Good design starts with good conversation

The client’s conversation with the design team begins with the brief.

This should not be seen as a complete statement of what is to be commissioned but as a discussion document to which the design team will respond and that will grow through the project. Time must be allowed for brief development, through properly resourced workshops to agree functional requirements, space standards and other design parameters.

Our role is to create a platform where this important relationship can flourish. Each side needs to be sensitive to when the other has a difficulty. Architects must give the client time and support to understand what a drawing means in terms of space and scale. Often a simple model or computer-generated walk-throughs will help.

Clients need to give the design team clear guidance about their own organisational dynamics and decision-making process, including arrangements for stakeholders to give their input; adequate time for these deliberations must be factored into the design programme. For instance, it is dangerous for an architect to tell the client that a drawing has to be approved by next week to avoid the project going into delay, when the client does not understand all the implications of giving an approval.

Clients must also communicate the wider organisational risks attached to the project so they are shared as widely as possible, with risk management as the thread running through everything – the brief, procurement and the whole working relationship with design and construction teams. At the same time it is vital that the importance of good design is communicated. It is a must-have, not an optional extra.