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  • Alexeus Nicol

The Importance of Understanding Your Client

In her article, Learn Your Client's Thinking Style, Mrs. Dietrich emphasizes the need to understand how your client thinks. She states, some people design by seeing the final design and finding products similar to those in the proposed design. Others want more direct input and want to be involved step by step throughout the design process, choosing each design element at a time.

Mrs. Dietrich works primarily in a whole to part context in her interior design work. As architects, we also tend to work in this way, though on a more extreme level, working from the design concept down to the tiniest of details. While we tend to present final products, we try to include our clients throughout the process with material reviews and concept discussions.

During my experience working with the city of North Beach, MD, I noticed that we tended to struggle when talking to the citizens about big picture ideas. For example, we asked them what they wanted in a redesign of their city and they struggled responding. We had to reapproach our questions and instead asked what certain groups did in the city and investigated what these groups might like to do and what they thought was missing for these groups in their city. They were thinking part to whole rather than whole to part. They knew they wanted a theater but beyond that they could not communicate their desires for the city. They feared that the building would not fit into the context of North Beach and would overpower the small beach town atmosphere but could not identify what atmosphere they desired.

During my personal design of the civic building for North Beach, I initially knew that I needed to blend the building into the city. I studied many beach towns and noted how designers approached large building ventures, such as shopping malls. I also studied buildings around North Beach to understand the materials typically used. I ensured that materials similar to those already implemented within North Beach were used in my design of the civic building.

When presenting my project to the review committee − consisting of architects and residents of North Beach − I emphasized the materials of the space as well as its atmosphere rather than the architectural concepts. I knew that the architects would be able to see the concepts without emphasizing them and that if I did begin to talk about them, then I might confuse or lose the interest of the townspeople. The end result was the satisfaction of the townspeople for designing a building that fit into their town and fulfilled their design requirements and satisfaction from the architects for higher level architectural thinking and good presentation skills. This was achieved by presenting in a style that satisfied both design thinking styles and understanding what material to leave of the wall.

It is extremely important to understand how your client thinks. Our industry requires us to understand and communicate with others with which we are not familiar to analyze our client’s needs in a relatively short amount of time. We must do this in order to succeed in our design and make a profit in order to sustain our practice.

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