Over the course of nearly five years managing HR for e-design platform Havenly, Sarah Miller kept noticing the same phenomenon:. There was no shortage of talented people applying to design for the company, but few who could quickly generate digitally rendered floor plans and mood boards.
“It’s surprising to me how many designers haven’t learned the visualization side,” Miller tells Business of Home. “We get a lot of feedback [where designers say], ‘I’ve been in the field for this long, but I’ve never had to do that—I go to someone’s house and draw up a floor plan or put together mood boards, but I’ve never had to do it online.”
In that, Havenly is not alone. The problem of recruitment has long dogged e-design platforms, which have struggled to balance the volume of demand with the size and efficiency of their talent pools. Laurel & Wolf had trouble retaining designers before it folded in 2019. Earlier this year, Modsy ignited some controversy among its designers by exploring offshoring design work to Bulgaria. The tide is changing, but as a whole, residential designers have been slow to adopt digital presentation tools.
This year, Havenly is trying something new to address the issue, introducing a free online learning initiative called Havenly University. The coursework, which takes roughly 10 to 15 hours, trains students to use Photoshop and rendering software Homestyler to create Havenly-style design schemes. (Interestingly, unlike some of its competitors, the company doesn’t have a proprietary in-house rendering tool.)
The goal, says Miller, is to increase Havenly’s own hiring conversion rate. However, the program is free to all comers, and there’s no requirement that attendees apply to work for Havenly. Designers can take the course and apply the knowledge to their own practice. At a time when more design is happening online than ever before, she points out, digital design skills come in handy.
Miller says it’s possible that, down the line, the company might charge for Havenly University classes, but for now she’s happy to treat the initiative as a recruiting tool and a way to foster entrepreneurship in the design world.
“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is the ability to create opportunities for interior designers. So many of our designers are stay-at-home moms or military wives, or they live in remote parts of the country where there isn’t a design firm or a lot of clients to work with,” she says. “Through Havenly, they’re able to build a book of business. We always want that to be part of what we do.”
Homepage photo: Courtesy of Havenly