Hiring a Designer is Like Finding a Good Hairdresser

Because we live and breathe design, sometimes it is hard for MSLK to remember what it feels like to be a client experiencing our services for the first time. It is important for us to remember that searching for design is often a scary endeavor. Clients aren’t buying a tangible product that they can say “I want that,” rather, they are buying a promise or potential that we can solve their problems. Recently, our friend Joni needed an important haircut and her process of “reshaping” her personal appearance reminded me that your relationship with a hairstylist is very similar to that of a company looking for a new vision for their brand.Joni has been growing her hair out for a long time for Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths.  In fact, she had grown out 13 inches of hair to donate. When it was time for her hair to be cut, Joni was willing to spend more than she typically did on a haircut, and sought out the best. She went to a salon in midtown recommended by a friend who regularly got her haircut there, and had also just had her haircut for Beautiful Lengths. Joni felt she would be in good hands.

Sadly, from the moment she walked into the salon, things were not quite right. The stylist with one swift chomp clipped off Joni’s long locks and did not follow the specific instructions Beautiful Lengths had provided for how the hair was to be prepared. He then proceeded to swiftly have his way with her hair.

Joni meekly pointed out specifics such as she did not typically part her hair on the side he had chosen, but overall, she was not sure if she was to say something or sit quietly, still believing she should trust him. After all, he was a professional, wasn’t he? At a certain point Joni reached her threshold and wanted the hair cut to end. She politely said thank you and ran out as quickly as she could. She knew instantly the whole process had been a disaster when a friend’s first comment was, “I think your hair is uneven.”

So Joni was left to find a new salon and now the challenge was to find somewhere good, but not break the bank, considering she had already paid more than she wanted to for the first haircut. In the end, I sent her to my salon Gigi here in Queens. At the new salon, Joni asked for someone who was good with short straight hair to fix a bad haircut. The woman she saw was patient, listened to her problems, looked at her hair dry, and even pulled out some photos of what they could do.

As soon as it was clear that they were on the same page she sent Joni off to have her hair washed. While they were washing her hair, someone came and massaged Joni’s hands, an awesome bonus she was not expecting. During the haircut, other people from the salon came over to say hi and see what her stylist was up to. They all agreed that the haircut was going to be great. In the end, Joni left the salon feeling like a rockstar. She called me the minute she left and literally came skipping over.

We talked about how great a good haircut can make you feel about yourself. It should match your personality and your face, rather than just being the latest trend or the vision of your stylist. And we talked about how that all relates to design. Now that Joni is hooked, she vows to come back to Astoria to visit the same salon again, hoping that she will continue to get the same consistent service and the same great haircut.

We agreed that this will be a challenge as some creative types are great at what they do, but are not so great with the business aspects including consistency and timely delivery. In the end, this event was a great reminder to put myself in the clients shoes or the hairdressers seat and remember that although I know exactly what needs to be done and exactly what processes we are going to use to get there, the client does not. Sometimes a gentle guiding hand and a listening ear can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one.