How Do You Get Great Design on Your Project?
March 15, 2018
Great design takes patience.
When people ask me what one thing they can bring to the table when they’re about to work on a project, I always think of one word: patience. A good project takes a long time and rarely benefits from being rushed. Conversations with clients who want to plow ahead with speed being the number one priority are always challenging. Invariably, they opt out of some services and the outcome is usually not as smooth as it should be. So what happens when you plow ahead and skip some of the steps in the interest of time?
Let’s first talk about design and what that means. Design, while certainly a service, is most definitely not a commodity. Well, good design isn’t a commodity. It takes time, exploration, dead-ends, and lots of crazy and complicated sessions where we beat our heads against a wall. Skipping those steps means you get something that might just meet the program of what you want, but it won’t delight you. A good design should just sing! Give it the time it needs.
Design is also not a one-and-done phase. While we lock down the concepts of a design during the early Schematic Design phase, the phases that follow — in particular the Design Development and the Construction Documents phases — help develop that design into something that is more than just a good idea: it is a good idea that is developed, refined, and can actually be built! Skipping one of these phases means you’ll end up with something sort of like what was designed, but likely not executed properly.
Isn’t that good enough sometimes? Yes and no. There are always budgets to consider, and, of course, design services cost money. However, my advice when you have a tight budget is to reduce your scope. If you can’t do everything you want to at the quality level you want, focus down, and target a few areas you can execute well. If you stretch out your design budget over too much area, you will end up not really executing anything to the highest level.
Think about it this way: during the Schematic Design phase, you are paying thousands of dollars to have us generate a beautiful and compelling concept. It is something you fall in love with. If you opt out of taking that idea through fruition in the later phases, you may end up with a space that reminds you of the idea you loved, but it may not quite hit the mark you had hoped it would. Maybe the details weren’t drawn, and so the contractor had to make assumptions that turned out to be incorrect. Maybe something came up in construction that means that the original idea needed an adjustment. Who knows, there really is a laundry list of things that can cause projects to stray from the design intent if there is no one there making sure that they don’t.
As an example, check out the shot of the dining room above. Getting this space to look beautiful wasn’t just as simple as laying out the floor plan during Schematic Design. We had to draw elevations, review finishes and furniture selections, and detail it all out so it could be executed per our design intent. The reality is, that a good idea has to go from idea to execution to really protect your investment.
Wait? What do you mean by investment?
When a client calls us because they want us to “draw up some plans because they already know what they want,” that’s typically a red flag for us signaling that we won’t be the right fit. The value we bring lies in our ideas and our ability to execute them. When a client hires us, the money they pay us is an investment into a design that will make their project better than if they hadn’t hired us. We have heard from numerous clients that their finished projects appraised for much higher than anyone thought. Why? Because they invested in a design process and that investment paid off in an amazing and beautifully-executed project.
In the end, sit down with your architect or designer and talk through the available services and what the risk and rewards are for opting in or out of each. Our services are largely à la carte and we’re happy to walk you through the pros and cons of what services would be best for your budget. We want to not only design and execute a beautiful project, but also have a client who feels their budget is respected.
There can be a fear that architects and designers are trying to keep selling you services beyond your needs. I can promise you, there is no joy in convincing a client to spend money they don’t want or need to. Our only goal is to provide a service that is a value to you: to create a gorgeous design that provides a high return on your investment.
Know the steps along the way of your project and know the risks and rewards of skipping them. Like anything in life, go into each scenario with your eyes wide open and you’ll end up with a better result.
And in the meantime, be patient, the beauty in design is worth the time.