Where it was once the hallmark of ultimate social status “arrival” to own a luxury car, a beach house and a designer kitchen, today’s well-to-do consumers are characterized by a completely different mindset, and a completely different set of expectations for the designers they work with. ASID had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dwell Media at the recent Dwell on Design show that covered how new consumer attitudes are reframing the business of design and how designers can build success by embracing this change.
The presentation focused on findings from the Dwell Insights Group (an independent research division of Dwell Media) 2013 New Faces of Affluence study that highlights consumer insights from a sampling of affluent adults (median HHI: $206k) from across the U.S. While consumer attitudes may be changing, the forecast for design-related services and goods is positive:
• 98 percent of respondents acknowledge the positive influences of design in their lives
• More than two-thirds of respondents indicate that they plan to make design changes and/or improvements in the next year
• The main factors driving their design motivations are a desire for enhanced functionality (55%) and design aesthetics (47%)
For designers thinking about new business development, these findings signal opportunity. But a deeper dive into the data clearly suggests that working with today’s affluent consumer is anything but business as usual — it’s about building a relationship and a partnership based on a shared set of values and vision.
The modern design client is individualistic, creative and empowered. They are design savvy and draw their inspiration from a variety of sources including art, architecture and travel. Their interests are wide and niche at the same time and they are, above all, likely to work with a designer who will not just ask them what they want, but WHY they want it: what’s the experience they hope to create through design? This level of understanding requires the ability of designers to move beyond transaction-based conversations to form a deeper relationship with clients — a relationship that acknowledges that sometimes creating the ideal design experience might mean blending a high-end fabric with IKEA furnishings, or working collaboratively with the client on product research and price comparisons before making a recommendation.
“Today’s buyers are bellwethers of our new economy,” says Michela O’Connor Abrams, president of Dwell Media. “They shun the conventional trappings of wealth, they value authenticity, and they are certainly not interested in keeping up with Joneses!”
In addition to cultivating personal relationships, O’Connor Abrams also suggests that designers invest in becoming tech savvy, as 81 percent of survey respondents are using mobile technology daily to research, conduct business, connect with peers and seek recommendations for lifestyle purchase decisions. To learn more about the study, visit dwellondesign.com/nfa.