Making Your
Process Stick

Designing Your
Andrew Mitchell, The Design Coach2024-04-04
Andrew Mitchell, The Design Coach2024-04-04

From Contributing Editor, Andrew Mitchell, director of MR. MITCHELL, Interior designer and founder of The Design Coach.

Working with designers and architects on a regular basis, I’m often reminded of the challenge that lies in the actual implementation of our process, accurately and consistently. With all the external influences that come into play (clients, collaborators, trades, etc) during the rollout of a project, it’s no surprise that making our process “stick” becomes a little tricky.

In a past article about the importance of process, Command Your Business, we spoke about the benefits of adopting a solid, reliable process, and gave some tips on how to go about setting up your own process.

In this article, I want to further investigate the true benefits of operating with a consistent process, as the most important factor that will encourage your own resolve in make your process stick, is your belief that the benefits make doing so worth the effort. I’d also like to provide some tips for helping you to make your process stick.

My early years - an "organic" approach

In the early years of my design business (more than 2 decades ago), I meandered my way through each project, secretly hoping that my clients wouldn’t discover that I really didn’t know exactly what came next. Don’t get me wrong, I was clear on the starting point (getting a clear brief), and the end point (a completed room/house), and I knew what I needed to deliver along the way (eg: concepts, documentation, quotes) but everything else in between was a bit hazy.

I chose to believe that I had an organic approach that was very client centric. In allowing my clients to take control of the process, I believed I was offering them an outstanding level of service.

In the beginning, my process wasn’t documented, nor was it implemented consistently. I was following what I knew as a logical sequence of steps, but there was nothing formal to reference, nor communicate to my clients. My scope of work was more a list of rooms and items that needed to be included in the designs, like a checklist or an inventory.

Even when I developed a basic 5 stage process that followed the standard architectural model (Concept > Design Development > Documentation > Estimation > Project Management), I was jumping between stages, largely driven by the demands of the clients and/or trades. For example, I’d go shopping for taps and tiles with the client before a concept had been formulated or an overall budget discussed, because the client or builder believed that was a priority. At other times I might be getting quotes from trades prior to a documentation package being finalised, as the client was impatient about getting project costs.

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The cost of an "organic" approach

Even though I was doing my best to please everyone on the project, things would often go wrong and, all too often, fingers would be pointed at me. Considering the above example of tap and tile shopping early in the project, this could result in the selection of products that ultimately didn’t fit within the budget, and so needed to be reselected which was usually done in my own time.

Ultimately, in my efforts to please the clients I was doing them a disservice. I wasn’t working organically; I was working reactively.

Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with any issues of great consequence, but in these early years the client experience was often lacking finesse. More important to point out is the possibility that such issues could have been very costly, or at worst, could have had serious legal implications.

It’s also important to note that these clients from the early days of my business often came back for repeat work and also referred me on to friends and family. This was largely due to my relentless drive to please them by making amends for these inconsistencies (hello to all the fellow people-pleasers out there!), and delivering outcomes that went above and beyond, often at personal cost.

Does this all sound familiar? If so, don’t despair! Most of the designers and architects I coach don’t have a formal process that is consistently rolled out on every project.

The true challenge is believing in the benefits of sticking to the process, then selling the clients on these advantages. Here we provide 7 tips for making the implementation of your design process easier.

1. Customise

Customise your Design Process to suit your business needs and your clientele. Add services that are specific to your particular way of working (eg: sourcing vintage lighting, or specifying investment artwork). Making the process specific to your way of working will make it easier to consistently implement. Use our TDC 9 Stage Design Process as the foundation to create your own process.

2. Document

Ensure all your documents are updated. Update your Design Proposal template to reflect your new process. Create a How We Workdocument that graphically outlines your process and highlights key steps within each stage. Having your process represented in these documents makes you accountable.

3. Share

Share your design process with the clients from the first communication and explain the advantages. Once they’ve booked an Initial Consultation, send them your How We Work document. Use your design process to create the Scope of Work for every project. Voicing your commitment to the process will strengthen your resolve.

4. Template & Automate

Create templates for your Scope of Work and Design Proposal using your design process. Transpose your design process to a project management software program such as Programa.
Create checklists for each stage of the process, assign responsibilities and set due dates. Automate reminders using the software program.

5. Enrol

Enrol your team to come on board with the process.
Sell them on the benefits of following a well-resolved design process. Set a good example by practicing what you preach!
Get regular feedback from your team about how they find the process.

6. Elaborate & Update

Add benchmarks and examples to help explain what is expected at each stage. Update as you find new ways of working. When things go wrong, take the opportunity to review your process and consider how it can be improved.
Review your process annually.

7. Communicate

Use your process to communicate consistently with everyone: team, clients, contractors. Provide your clients with regular updates about where they are at in the process. At the end of each stage, let your clients know what comes next. If you get pulled away from your process, get back on track again with clear communication.

Ultimately, the best way to get your Process to stick is to truly believe that it delivers results for everyone involved. A clearly defined, consistently implemented process helps to create structure and accountability for you and your clients.

To find out more about how we can help you create better systems within your business, head to

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Struggling to make your design process stick? At Programa, in collaboration with The Design Coach, we understand the challenges of implementing a consistent process in interior design projects. Our article delves into the importance of a reliable process and offers practical tips to ensure its successful implementation.

In the dynamic world of design, external influences such as clients, collaborators, and trades often disrupt the flow of a project. However, maintaining a structured process is crucial for delivering consistent results. Our insights shed light on the benefits of operating with a steadfast process, emphasizing the value it brings to both designers and clients alike.

Drawing from years of experience, we explore the journey from an "organic" approach to a meticulously documented and implemented process. Our founder shares personal anecdotes and key learnings, highlighting the pitfalls of a reactive workflow and the transformative power of a structured methodology.

With our partnership with The Design Coach, we offer seven actionable tips for making your design process more resilient and effective:

  1. Customize: Tailor your design process to align with your business needs and clientele, incorporating unique services that reflect your expertise.
  2. Document: Maintain up-to-date documentation, including design proposals and workflow outlines, to ensure accountability and clarity.
  3. Share: Educate clients on the advantages of your design process from the outset, fostering trust and commitment to the journey ahead.
  4. Template & Automate: Streamline your workflow with templates and project management tools like Programa, simplifying tasks and deadlines for your team.
  5. Enroll: Engage your team in the process, emphasizing its benefits and fostering a culture of adherence and continuous improvement.
  6. Elaborate and Update: Enhance your process with benchmarks and examples, regularly reviewing and refining it to adapt to evolving needs.
  7. Communicate: Maintain open communication channels with stakeholders, providing regular updates and clarity on project milestones and expectations.