FAQs on the pre-design process

“Do I really need pre-design consultancy services?”

Here is my straight up answer; If you have an idea for a project AND you want to safely explore this to open up all possibilities at the most creative stage when it won’t cost anything to change your mind then yes, you need a pre-designer.Most people think that their building design project starts with talking to an architect or even going directly to a contractor. Construction industry people think that a project starts life with a feasibility study. An architect or designer starts with their interpretation of what they think the client wants.

Having been both a designer and a client in my career, as well as a construction industry professional, I can say that in order to achieve the essence of the project and factor in all the grace and magic that can be, a client needs to get clear on what that original dreamed essence is.

Now here some people get a little scared! “…But I don’t know how to do that, that’s what the architect or interior designer is for. They will take the images I pulled from magazines and come up with something for me” But how do you even select a suitable architectural firm for your project without first getting clarity on what you want to create? Even if you do select an appropriate creative team, without being clear, what often happens is that you have your first meeting and you find you are no longer the leader because you (unconsciously) abdicate.

Some of my private clients who have had this experience told me that it was the jargon, the unfamiliar process and the feeling of being out numbered, that made them feel that they were not 'chief dreamer' anymore.

In a corporate situation this can be further complicated because the client is an organisation, often represented by too many stakeholders too early, confusing the design team. The true originator of the design vision, often a Chairperson or CEO, is usually not present at design briefing meetings nor are they the ones writing the Request For Proposals. Therefore if that initial vision was not interpreted correctly, then that will lead to much wasted time, effort and money.

'What is pre-design strategy exactly?'

Pre Design Strategy is about looking at all possibilities first. It's about allowing the best possible solutions to emerge at the very best time, at the beginning.

'How do I work with my conscious intention?'

Just by using active inquiry into the thread of an idea in your creative imagination. The object is to find out just what is that will make you happiest. What you want to see created or changed. We delve in and go deep to explore and tease out threads of your dreams in order to organise and document them. From there real world action is spring-boarded in the right direction.

'Why pay attention first?'

Focused curiosity reveals a seam of wisdom. Gaining this wisdom early means that key design decisions can made at the beginning before it has cost you anything; that is before work starts on digging foundations, before paying out major fee retainers etc.

'Why do I need to get involved? Why can’t I just hire a designer and get on with it?'

Of course you can. It may seem faster to do that. For me however, it's all about paying attention to my client’s ultimate happiness AND the best realization of their project. This means starting with their WHY. It’s worth it because it seems to result in a felt sense experience greater than the sum of the parts.

'But can’t I just trust my designer to know what it is I want?'

Trust me, as a designer I wish I always had a very clear brief from my clients. This would have best served my client, served me (and the firm I worked for), served the whole design team and ultimately the building itself. Where there wasn’t a clear brief on a project I noticed the slow emergence of uncertainty on all sides of the meeting table. A creeping uncertainty; that feeling of missing the mark somehow, resentments, dissatisfactions or pure annoyances at something which cannot be put right as it is just too late or too damn expensive. All unpleasant, but all such feelings can, quite honestly be avoided.

'What is my takeaway from the pre-design process?'

At the end of the process you have a written document, full of sketches and early layout plans, together with precedent imagery and site and location information. I call this the Briefing Directive Document. This tells the complete story of how you want to experience your final built environment.

'Can you give me a residential example?'

If you want to have a terrace to enjoy the setting sun while eating dinner cooked out there then that directive will be fully communicated by calling out all the practical things that you will need to make that a pleasant experience. Things like plumbing, heating or cooling, shade, versatility, cooking, serving and cleaning up facilities. If you dream of the majesty of nature and want to make the very best use of your property’s location so that the night sky’s stars can be viewed from bed? Absolutely. That's exactly the type of requirement I write in for you.

'A corporate example?'

If having enough meeting spaces AND having the smart technology that coordinates them is imperative then that will be fully outlined here too. Making sure that the way visitors to your company are received can’t be left until later. An intentional brand experience is written in right from the beginning.

'What can I do with the Briefing Directive Document?'

Depending on the scale of your project this document will have enough information in it to enable your dream to be costed by a cost consultancy firm or professional. Attach it to RFPs or RFIs sent to architectural design practices you are keen engage. Take it when approaching contractors, building firms and construction companies. It will help them more accurately assess how to cost and build elements of your project. Use it to brief a building design feasibility team.

'Why did you start offering this pre designing service?'

Because I wanted to help smooth the design process for all involved. It’s a passion born out of seeing issues with my own eyes that I knew could have been avoided. Also because I love to be at that place where ideas emerge. It doesn’t matter if the idea is mine or not mine. I guess I am crazy about both! I design myself to express my ideas, I blog, and I have created this site! But really I am also head over heels about your ideas and helping you advance them so you can enjoy the built reality of them.