For such a widely recognized group of professionals, the general public has a lot of misconceptions about architects. Some people imagine brilliant but eccentric personalities, such as Frank Lloyd Wright or Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid. And others believe architects only matter in commercial design or for ultra rich residential properties.
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Architects are creative, and many do specialize in commercial or residential design. But many are everyday folks just doing a job.
Here’s how you can dispel some of the more prevalent misconceptions and help future clients understand the value in an architect’s work.
#1: Know Your Clients and Speak Their Language
- Myth: Hiring an architect is too costly.
- Truth: Architects aren’t prohibitively expensive, and the value is worth it.
Return on investment can be a tricky point to nail down. It’s easier for a commercial project. is Architect, managing director and CEO of RMC International, David Crowell, tells Design Intelligence that first, you must learn what matters to the client.
Crowell says the only way to know is to ask what specific outcomes the client wants from the project, such as getting more rental units from the square footage or attracting a certain demographic. From there, you can build out your value proposition to support the client’s goals.
Residential clients are a different story. A 2005 MIT master’s thesis by Jason Arden Millhouse suggests that the right approach is better real estate value, neighborhood revitalization, safety and a better “sense of place.”
#2: Believe in the Value of Your Work
- Myth: Smaller Projects Don’t Need an Architect.
- Truth: Bad design can ruin a small space.
Architect Andrew Benn tells Inside Out that residential clients tend to think the only time they need an architect is for a whole house design. Small projects, he says, seem easier to manage without the expense. And some clients think an architect wouldn’t be interested in a bathroom or kitchen renovation.
The truth is that small spaces and minor renovations also need the work of a professional. Benn says, “It’s often difficult for homeowners to see the impact small renovations can have on the home.” They rely on a big box store and a contractor, then wonder why the renovation didn’t turn out as they’d hoped.
Architects can see the big picture in a way that homeowners and general contractors sometimes can’t. Your value isn’t just in designing something wonderful, but also in avoiding permanent mistakes.
#3: Let Clients Know You Need Their Input
- Myth: Architects control the design
- Truth: Architects work better when they know what the client wants from the project.
The more eccentric architects can easily earn a reputation for vision-driven design and issuing lots of orders. But most architects really want client input.
Benn explains that the average architect won’t just as a few questions, they’ll expect a high level of client participation in the design process. But not every prospective client knows it.
The more you get to know clients, the more you’ll understand not just their own vision, but the lifestyle they have or want. Myriad factors go into good design. And the only way you can know is to ask.
Marketing isn’t always second nature for architects. But it’s a necessary evil for driving new business and staying out of a rut.
Architecture is highly technical, and that makes it mysterious to would-be clients. So part of your job is to draw back that mystical veil and show that you’re just a person doing a job that can add value to the client’s life.
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