Design Psychology: Understanding People to Create Soulful Spaces with Jennifer Bertrand

Constructing Brands Podcast

Episode #3

What You Will Learn:

  • The importance of using design psychology to truly understand clients - Jennifer emphasizes having in-depth conversations and asking probing questions to get at the core of how clients live and what will resonate with their personalities.
  • Taking a human-centered approach to design - Jennifer focuses on making people's lives better and happier through design, regardless of budget or status. Her goal is to make everyone feel seen and create soulful spaces.
  • creative process - From initial conversations to develop style insights, to creating online vision boards, to involving clients throughout. Jennifer customizes her process for each project.
  • The value of authenticity and vulnerability - Jennifer stresses being your true, authentic self as a designer and brand. She believes in dropping boundaries and not holding back.
  • The value of authenticity and vulnerability - Jennifer stresses being your true, authentic self as a designer and brand. She believes in dropping boundaries and not holding back.
  • Powerful brand storytelling through social media - Jennifer advocates for unexpected, fun brand storytelling across platforms like TikTok and Instagram to connect with audiences authentically.
  • Design for meaningful causes - Jennifer's passion projects designing for military families, medically fragile children, and Ronald McDonald Houses demonstrate using talents to make a difference.
  • The psychological impact of design elements - From considerations like color affecting emotions, to subtle branding touches, Jennifer thinks deeply about design influencing human experiences.

Renowned interior designer Jennifer Bertrand joins the show to discuss how she uses design psychology to understand clients, tell their stories, and create soulful spaces that make people happy. She shares her creative process and some of her most meaningful projects, including designing for military families and Ronald McDonald Houses. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of authenticity, risk-taking, and not being afraid to fail in order to grow professionally.

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[00:00:02] Eric L A N E L: Jennifer Bertrand, welcome to constructing brands. And by the way, Jennifer, anytime that we could put the word winner. In front of someone we’re talking to. That’s always great. So Jennifer Bertrand winner of HGTVs design star, welcome to constructing brands.
[00:00:20] Jennifer Bertrand: Yay, for having me. I know it’s like a pageant title I get to wear to my grave.
[00:00:26] Eric LAN EL: That’s right. That’s right. And the funny thing is, I don’t know if you actually have, so, so Jennifer, I’m so happy to have you on and I’ll, I’ll, I’m going to jump all around because I’ve met you before and I love your energy and so I know you could jump with me here. So this is going to be fun. Um, what I, and when I met you.
[00:00:44] Eric LANEL: At K biz, I think it was, um, which seems like about 10 years ago, but it was probably six months ago or so. Um, what impressed me so much was your [00:01:00] passion for taking your talent of design. And bringing it to people, not based on how big their pocketbook is, not based on, you know, where their, their title looks like, or, but based on using design to make people happy, taking your skills and your talents to, um, to people who, um, Maybe could use a little love and happiness in their life because they’re kind of, they’ve got a lot going on and, and, and trying to make a better world.
[00:01:35] Eric LANEL: You know, that, that, that kind of was what touched me about the conversation that we had and talk to me about it is, am I right? I mean, is that kind of your deal?
[00:01:45] Jennifer Bertrand: I do say that’s my deal and thank you for the kind words. ’cause honestly, I think our skillset as creatives and designers is to make people happy and we can make people’s lives better. And so often, like [00:02:00] in the design world, like I love the glamorous high-end snobby stuff. Like it’s awesome. However. Um, what better use of your skill set to also hit the masses? Why doesn’t everyone deserve great design? Like, why not make people’s lives better? I was trying to think of like, what made me different than everyone else is I like to think I’ve mastered kind of the psychology of design and how to figure people out and how to tell their story in their homes. In their workplaces and how to make it touch your soul just by walking through the door.
[00:02:38] Eric LANEL: That’s awesome. And, and, you know, it’s funny. I was just on a call with someone who smart, smart, smart lady. Um, Who was asking me, and this lady’s like a King maker kind of lady. You know what I mean? This, this lady is, she’s, she has different, um, people that she creates brands [00:03:00] around and then she, she creates the party of the brand and everyone comes to visit, you know, that’s her deal.
[00:03:08] Eric LANEL: And she’s awesome. And we were talking a little bit and she was, Asking me what I like about what I do. And I said, it’s really psychology meets sales. You know, it’s really kind of really understanding the true essence of like. If you dig down and you don’t cheat and you do your homework and you really get to know the brand in my case, the, you know, maybe the person or the company when you’re designing, if you really do, do that real work and really understand it, which is satisfying and awesome, because now you’re a personal edit, then you could build out of it.
[00:03:43] Eric LANEL: And, and, you know, you used the word psychology and, and I, and I think in it’s, it’s funny because if you, if you take it from that root level. Your chances of messing up aren’t, aren’t really that big because you’re doing it from a good place and you’re doing it from a sense of [00:04:00] really understanding what you’re doing.
[00:04:01] Eric LANEL: Is that how you take on every project?
[00:04:04] Jennifer Bertrand: it kind of is. Before you can create the beauty, you really have to get down and dirty and into the ugly parts of how someone lives and how they kind of, you know, I, I always tell my clients, I’m not going to judge. However you live is how you live and I high five you and I say it. And I come like with love.
[00:04:24] Jennifer Bertrand: I’m not going to all I want to do is make you live better in your space. And then when you think about it and you’re looking at families and you’re looking at couples or even commercial businesses, like making sure everyone has a voice, everyone feels seen. I think one of my biggest things I like to tell people is so often we just notice the shiny, pretty things in life. And I want, Everyone to feel seen I, so like when we film or do sets, I make sure I know everyone’s name and they think I’m not going to remember it. I will remember your name. Like, at the end of the week, I can go [00:05:00] through and name everyone’s name because I want them to know I see them. And so often brands or even designers don’t truly see people.
[00:05:10] Jennifer Bertrand: And it is such a vulnerability on our parts. To really kind of dig in deep. It takes longer, but it’s so worth it.
[00:05:18] Eric LANEL: That’s so cool. So now if I. I’m going to pivot to if I’m the CEO of a building material company,
[00:05:27] Jennifer Bertrand: Yep.
[00:05:28] Eric LANEL: and I want you to know about my product, what authentic way, what honest way, what way can I get in front of you or provide you with information or show you so that you really feel like, um, you’re getting the real true sense of how I could help you in what you’re trying to do.
[00:05:50] Jennifer Bertrand: Yeah, sometimes like if it’s a first introduction, it’s taking people out of their comfort zone from sitting behind a big desk talking to someone. But I’ll always start out with [00:06:00] how, like, let’s say a CEO wants to start the relationship, but I always go into any meeting and go, look, this is design dating.
[00:06:09] Jennifer Bertrand: You don’t, I may not be your cup of tea and you may not be mine. So let’s start off knowing there is no obligation other than to hear each other out. And then I always start by. Asking how, how you see your company, how have you told your story? What did you think worked? What didn’t work? All the standards.
[00:06:28] Jennifer Bertrand: But then after that, I start to kind of, part of it’s kind of like reading people. You can tell by asking those questions, what that CEO thought worked or didn’t work or all of that. But then you start to go, okay, that’s expected. Now, how can I turn it on its head and do it differently? So like I do consulting for companies and I’m with.
[00:06:50] Jennifer Bertrand: Like, right now we’re doing a hospital project in Chicago, there’s a grown up architecture team, it’s Chicago Northwestern, very grown up hospital, and I get brought [00:07:00] in to kind of shake it up and to do what’s not expected and to be pleasantly annoying, to kind of force them out of their comfort zone. So part of it’s just knowing what is your comfort zone, and, um, You know, to be seen nowadays, you, I mean, everyone wants authenticity and realness and rawness.
[00:07:19] Jennifer Bertrand: And I don’t think I could be fake even if I tried.
[00:07:23] Eric LANEL: I don’t think you can either. I mean, and, and I’ve just met you a few times, but it’s awesome too. It’s, it’s, it’s nice. It’s refreshing. It’s clean. Let me rephrase the question because I’m actually looking at it from a different, I want you to think about, so you are a design expert. You’re going to introduce colors, patterns, products to this hospital.
[00:07:49] Eric LANEL: For instance, Yeah.
[00:07:50] Jennifer Bertrand: Yeah.
[00:07:52] Eric LANEL: So if I’m a, if I’m a window shade manufacturer, because there’s big window curtains [00:08:00] and we know light is very important in hospitals. And so how do you cover those windows and how do you help people sleep when they want you to, when you want them to sleep or get in that wonderful light without it being distracting?
[00:08:12] Eric LANEL: And how am I, and I’m a, I manufacture window shades. How do I get in front of you to let you know? You, you, Jennifer, that this is a product that you might not know about because yeah,
[00:08:28] Jennifer Bertrand: I would say if you’re the brand and you wanted to start thinking about it, it goes. You have to ask yourself, what makes you special? What makes you stand out or different than any other window covering? And what is your versatility? Like as designers and creatives, we always want to know how far we can push a concept.
[00:08:46] Jennifer Bertrand: So you might be like, I literally just told you 45 different finishes. You can have it. And you’re asking about three. I don’t have. We can’t help it. That’s just our brain. We’re always going to go, but can you do this and this just because you want to constantly [00:09:00] push a concept or do something differently. Part of me just says one is like, what is it you bring to the table that can make people feel something? Even something as simple as window coverings. Let’s take that. It is texture. It is, you mentioned light, like right now. Sunshine and wellness like, well, this has been a trigger word for the last few years, but I think that people are realizing how much the sunshine affects the way we mentally and physically feel.
[00:09:30] Jennifer Bertrand: So, like, our hospital project, we’re doing transom skylights that are artificial light, but they’re done to circadian lighting. So it impacts the way everyone feels, but then also looking at your window coverings that. Yeah. They’re roll down art. They’re, you know, closing art. What else takes it to that next level?
[00:09:48] Jennifer Bertrand: I just think when, like, if you have something that can be vanilla ice cream, we’ll pitch a vanilla ice cream, but what are your sprinkles? What is your fudge?
[00:09:56] Eric LANEL: I love it. So you’re saying one, think if [00:10:00] you’re a brand, you need to think to get on your, to get you excited about the brand. Show me, don’t show me just the block and tackle. Show me How creative you could get and, and explore that creativity and show me like capabilities. What are ways that, that, that brain could get in front of you?
[00:10:18] Eric LANEL: Like what, what can they do to, to get on your plate now? So,
[00:10:22] Jennifer Bertrand: Yeah, so I mean of course at markets and places like kbiz that’s great because we can actually see it and like we’re judgy visual people So we do care about how your booth looks and I know every dollar matters But that’s how you can stand out. The other thing is I think sometimes it’s customer service It’s not even about that.
[00:10:42] Jennifer Bertrand: Your window shades can do a million different things. Maybe they are just that Simple and clean and awesome. But, um, as creatives and designers in the industry, if we can’t have good customer service, we can’t pitch a product. So if your company can’t stand behind its product, if [00:11:00] it can’t follow up, if it can’t answer technical questions, if we can’t have all the specs that we need to implement them, then it makes our job harder and we’ll move on to someone else.
[00:11:10] Jennifer Bertrand: Because. All of us are busy. We get it. But if you can lay it out and create a format that really just makes it easy for us to implement it into a project, then it’s really going to be something that we’re going to continue to go back to. I always tell my clients, there are going to be problems on job sites, no matter how tight they’re run.
[00:11:30] Jennifer Bertrand: It’s more how companies handle them or contractors handle them. Um, so whether a product or a company is great at what they do. Mm
[00:11:39] Eric LANEL: so let’s just say that, um, that skylight that you were mentioning that, that circadian rhythm scar skylight that helps produce that effect of this, of the sky and the sun.
[00:11:54] Track 1: Are they using digital tactics? Are they, I, I, you know, I’m always, I’m always. Like I’m a storyteller, [00:12:00] right? And I like to think about an honest truth. And then how do we tell that story? And how, and you’re, you’re in many cases, a target for my clients, right? So I have this opportunity to speak to Jennifer right here, who, who can tell, and I love your honesty, like, how are you, if I do a digital campaign and I show you all the ways, and I show you vision videos and I, and case studies and testimonials from other designers and architects and engineers who use the product, does that make you interested in it?
[00:12:32] Track 1: If I do Tik TOK videos, are you watching it that way? If I have fun with it, if I do, you know, like what is getting, How do I get that on your radar? I get once I’m on your radar, what you’re looking for, but how, how are we introducing ourselves to you in different ways in this day and age? Is it digitally?
[00:12:52] Track 1: Is it
[00:12:53] Jennifer Bertrand: Don’t you love watching people’s faces when you say tik tok cuz they either love it or they’re like, oh my gosh How [00:13:00] dare you and then they’re like worried. It’s gonna take over your life. But like ultimately I love when a brand Does something unexpected so like when they? either have humor with it, or they do something different.
[00:13:14] Jennifer Bertrand: You don’t have to have a million dollars anymore to create a positive campaign your kind of advertising world. It literally, you can go on TikTok, for example, and find companies that all they did was stop Getting in their own way. They stopped worrying about it. It’s like all those people who have tic tac, uh, tic tac accounts, but they don’t have a profile photo or a username.
[00:13:38] Jennifer Bertrand: They just watch videos, but they’re only a toe in the water and they’re too scared. I think as a business, it goes, what do you have to lose? If you’re wanting to create a splash, I mean, it’s getting someone to come try it. I always say you can like hire someone to make some videos. You don’t have to post them, let them have fun.
[00:13:56] Jennifer Bertrand: Yeah. Don’t put boundaries on them. Um, but let them, let them [00:14:00] say, okay, this would be my goal of sharing this. How would you do it? And then have like three different people do it that way and try something new. You look at like paint companies in small town, Ohio, who have like 300, 000 followers just because they’re either teaching, they’re entertaining, they’re funny, warm, fuzzy, always pays off puppies and babies and older people.
[00:14:23] Jennifer Bertrand: Everyone loves that. So I just think it’s. Um, as a brand having fun, letting go. I think we all got so uptight and now it’s just exhaling and just, um, back to your true, authentic self as a company.
[00:14:39] Track 1: so, so any brand that wants to get in front of you, if they’re, if they’re authentically themselves and they’re doing you, there’s tick tock, there’s Instagram, there’s stories, there’s YouTube, there’s. You’re all over that. I’m assuming
[00:14:55] Jennifer Bertrand: I, yep, I totally appreciate it. I still try to go to the design markets like [00:15:00] everyone, but sometimes I’m too slammed and I can’t do it. So, I will look for brands that are unexpected and I’m always trying to see what’s new or different. I also, I still follow other designers to kind of And I share like my kind of and likes with other designers because I think there’s room for all of us. There’s different mindsets for that, but like, why not? If I found something awesome, I want to share it with you as well. So, I mean, I think some brand social media probably freaks them out, but I just think, um, why wouldn’t you try it? It doesn’t cost tons to do it anymore. And there’s always an intern. Um, one woman I interviewed on a panel, she had, I don’t know, I, let’s say 400, 000 followers.
[00:15:48] Jennifer Bertrand: Her son did her videos. Her son did it. So like, and it literally wasn’t even on a stand. It’s him holding the phone. So sometimes I think it’s just getting out of your own way. [00:16:00] Yeah.
[00:16:05] Track 1: fascinated by this type of like how creative gets create. I know me if I’m writing a script, I go to a coffee shop there or a diner or a and I pad and paper. There’s a pen I like to use. And I write the different narratives and the, and, and so that’s how I get into it.
[00:16:26] Track 1: When you’re thinking about creating a space, designing, what’s your, your creative process? Is it pen and paper? Is it a computer? Is it a iPad? Is it a
[00:16:38] Jennifer Bertrand: You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m probably a bit of all of it, but I start with the people, the clients. So part of it is just conversation and talking and getting to know them. So like, I’ll ask dumb stuff. So let’s say I was designing your space. I’d be like, Hey, when, if someone gave you a free vacation right now, where would you go?
[00:16:57] Jennifer Bertrand: Where would you go?
[00:16:59] Track 1: free [00:17:00] vacation?
[00:17:00] Jennifer Bertrand: Yep. Anywhere in the world. Look, he’s pondering it. You’re taking this seriously. I appreciate that.
[00:17:09] Track 1: I might get a free vacation out of this. I mean,
[00:17:12] Jennifer Bertrand: Now
[00:17:12] Track 1: and I, you know, you want to know the sickest part what’s going through my head is my wife, if, if I’m taking my wife and I, I know this unselfish thing would be. A great beach resort because she’s been saying, you know, we need to, like, I really need that getaway.
[00:17:25] Track 1: So the partner in me says some great beach resort.
[00:17:32] Jennifer Bertrand: Mmm.
[00:17:32] Track 1: guy is saying, where’s the best golf vacation I’ve ever been to, or would like to go to. So I I’ve got this too. That’s the challenge that’s going back and forth, but I think I’d go with the beach vacation for my wife because she’s, she’s been, yeah.
[00:17:46] Track 1: So that’s where it would be.
[00:17:47] Jennifer Bertrand: But see, if you take just that response right there, you went, okay, you went selfless, and you thought of your partner, and you thought beach, so I’m like, okay, doesn’t, doesn’t work. Hate blues and fresh and [00:18:00] sunshine and then golf. I’m like greens and and like, okay He’s athletic as well. So it really is kind of like a warshock test I start with the warshock test of design of feedback from people and questions and response I ask where they buy clothes and like because let’s say for example, where do you buy?
[00:18:18] Jennifer Bertrand: What kind of clothes do you like? What brands do you like?
[00:18:22] Track 1: Kind of like golf, golf brands, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, you know,
[00:18:26] Jennifer Bertrand: But see, golf brands usually are somewhat preppy. They’re tailored. There’s certain color palettes usually associated. I have some clients who are golfers that they’ll have stuff that’s a little more whimsical
[00:18:39] Track 1: I’m muted. I’m, I’m like the blue, blue pants and blue shirt or gray shirt and gray pants, very monotone, not stick out. You know, that kind of white shoes, you know,
[00:18:52] Jennifer Bertrand: that tells me you’re probably more classic in what you love. So a lot of times, people don’t hire me for me to [00:19:00] regurgitate my personal style on them. I always think there’s two types of designers and creatives, and you get hired for your style to be infused into it, which, I mean, I like to think I have great style.
[00:19:11] Jennifer Bertrand: I’m a little more of a risk taker than most people. And it’s kind of like when I meet clients for the first time. Sometimes I look like I’m a failed rapper. Sometimes I’m dressed up. You never know. But I tell them, don’t worry. Like, I’m not going to do this to you. So really it’s just getting to know their, their kind of style and their brand.
[00:19:31] Jennifer Bertrand: But so I start with the talking and then after that I start to create online notebooks. I involve them in the process. It’s very personal. And then depending on the budget is how that journey unfolds after
[00:19:43] Track 1: you say online notebooks. What, what’s that? Is there a program you use? Is there a, what do you do?
[00:19:49] Jennifer Bertrand: I’m, I’m really old school and simple. Sometimes it’s just a Google slide document.
[00:19:54] Jennifer Bertrand: So, you know, some projects are big projects. We’re on co construct or construction online and all of [00:20:00] that. And, but sometimes I have some clients that they’re just visual. It’s simple, easy. I can drop anything in. You don’t need any skillset. They can always check it. It makes them feel good. And like, I, I just kind of, I blend to whatever process I need to go into, but even my Ronald McDonald House projects in Chicago, I’ll create an online notebook.
[00:20:21] Jennifer Bertrand: It’s something really visual to reference. We work with a lot of like high end donors who are donating a lot of money, so there’s something visual. They just need to be able to show a donor to kind of say this is what we’re doing. Laughs
[00:20:36] Track 1: I mean what i’m hearing from you is you’re a professional and every professional It’s funny no matter what you I i’ve had friends who who come at me at parties say I have a great idea for a tv commercial for a champagne company and the answer is well That’s great. If I had a champagne company as a client, but I don’t, so that’s great.
[00:20:55] Track 1: That, you know, as a professional, you kind of have to understand who you’re [00:21:00] working with and what they’re doing, not what you want to do. And that’s what professionals do. And it starts off with your process, right? Getting to know the people and asking questions and. And getting, so
[00:21:16] Track 1: tell me about the most passionate project that you’ve played with and why it’s been passionate to you. Like what, what got you?
[00:21:26] Jennifer Bertrand: so, well, I, I, you and I talked briefly about my personal story, but I have a son who’s had 20 surgeries. I have an adventure that most people probably haven’t had. Um. So the elevator 32nd is I want a reality reality show on HGTV found. I was pregnant at five months. They said he had a tumor on birth.
[00:21:49] Jennifer Bertrand: They said worse than a tumor. Trach feeding tube nurses 18 hours a day started flying to New York 20 surgeries and treatments coded on us. Husband resuscitate [00:22:00] lost our house, our car, everything. So imagine that, and then family helped us, friend helped us, our son’s now a bratty 14 year old, which is awesome, but needs more surgeries.
[00:22:11] Jennifer Bertrand: So when you have gone through a journey like that, um, you go back to the core of the basics of just being a human. Like, I couldn’t be snobby about things, even though I, I, Secretly still in very shallow, um, but I, I just appreciate the basics because I was brought back down to such humbleness in life that I understood as we had lost everything and built ourselves back up after 10 years. how your environment impacted the way you felt. So I took everything that happened to us, I’m annoyingly positive, and I think I could either dwell on it and be in the fetal position and about it forever, or I could say, you know what, what did I learn from that? And that’s how I work. So instead, [00:23:00] I turned it into a positive.
[00:23:02] Jennifer Bertrand: I now, we stayed at Ronald McDonald Houses. I now design Ronald McDonald Houses. I know how those families feel when you check in at midnight and you’ve got oxygen machines and trach machines, you know, like a suction machine and stuff like that. I know how those families feel when you’re fighting, you know, your child’s over a million in medical and, and the, how does the space, you don’t want, how gray bedroom walls.
[00:23:26] Jennifer Bertrand: Your life already feels gray. And then you take my dad was military and we traveled the world, moved every two to four years, lived in Germany, went to school in Holland, taught on the Navy base in Italy. So then I take that military concept of making new friends easily, um, taking design visual cues from around the world.
[00:23:48] Jennifer Bertrand: So I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun projects. My favorites are like loving on families who’ve been through, um, medical stuff. And then I also do a show, um, with my family. With military [00:24:00] veterans and I just love loving on military veterans. I think so right now everyone’s so divided I don’t care what anyone believes in.
[00:24:08] Jennifer Bertrand: I just want us to all high five each other and just You know just help each other. I’m a nerd
[00:24:15] Track 1: I love it. I love it. Is there one, is there one that comes to mind when you’re thinking about it that just gives you the chill still or gives you the, what was it? Tell us that story. What was it?
[00:24:25] Jennifer Bertrand: So we did on military makeover. We did a makeover for one of the widows of the Parkland school shooting. Her husband was the athletic director. Her name’s Debbie Hickson. Um, As a human, no matter what you believe in, you can’t not relate to. It was Valentine’s Day. They said goodbye. She never saw him again, and her heart still hurts all these.
[00:24:48] Jennifer Bertrand: You know, I think it’s like four years later, and we got to go in and do a makeover. So imagine doing a makeover. where some of the things in her house were the last thing he ever did in the house. [00:25:00] So we just had conversations of talking about how do we honor him? How do we not make her live in a time capsule? It’s not even about the design at that point. It’s really just about helping her heart heal and not make her have to live in that and give her the chance to move forward and go from there. So how can you not? Go that was an awesome makeover and the whole community came out it made national news. It was really awesome
[00:25:29] Track 1: That’s nice. I got one question in closing and it’s, it’s, and this whole show is what I like about it is I get an opportunity to speak to people who really are. Unique, interesting, fearless people who kind of take it on, right? They, and so what is the quality that you, that you have, that you feel like helps you take it on, um, and, and grow your professionalism and really [00:26:00] make it happen.
[00:26:01] Jennifer Bertrand: I’m not scared to mess up and I love a risk How are you ever gonna be better at something if you don’t try and fail if you’re scared of failing? You’re never gonna go to that next level. So i’m a risk taker and i’m not scared to mess up
[00:26:18] Track 1: Love it, Jennifer. It was so nice spending time with you again, speaking with you. Thank you so much.
[00:26:26] Jennifer Bertrand: me. Yay. Yay. Thank you. And anyone listening, just have fun, take risks, and do your thing, and shine. Yay. Yay. Thank you.
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