Famous architect Frank Ghery said, “I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do.” Many designers know that the relationship between a designer and a client is often a delicate dance where the needs and vision of the client have to be carefully balanced with the creativity of the design team. Designers often want to push clients to be bolder in their goals and ideas, and clients can easily become upset if they feel that their needs aren’t being met.

Building projects are expensive and at the end of the day, the client is handing over hard-earned money for the project so you need to make sure that you are meeting the brief. Here are a few tips and pointers to make sure you stay on track throughout the process:

1. Establish open communication from the get-go
The first meeting is generally centred on establishing a connection with the client. Make sure you are meeting the client in person and that you project yourself and your team as transparent, open communicators who are receptive to input and ideas. Let them see your work (if they haven’t before) and focus on establishing a good rapport with the decision-makers that you will be working with.

“Great value buildings for people, communities, investors and owners alike are only possible with architects who work well with their clients,” – David Partridge, managing partner, Argent

2. Ask as many questions as possible
You need to understand the ins and outs of the client’s business and the project that you will be bringing to life. Miscommunication and disappointment can often be avoided by asking many questions before the planning phase kicks off.

“Architects need to be business analysts – you need to understand how the client’s business works,” – Andrew Bugg, partner, head of project and building consultancy at Knight Frank

3. Create a feedback loop based on timelines, goals and deadlines
An ongoing feedback loop, where everyone is brought to the same table to discuss deliverables and goals, can help you stay on track throughout the project.

“Good collaboration is the only way to achieve construction quality viably in a cost-constrained world, especially in public projects and frameworks where value for money is critical,” – Lyndsay Smith, architect

4. Have alternative options up your sleeve
Telling a client that something isn’t possible is the quickest way to sour a relationship. Be open to possibilities that are presented to you and don’t let preconceived notions stop you from exploring different ways to be creative.

If the client is suggesting something that isn’t be feasible, make sure you can explain clearly why it won’t work (a good way to do this is through Building Information Modelling or other 3D imaging software that can give the client a visual representation of different scenarios).

Suggesting alternatives will also help you meet them half way. These suggestions are often rooted in out-of-the-box thinking and the use of technologically advanced solutions that may or may not have been used before.

“If you go wrong after planning permission, then you lose the benefit you gained at the early stages. The technical side generates huge value,” – Richard Cook, director, Lend Lease

“Protecting the project vision requires architects to be ‘inventively flexible’.” – Stephen Hodder

5. Be clear about your process
Not every project follows the same process and different design teams follow different phases with a project. Be clear with the client about the step-by-step process that you follow from the conceptualisation phase to completion.

An open, collaborative spirit is one of the key ingredients to meeting and exceeding client briefs. The opportunities for architects are plentiful, but to unlock these opportunities one needs to adapt to clients’ needs and demonstrate how design skills, experience and insights add value. Clients not only need designers’ creativity and vision, they rely on the problem-solving abilities that are brought to the table during the project.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.dnarchitecture.com, www.nestopia.com and www.architecture.com for the information contained in this article.