Qualified Remodeler Magazine

OCT 2014

Qualified Remodeler helps independent remodeling firms to survive, become more professional and more profitable by providing must-have business information, namely best business practices, new product information and timely design ideas.

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B efore the Internet became the go-to resource for just about everything, a project idea file we would receive from a home- owner for their remodeling job might consist of a couple ear- marked magazines, a reference book or a few sketches. Now, it is not unusual to be provided photo files with hundreds of entries, as well as spreadsheets with every detail of the project specified. If the homeowner could not obtain enough detail online, it was just an email or phone call away. For instance, I recently received a call from a woman in Minnesota about a wet bar she saw in a collection of photos that we had posted on the popular home design web- site, Houzz.com. She had an identical space in her home and asked if it would be OK for her to have a local company use the picture to replicate the design. In essence, our work product became her idea file. Although the call about the details from one of our projects was not particularly unusual, it left me wondering just how often design work is pulled from photos in the pub- lic domain — like the award- winning projects in this issue of Qualified Remodeler — and simply duplicated by home- owners, contractors and other design professionals. Whatever the frequency, it is only going to become more common with the proliferation of websites that simplify the process of identi- fying, capturing and sharing photos of creative design ideas — from Houzz to Pinterest to Facebook to Instagram. It also presents some issues for those of us providing design services. As we continue to post proj- ect photos online, I find that we are spending more and more time responding to requests for information. Since most of the questions are coming from people outside our service area, like the caller from Minnesota, we are dedicating resources and, essentially, providing free design services to homeowners (and even other design profes - sionals) that are not in a position to send work our way. Yet, we use online photos as inspira- tion for our projects, including those provided by our clients. At times, we are even asked to sim- ply replicate a project from pic- tures a homeowner has found on the Web. Collectively, this has raised a number of questions. If we elect to publish photos of our work, how much time are we willing to spend sharing the details of our efforts? If we draw inspiration from others based on photos from the Web or a magazine, when does our work constitute nothing more than design plagiarism? If con- sumers believe that design is as easy as copying the details from a picture, how do we overcome this perception? Are we willing to simply mimic the work of oth- ers on our projects if that is all that is requested? Because our responsiveness to questions enhances my firm's organic search ranking on a website, we reply to requests for information. However, instead of having my design team invest a significant amount of time responding to such requests, I recently assigned this ever- expanding task to our marketing coordinator. To the extent that I find pictures to be a valuable means of communicating ideas — whether the pictures are from previous projects we have done or from projects produced by others — I do not refrain from using them with clients. But I review pictures from home- owners after flushing out their wants and needs, so the design is driven by the project objectives and not the photos. If a prospect says that he or she is looking for someone to duplicate a project based on pictures gathered and nothing more, we typically pass on the opportunity. However, every company is different. Ultimately, the industry response to the use of Web- based idea files will vary from firm to firm. Some will strive to provide new and creative design solutions on every proj- ect. Many will thrive by replicat- ing the creative efforts of oth - ers. Still more will blend their design ideas with those they glean from projects produced by other companies. And each will decide how much of their efforts are shared online or in response to an email or phone call. There are no right answers; just an opportunity to evaluate your company's response to the questions. QR The evolution of the project idea file Photo © iStockphoto/Thinkstock Dan Weidmann, CR, CAPS, is president and co-owner of Weidmann & Associates, a Georgia- based collaborative design-build firm that has been on the Atlanta Business Chronicle's list of Atlanta's Top Residential Remodeling Contractors every year since 1997. A past president of NARI Atlanta, he combines nearly 20 years of remodeling experience with a background in aeronautical engineering. ForResidentialPros.com QR October 2014 61 By Daniel J. Weidmann, CR, CAPS | Design Lab :PROFITS

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