Friday Focus – Interview with Scott Tjaden

It has been wonderful getting to know Scott.  Sharing comments on pictures links and moments, have cemented a bond. And then to finally “meet” on the phone, was a true pleasure.   Scott hails from a farm in Central Illinois and moved to St Louis for a job. Discovered that it really is a wonderful place to live. He has been inspired  by the people, and  has connected to the community where he teaches at the  University of Missouri.

Scott Tjaden

A book that has spoken to him, a historical garden book based on facts

The Tulip

Which illustrates the value an item can hold in society.

Scott is a sponge for historical facts. A very useful skill to aid connection with clients, through their passions like gardening and objects.

Smart humor, Pithy quick comebacks is what tickles Scott’s funny bone.

What is your favorite element of the design business?

Scott loves the people part. Design biz is not just the creative process. That’s just 20%. You also need money management, psychology skills– knowing how people operate and value. What they want to spend money on.

Scott shares that is its fun to see a new product in a new way – the hunt and gather process is also about educating yourself in every job.

Everyday he discovers a new product or a new color combo. Adapting an object to work in a new job is a constant process.  He is very good at changing hats, in fact he has a large box to hold them all, so he can pull out the right one, when needed

I asked Scott’s what  his biggest strength is and how he communicate this to his clients?

His strength is offering unusual solutions. His clients are not interested in cookie cutter design.  They have unusual collections, are passion and individualistic. Scott’s client’s are attracted to highly unusual materials, and are open to new ways of showcasing their homes or possessions.

Scott clients fit into two categories.  One is old money. Collectors with exquisite taste who want personal design solutions to pull their spaces together.

The second group are affluent clients who don’t want the typical West Country look and prefer a more thought through look.

Some clients have difficulty  communicating an emotion. Scott is really good at picking up nuances, and presenting a plan they can emotionally relate to.

The Biggest challenge or roadblock to maintaining & growing your business?

Products and fabrics that are discontinued. Since the design process from start to implementation can take six months to a year, which means that fabric you base your design on may not be available when you are ready to order.

The downturn in the economy has been tough. Scott believes the best way to counter to this, is to keep yourself in the media. Designers who have failed to maintain a high profile in the public eye tend to disappear.

Scott writes a column for the St Louis Dispatch, and offers this advice.

Go out, be seen.  Mingle.

Another big hurdle is that many would be clients don’t consider his services because they think that Scott only does whole house design. Suites, single rooms or small projects and color consults, are all on the list.

Any new business strategies in the past 12 months?

Added Social media to his marketing mix.   Over this past summer added long distance services. He has no problem thinking globally, after all a lot of the big fabric companies like Scalamandre, Donghia are international. So why cant we help a client in Vancouver or Brussels?  Fabric can be shipped to them or Scott can research a connection through facebook in those cities for go to resources.  Clients love it, although it is still in test phase.  He has picked up clients in outlying areas & through facebook.

What was your worst client job experience & why?

When Scott started doing design, on his first job he didn’t plan or measure properly, wasn’t organized enough, so there were some serious mistakes made on his part.

However he turned it around by owning up and correcting the mistakes on his dime. A great learning experience, and 10 yrs later he is anal retentive. Measuring everything, making notes, collaborating with his assistant, who also takes measurements.

Scott is finishing up with his favorite client experience as I write. Not only did the client allowed him to create a vision for his condo from a Home Depot special, they collaborated on the ideas and plans, finishing up with a modern contemporary home that is a chic zen space.  Something Scott does not get to do often.

The client empowered and trusted Scott on decision making throughout the process. Being able to realize the concept elements, and translate has been gratifying.

Marketing tips

Social Networker Scott believes being seen reminds people of his existence.  How true is that?

He goes to the symphony on a regular basis.

Places to gather trends and ideas?

Inspiration is everywhere. A museum painting that suggests a new color palette for interior paint colors or room design.

Costumes, history , the Missouri Botanical gardens, which is the 2nd largest in the world. The architecture there is varied and wonderful. Nature will never lie.    Looking at plants, the underside of leaves, the combinations, like a spot or stripe can inspire spinoffs like duvet covers.

A grouping of diseparate items at auction creates an idea of how to bring old things together in a new way.

Top Social media tip, if you indulge?

Use a question to attract clients. Think about how each site offers different things. For example a spoon.  We use a spoon to eat. We don’t use it for other things.  So be appropriate in how you get your point across.

I take a lot of photos and blog about it.  I did a post on the Setai Hotel in Miami , and the hotel contacted me afterwards to thank me. Shows you don’t know who is following you. Powerful stuff Social Media.

Any advice for would-be or for upcoming designpreneurs?

Scott made me laugh with his answer


Scott did the hard way, he was the creative director at an ad agency. 9/11 was a pivotal time for him, he changed careers.

Made a lot of mistakes, learning on the go. He learned that raw talent is not a substitute for knowledge. Take as many classes as you can. A designers worst hurdle is not knowing things.

Keep a time sheet for every job and know the budget.  This will help you when you need to estimate the same job again, plus you have records of how much time you spent on a job, if you need to explain to client. Don’t loose money from poor record keeping. Time sheets help you build your business. Learn. If you don’t take classes, learning on the job can be really rough. Terminology, charges rules of engagement & technical side can cost you thousands of dollars and loss of reputation. If you don’t want to go to school, read, read, read and read more.

What is the craziest thing you have done that resulted in helping your biz?

When I first started some one I know suggested I apply to do a room in a Symphony Show House.  I thought who am I to do this?  But decided to do it anyway. Rolled up to the panel with my design in shorts and a tshirt. And I got in, one of nine designers who was photographed by the paper, because of my design.

Fear will always stop you from trying if you don’t just go for it.

a well loved way you celebrate your life?

I am always a designer! Artist.  I teach part time.  I love hanging out with friends, I enjoy good food, a great glass of wine, a great movie. Which is a wonderful form of escapism.  Loved “The King’s Speech” and old favorites are  “the English Patient” and “gone with the wind”  Movies really do keep our finger on the pulse of trends, history and how people behave.  Enjoys Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, for their cinematography.

What you could not live without?

Love pasta love i,t love it, love it.  Icecream Mint Choc chip.   I am thinking Scott and I could share a meal – I love pasta too times 3.

He didn’t have crappy food growing up. (my kind of childhood)    Pear and apple pies remind him of his cooking Grandmother’s. Both different in their approach, hugely influential to Scott’s tastebuds.

Scott adores Iced tea. Can have it all day long.(I am totally aghast, having grown up with hot tea for all occasions)  A G &T hits the spot for a social drink and once in awhile he will sit back with a scotch.

Whats next for Scott & how can we help him?

Scott is working on an Ipad application. He is also writing a book.  He is very excited about these design related products he is creating.  Loves the idea of using social media to share something he is passionate about.  So get ready to indulge a little in Scott’s passion.

Scott’s links

What do you think about what Scott shared?  comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Friday Focus – Interview with Scott Tjaden — 7 Comments

  1. Jennifer and Scott, I enjoyed this read about Scott who is talented, knowledgeable, witty, and a good friend. He’s done a project for us via his virtual DesignGuy services. I appreciate his aesthetics, and his excellent taste. Listening to the client is one of his many strengths.
    Kind regards,

    • Juliane so lovely to see you here. Scott is definitely all you say. Witty knowledgable with talent and kindness. It was a pleasure to do this interview.

  2. I just loved the interview…two creative people getting together is always a treat, and there are lots of insights from inspiration to the mechanics of the biz, to new directions in social media. A fascinating and fun interview. Ok, I now know what to make you two…pasta for both, and iced tea for Scott and served hot for you! Either way, like this engaging interview, tea for two!

    • Tea for too indeed Philip, You are a delight and I am thrilled to see you here. Cant wait for us to have pasta together!

  3. Loved this interview about Scott I have always found him to be engaging with a sense of humour and a wonderful social conscience. Thank you for bringing it to us Jen it has been a real treat discovering you as well.

  4. Loved this interview about Scott I have always found him to be engaging with a sense of humour and a wonderful social conscience. Thank you for bringing it to us Jen it has been a real treat discovering you as well.

    • Kaveri I really enjoyed chatting with Scott and laughing along with him. It has been a treat for me too to get to know you Kaveri

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