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What makes a good Design….what makes a GREAT Designer?


This is a loaded question I know, but a few questions that I have been asking myself lately. In this age of social media, there is a lot more contact with magazine publishers, blogs, fellow designers and clients who all have their opinion and lets face it feel free to share it while hiding behind a computer screen. I ask you then, who is the expert on this subject? Is it publishers? is it fellow designers who believe they have a right to judge other designs? Alternatively, is it the future client?

What makes a good design?

Well, let’s take a look at this…..
In Design school, we are book taught and learn all the ins and outs of proper design rules with the basics on the elements and principles of design……


  • LINE
  • SIZE





All these things come into play when we are designing spaces for our client…..among other things.

However, with all these things we learn in school nothing matters without the talent…you can know everything there is to know about design on paper but without the talent to execute it the designs fail.

Good Design

What makes someone’s else’s designs look better than the other? Many factors come into play…

  • The average client does not have bank account full of money for you to execute these types of designs….they just don’t, so we as designers are working with a tight budget. We are not all sourcing custom products, but instead shopping at local furniture stores trying to find a piece that works best in the space and on a shoe string budget. We are sometimes sourcing tile, flooring, vanities & kitchens at big box stores so our choices are limited.
  • We are dealing with “real”people, with busy lives, real bills and family’s with kids and animals and issues. Because of this, the choices we are making are based on fingerprints, space requirements, dog hair and everyday necessities…..there are no “showrooms” in these spaces.
  • We have real clients who come with baggage, meaning most designs do not feature all brand new items plopped in a room…how ideal would that be? However, realistically for us “average” designers we are using many pieces that have already been there or a customer has purchased on their own and are working around these items. Would we choose them for the space? no…but the client loves them and we try to make it work. 
  • Sometimes we are dealing with unrealistic timelines, and clients have started a new build or renovation and do not bring you in until the contractor is pressuring them for all the finishing, and now you as a designer are scrambling to find all the flooring, lighting, tile. paint and so on and so on within a few weeks! leaving us to choose what’s in stock and to work with what elements may have already been brought into the design before you started.



So what makes a good design?

Its simple, good design is not a house or room that executes every element of design perfectly as some may like you to believe. A good design does not have to incorporate the best tiles from Italy, the most incredible furniture that is “personally” designed by the designer, a huge house that has 10′ ceilings and incredible moulding details throughout.
Good Design may visually not be perfect to some, and it may not be “magazine worthy or follow all the rules but it incorporated “EVERYTHING” of your clients wants & needs as best as you could while making the space work for them. It is beautiful to them, it meets their needs, and it is not picture perfect, but it is perfect for “them”…….that is good design.

What makes a great Designer?

For every reason I listed above…A great designer is there for their client, and a great designer is not trying to bully their client into things they do not want or need so so they look good to their peers and are lining up their next magazine photo. We take what is given to us; a shoestring budget, the house of 5 children and 3 dogs, small home, a large home a client with many ideas that may not be our own and we run with it. We run with it the best we can and we make something beautiful to them and to our hearts because we know they are happy, and we are fulfilled and content.
I am not going to lie to you, we all want that one job, that one job that money is no object, with free rein to create your dream space. If I had that client I would create one spectacular space, and it would be worthy of the House & Home spread and all the praise from my peers because I am good as are many of my colleagues but just have not had a chance to show our work to its full potential.
In closing I just want to say this, I see many posts on twitter and facebook by designers, bloggers, and just your average Joe picking apart other peoples designs and choices….I ask you, what makes you the judge and jury on whats good design or a good designer without knowing all the facts involved in the design. Do you know everything the designer had to deal with before choosing that style of sofa that you just bashed? no, I do not think you do. Think about your words and actions before you post them, you may have had the opportunity to create a fantastic space without all the limitations they were dealing with…think about that.
I may not be the best Designer out there, but I am good and I am there for my client and I am always respectful of others.

Absolutely the best posting I’ve ever read about ‘good design’. People do not know what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ and the limitations that were imposed, or things we as designers had to deal with. As designers, we know what a tough job this is and should be supporting each other. I’m very happy to have started a Facebook group for interior designers, we are there for each other and support each other in our work. Great article, thank you!


Thanks so much Jil, just felt it needed to be said!

Jackie Chambers

A successful project is one where the client’s needs are met, if not exceeded, and they are happy with the finished result. A successful project = a good designer. Keep your head up, Sonya. Your satisfied clients are proof of your talent and skill. No outside validation needed.


Thanks Jackie and I totally agree!

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