Selling Art to Interior Designers with JND
November 23, 2013 by Barney Davey

The Just Noticeable Difference (JND) Scale for Artists

This a guest post by Dick Harrison, the author of Sales Tips For Artists. His previous guest postHow to Sell Art To Interior Designers, remains one of the most popular posts among the 500+ published on this blog.

What Is the JND Scale?
  1. So that negative changes such as reductions in product size or quality, or increase in the product price are not discernible to the public. That is, they remain below the JND.
  1. So that product improvements, for example, improved or updated packaging, larger size or lower prices, are obviously apparent to consumers without being wastefully extravagant. That is, they are at or just above the JND.

Presentation Drives Perceptions – Seeing Is Believing

The  JND Scale is a psychophysics term. It is used for a variety of purposes, including marketing, to measure small differences people notice.

According to Wikipedia, “Manufacturers and marketers endeavor to determine the relevant JND for their products for two distinctly different reasons:
When it comes to product improvements, marketers very much want to meet or exceed their buyer’s differential threshold. Simply, they want to make it easy for consumers to appreciate any improvements made in the original products and not observe negative aspects. If they increase the size of the product, they make the packaging larger. If they reduce the size of the product, they keep the packaging size the same."

It is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but I think the concept of the JND Scale helps to explain why equally well-done work by some artists sells steadily when work by others does not. Often, the JND in what or how artists create is subtle, but perceptible, in ways that makes selling art by them easier and faster. Interior designers’ work is all about visual interpretation and perception. The best are JND masters.

Selling Art to Interior Designers

For more than 20 years, I was an independent, full-time art rep selling to leading interior designers and art galleries in Florida. During that time, I came to know some artists had a JND to their work while others did not. This was despite equal technical skills, materials used and similar subject matter. The JND Scale explained the difference.
Invariably, when I placed comparable pieces of art, suitable in color and theme to a client’s project, I nearly always knew which would be chosen. Although both were exceptional works of art that I was pleased to offer, those that sold quickly and easily had the JND. Often, the buyer could not elaborate their buying decision, but my experience let me know the JND drove the sale.

My staples were landscapes, florals, birds, animals, and beach and water scenes. Many talented artists create art that match that general description. Most of these subjects and scenes were of places the customer already knew, or would like to see. My top selling pieces were those that evoked a desire in buyers to want hang the work in their home or office so they could enjoy looking at it every day. In my experience, it was in the way an artist approached his or her creation that affected the JND Scale.

Interior Designers Loved Ken Hawk — He Personified JND

Ken Hawk was one of my bestselling artists. His flair for color and brilliant palette, used on whatever he painted, was what set him on the JND Scale. My Florida based buyers could not resist the unique way he used color.

Interior designers loved to mix it into their commercial and residential designs. Collectors wanted to own it. Certainly having a remarkable colorful palette like Ken’s, which was so crucial to the many interior designers with whom I worked, is one way artists can bring the JND Scale into their work.

Interior Designers Love Colors that Complement

Interior designers loved Ken Hawk
Other ways I see the JND Scale fitting into an artist’s work are when it has a rather unexpected viewpoint of a subject. Sometimes, it was because the subject that although it might have fit into one of the broad categories mentioned above, was presented in a way the buyer had never or rarely seen.

Christina Wyatt’s Work Is an Example of the Unexpected Viewpoint

Christina Wyatt’s work is a perfect example of the unexpected viewpoint of a subject. I met her through Barney Davey, publisher of this Art Print Issues blog.
She tells me a number of other Florida artists are now painting mermaid subjects, which is an unfortunate byproduct of being successful and unique. Without question, at the time I was actively selling art in my Florida territory that is fascinated and surrounded by things aquatic, I would have sold lots of her gorgeous underwater creatures – real and imagined as hers are – with great success.

While her original work and her fine art prints are something my buyers might not have at first expected to hang on their walls, they would have eventually succumbed finding it too exotic and wondrous to resist. That is the power of the JND Scale at work. 

Christina Wyatt
Christina Wyatt – The Mermaid’s Sanctuary

Nike Parton - Freedom and Spontaneity

Nike Parton was a Florida artist, who probably had the most “free” watercolor style I’ve run across. She built a loyal following of devoted collectors and interior designers through her long life. They loved her unique style. It was the ability to create what at first glance seemed a “careless” brush stroke, but was work that spoke volumes. It was realism so “loose” in technique that it caught the subject in a way a detailed “like it is” could not. You can see more of her work, and spontaneous style, on
JND and Pricing Art

Nike Parton's work delighted interior designers and collectors

Nike Parton – The Caretaker’s House

If you are at that hoped for the point when you are selling so much art, or where you think the current price point for your images needs upward adjustment, the JND Scale can come into play just as it does for the “manufacturers” mentioned in the definition at the start of this article. If your JND is in place, your new pricing will not be so obvious to induce a buyer to hesitate to purchase it. Or, perhaps your smaller pieces are now selling at prices similar to what your larger pieces sold for before you applied the JND Scale to your work.

I suggest you critically look at your own work. You may find it has the JND that sets it apart. Knowledgeable designers, art buyers, and collectors can look at a piece of art and say, “That has to be done by so and so.” Compared to other artists you are selling against does your art exhibit that distinction?

Always think of your work with a capital “A” to set it apart in your mind. This is how you want it perceived in the minds of your collectors. They need help to decide they want your unique creations enough to pay new higher prices for your worthy talent, hard work and creativity.

Many artists understandably shudder at being lumped in with the manufactures of everyday products with discussion of such things as the JND Scale, but the truth is you do manufacture a product. Your art is both a creation of your skill and innovation and a production. There is no shame in that. Likewise, there is no shame is working at putting the JND Scale to use in your art career.

It is not about calculating how to create work made to sell. It is about making work that makes you happy. Art you are proud to have made and proud to know it is easily finds a place to be loved and appreciated. When your work comes from the heart of your creativity, excels in its presentation, and touches buyers and motivates sales, the JND Scale is nothing more than a way to think about why you are successful from a business perspective. When you are selling art regularly, the result of fattening up your bank account cannot hurt either.

There is another JUST NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE (JND) I’ll write about in another article or blog that every artist can use to increase sales. The working title is: I’M NOT A SALESMAN! – REALLY?

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