Project Team Members: The Client
I recently wrote an article for the Spring 2014 edition of Arizona Residential Architects publication discussing the importance of a quality team in any project and how vital it is they work as a cohesive team and not individuals. Every player has their part and when each role is handled professionally and with integrity the project goes well. In particular, I wanted to discuss what the responsibility of the designer is in relation to each of these team members.
The first team member is, of course, the client. They are the initiator and the inspiration for the entire project; it is their desire, their dream, their personality and their funding that allows the project to take shape. It is the designer’s responsibility to work with the clients and get to know them on an intimately detailed level. At IMI, as part of our Smart LuxuryTM program, we developed our Lifestyle AnalysisTM. This is a tool we use that was specifically designed to get information from the client that they would generally never realize has an impact on the design of their home. By the end of the Lifestyle AnalysisTM our team knows everything from the clients’ response to color, form and style to their aesthetic preferences as well as non aesthetic pieces of information ranging from how their entertain, how their children do homework and even how they like their sock drawer organized. This knowledge set allows the designer to begin developing the concept that will speak to the client aesthetically while also fulfilling the needs of their space.
The designer also needs to educate the client throughout the process but particularly at its outset. Once the designer has a good idea of the desires and expectations the client has, the reality of these desires need to be discussed. Occasionally they are reasonable in appropriate but, generally speaking the client has high, if not unreasonable, expectations for the process. Those expectations can range from time frames to budget and anything in between. Keep in mind, the things that seem second nature to you as a designer are not the area of expertise for the client. They have no reason to know any different. That is where the education comes in.
When a project at IMI gets kicked off we walk the clients through our Smart LuxuryTM program. This program sets a standard for expectations relate to timelines—what we will be delivering to the client and when—as well as providing a set of generalities related to the budget. Every project has its own unique challenges but with a solid foundation those challenges can be met with minimal interruption.
All the project team members are working towards the goal of providing the client with a phenomenal end product they can all be proud of. But it falls particularly to the designer to be the client’s advocate throughout the process due to the level of personal involvement between designer and client being greater than that between the client and the other team members. This is particularly possible when the designer is brought into the project at an early stage. However, it tends to be more common for the designer to be one of the last, if not the last, team member to be retained for a project. Once so many decisions have already been made the designer becomes extremely restricted in what is possible without causing significant delays in the process. Keep this in mind the next time you start a project!