With an expert-led schedule, designer Vincent Wolf’s inaugural “Learning to See” seminar, held July 22 and 23, introduced attendees to what goes on behind design studio doors. Wolf, of Vicente Wolf and Associates, capped attendance at 20 guests, with designers from North Carolina, Texas, Montreal, Italy, Washington, Utah and London attending.
Wolf led a number of the day's talks, including topics such as how to interview clients and how to present jobs, when to say no and how to create a floor plan, while other experts included 1stdibs founder Michael Bruno, who spoke about developing new business and entrepreneurship within the design industry; Rick Kantor, who discussed the ins and outs of both billing and business; and Dee Schlotter of PPG Pittsburgh Paints, who talked about trending colors. Katharina Plath of Head and Hand PR presented on branding, while Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita introduced attendees to the world of blogging. Other on-hand experts included Frederico Farina, Linda O'Keeffe, Trudi Romeo and Richard Hollander.
“It’s like going to an artist to have your portrait painted,” explained Wolf of his approach to client relations. “That’s what I do: a portrait of who the client is, in their own home.”
The talks led by Wolf focused on the specifics of the designer’s business practices: On interviewing clients, he shared the clear-cut questionnaire he asks clients to complete, which serves the designer as not only a guide to shopping but also as a protection against clients who change their minds frequently. It also identifies the clients’ needs, he said.
“I want to know who they are and what they like. I want the emotions, not their opinions. That’s what gives me what their [design] parameters are.” Wolf also took the attendees through floor plans, elaborating on architectural detail work and explaining not only which walls were knocked down, but why. Reflected Wolf, “Part of the reason for hosting this seminar was for me to learn designers’ challenges and to provide ‘insider’ information and contacts to help them along the way. The Learning to See Seminar also allowed me to walk away with new office procedures that I will be incorporating into my business.”
Interior designer and the founder of W GARTEN Sabrina Birnbaum says, “Vicente’s seminar was not your average networking event. During the roundtable discussions, it was interesting to learn about the various ways in which different designers run their businesses and what is working or not working for them in terms of business, client relationships and personal fulfillment. Each one of the talks was enlightening.”
The two-day seminar concluded with a cocktail party at Wolf’s own garment district apartment. Will he host another one next year? Most likely, says Wolf. "It was a lot of work so, I can’t even think that far ahead at this time. It was really enlightening to have fellow designers walk away with crucial information that can potentially help them with their business."