.

Phase 2: Concept Development

With a thorough understanding of your client’s desires, it’s time to craft a design concept that aligns with their vision. Here’s how:

  • Mood Boards: Create digital mood boards using platforms like Pinterest or specialized design software. Curate images, colors, textures, and furniture pieces that encapsulate the desired style.
  • Virtual Samples: Collaborate with clients by sharing virtual samples of fabrics, materials, and finishes. Visualize the space together through 3D renderings or augmented reality tools.

Concept Development Step 1: Create Your Mood Boards

Mood boards are a powerful tool for translating your client’s vision and preferences into a visual representation. Here’s how to effectively create digital mood boards:

1. Platform Selection: Choose a suitable platform for creating digital mood boards. Pinterest is a popular option due to its vast collection of images, and can be used to collect inspirational images from the client using shared boards. After you have collected the visual information you might want to use more specialized design software that provides more customization options. You can use programs as simple as canva to create photo grids or you can use virtual interior design platforms like design files that have built in mood board creators that link to real products.

2. Curating Elements: Some of your first boards might deal with the overall vibe of the space but you should also collect a diverse range of images that align with the specifics of the desired design style. These can include furniture, decor items, color palettes, textures, patterns, and even architectural details.

3. Colors and Textures: Remember to incorporate colors and textures that evoke the desired mood and style. You might consider using a mix of primary and accent colors to create visual interest. You can include detailed images of materials like wood, fabric, metal, and stone to showcase different textures.

4. Furniture and Decor: You might want to also include images of furniture pieces and decor items that resonate with the chosen style at this early stage. Remember that these are not necessarily the pieces that your client will end up purchasing, however making some early selections can help your client envision how different elements will come together in their space. It also serves as a springboard for finding the exact pieces that you will want later.

5. Coherence and Balance: As a designer you will appreciate the need for your conceptual scheme to have an overarching sense of balance and harmony.  Try to make sure that the elements you select create a cohesive and balanced composition. The mood board should visually represent the harmonious blend of colors, textures, and styles you’re aiming for in the final design.

art business color colorful

6. Reflecting Client Preferences: It’s important to remind yourself that you are designing for your client and not for yourself. This might seem obvious, but while working on a concept it can sometimes be difficult to keep your own aesthetic preferences out of the mix. While curating images, keep your client’s preferences in mind. Use your design eye and your keen sense for beauty to ensure that all the individual elements that your client appreciates can come together in a beautiful and cohesive final composition. Incorporate elements that align with their tastes and lifestyle to create a personalized mood board that still reflects your good taste.

7. Clear Communication: Mood boards are very useful when discussing aesthetics and style with your client. Use the mood board as a visual aid to convey your design concept to the client. Discuss the elements you’ve chosen and how they contribute to the overall look and feel of the space. Remind your client that individual elements in the boards are not necessarily the final selections. Indeed it is easy to change any of the elements at any time leading up to the final design concept.

8. Flexibility:

Don’t be afraid to iterate and make adjustments based on client feedback. Mood boards are a collaborative tool that can evolve as the design process progresses. Remember to discuss the iteration process with the client beforehand so that they understand how many revisions you will allow for.

By curating a thoughtfully crafted mood board, you provide your client with a tangible representation of their envisioned design. This step is crucial for ensuring that both you and the client are on the same page and have a shared understanding of the design direction. It serves as a guiding reference throughout the design process, ensuring that the end result encapsulates the desired style, mood, and aesthetic.

Concept Development Step 2: Collect Your Virtual Samples

Collaboration is key in virtual interior design, and sharing virtual samples adds a tactile dimension to the design process. Here’s how to effectively utilize virtual samples and visualization techniques:

1. Fabric and Material Selection: Hopefully you will have your own material library that you can access for this next part, and for most designers this is something that they continue to add to over time. Gather a collection of virtual samples that encompass a range of fabrics, materials, and finishes. These samples can include different types of upholstery, flooring options, wall treatments, and more.

2. Digital Libraries: It’s also possible to make use of online platforms that offer extensive digital libraries of materials and finishes. Material and finish libraries are often included in virtual interior design visualization software programs like Coohom. Many manufacturers and design resources also provide digital samples that can be incorporated into your design presentations.

3. Visual Aids: Incorporating these virtual samples into your design presentations helps clients better understand how various materials will look and feel in their space. Good visual representation really helps to guide the clients decision-making. The next two steps are not one hundred percent necessary in this phase, but can do wonders for certain projects.

4. 3D Renderings: Some designers create 3D renderings of the space at this early phase with the selected virtual samples applied to different elements. These renderings give your client a comprehensive preview of how the chosen materials will come together in their environment. Alternatively, you can stick to 2D design boards until the space planning and design process in the next phase.

5. Augmented Reality (AR) Tools: Taking the early visualization process a step further, you can consider leveraging augmented reality tools if these are available to you or make sense for your project. They allow clients to use their smartphones or tablets to visualize virtual samples in real-time within their actual space. This enhances the sense of immersion and realism.

6. Collaboration and Feedback: Depending on your arrangement with the client and how often they prefer you to keep them updated, you might send your client some conceptual materials and early design ideas for them to give feedback on. During virtual meetings, collaborate with your client to explore different material combinations. Use the virtual samples as a starting point for discussions on color coordination, texture contrasts, and overall aesthetics.

7. Realistic Visualization: Although not strictly necessary, the combination of 3D renderings and augmented reality tools provides a close-to-real-life visualization of the design concept. Clients can virtually walk through the space, seeing how each material interacts with the lighting and other elements.

8. Iterative Process: Remember that design is a process. Be prepared to make adjustments based on client feedback. Virtual samples and visualization tools allow for quick modifications to the design, ensuring that the final choices are aligned with the client’s preferences.

When you share virtual samples and leverage advanced visualization tools, you empower your clients to make informed decisions about materials, finishes, and aesthetics. This level of interactivity enhances their engagement and satisfaction with the design process. Collaborative exploration and realistic previews can create a sense of excitement and anticipation, ultimately leading to a design that more deeply resonates with your client’s vision and expectations.

All Phases: Ongoing Communication

Remember to maintain a steady flow of communication throughout the design process. If you created a concept independent of the client’s feedback up to now, you will want to send your first conceptual presentation to your client. How much of the 3D modeling, design drafting and procurement of actual products you do in this phase is up to you, but most designers save the details for the next phases. Your first presentation should aim to inspire the client about the overall concept for the project and also gauge their response to your initial ideas.

  • Regular Updates: Keep clients informed about the progress of their project. Share photos, videos, and milestones to build excitement and trust.

Advice On Regular Updates Through the Virtual Interior Design Process

woman in black blazer sitting on black office chair

Maintaining consistent communication with clients through regular updates is essential in virtual interior design. Sharing photos, videos, and milestones not only keeps clients informed about the progress of their project but also builds excitement and trust. Here are some benefits and strategies for providing regular updates:

1. Building Trust: Regular updates demonstrate your commitment to transparency and accountability. Clients feel reassured and more confident in the design process.

2. Managing Expectations: Updates help manage client expectations by providing insight into the project’s timeline, milestones, and any potential challenges.

3. Visual Progress: Share photos and videos that showcase the tangible progress of the design. Visual evidence conveys the evolution of the space and the efforts invested.

4. Milestone Highlights: Highlight key milestones reached in the project. Celebrating achievements fosters a positive and collaborative atmosphere.

5. Interactive Engagement: Encourage clients to provide feedback and suggestions based on the updates. Their involvement maintains a sense of collaboration.

green plants

6. Excitement and Anticipation: Regular updates build anticipation as clients witness their design vision coming to life. This excitement fuels their enthusiasm for the end result.

7. Adaptation and Flexibility: Updates allow for real-time adjustments. If certain design elements or decisions need modification, clients are informed promptly.

8. Consistent Communication: Set a regular cadence for updates, whether it’s weekly or bi-weekly. Consistency ensures that clients are well-informed throughout the process.

9. Personalized Approach: Tailor updates to each client’s preferences. Some clients may prefer detailed explanations, while others might appreciate concise visuals.

10. Documentation: Maintain records of the updates provided. Documentation reflects the collaborative journey and the efforts invested in the project.

Remember that by offering regular updates, you cultivate an atmosphere of openness, communication, and mutual respect. Clients not only witness their design unfolding but also experience the dedication and expertise you bring to every phase of the virtual interior design process.

This active engagement contributes to a smoother, more enjoyable design journey and results in a space that resonates deeply with your clients’ vision.

You made it through the first two phases in the virtual interior design service workflow process. Congratulations! In our next installment of this this series we’ll be covering the details of final space planning and design, as well as the specifics of virtual visualization.

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Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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