Confidence vs. Arrogance

Clients expect us to know something, even the ones that think they know everything.  Caving to a client's every whim diminishes the project and probably leaves them less satisfied with the end result than if we had really been advocates for the approach that all of the experience and knowledge we have leads us to believe is best.  I recently ran across several articles whose authors must have mind melded with me:

from  Mary Breuer's article "Hire the People Your Clients Value" (who herself cites two other design professionals):
Clients can perceive a personal conviction that an individual has about his/her ability to bring value to the project and to the relationship. For reasons too complex to go into here, the design professions have tended to become insecure and somewhat timid. Art Gensler … again in The Executive Architect: “People in the profession don’t value what they provide. They’re so eager to provide something, that they don’t place an economic value on it” Jim Cramer argues for the importance of conviction in his book Design Plus Enterprise: “Clients are not looking for architects who pressure the design process with a peacock display of ego or, more troublesome, jerk around the design team. Instead, they’re in the market for professionals who know their own strengths and deliver the goods with full confidence.”
and from (of all places) the July 2010 issue of Vogue in Patrick Kinmonth's profile of garden designer Jinny Blom:
Blom says, "In the early days, when perhaps I was too eager to please, I was walking with {a client} and she said, "You know, Jinny, you must never let the client get the upper hand- it's the garden that matters.'"

Capture Organizational Goals in the Built Environment

Design's role in the healing process is complicated.  Simply having talented and experienced practitioners execute floor plans and exterior forms based upon a program will produce a beautiful building, but not yield the intended result.  Instead, there must be an internal commitment to providing patient centered care. 
1.       Hospitals must cultivate a culture that values patient centered design. 
2.       Hospitals must commit themselves and their staff to the design process so that it can be fully communicated to and studied by the design professionals. A true dialogue must be established for the intent to be realized in the built environment. 
3.       The care model must look at design from the point of view of patients, family and staff.
4.       Design features that will specifically enhance the care of patients must be identified and a commitment must be made to keep them as part of the project.

Don't settle for good when you can be great

I think that so much of the time design professionals have trouble taking charge of their work and therefore their projects.  This results in an atrophying of our own professional vision, and can make the design goals of our projects so muddied that we cannot recognize them halfway through the process.   If you work for a firm, you may find your ability to lead blunted by the agenda of its owners- that may accomplish other tangential company goals, but cause an individual project to suffer.  I just read a great article by James P. Cramer published in DesignIntelligence update  that I think really deals well with how to motivate yourself and your project team, including owners and consultants to be visionary and accomplish great things.

Are you being sabotaged by your talents?

An interesting employee assessment tool I read about called the Hogan Development Survey provided some insight into how sometimes we can be our own wost enemies when we think that we are actually exhibiting leadership, creative thinking, and being a good team player.  What is ironic is the number of times employers or even clients actually encourage or expect us to embody one or more of these traits, then turn it around and criticize the trait's negative aspects.  Here is a list of what Hogan identifies as derailers, or the dark side of being both creative and corporate:

  1. Excitable: moody, easily annoyed, hard to please, and emotionally volatile
  2.  Skeptical: distrustful, cynical, sensitive to criticism, and focused on the negative
  3. Cautious: unassertive, resistant to change, risk-averse, and slow to make decisions
  4. Reserved: aloof, indifferent to the feelings of others, and uncommunicative
  5. Leisurely: overtly cooperative, but privately irritable, stubborn, and uncooperative
  6. Bold: overly self-confident, arrogant, with inflated feelings of self-worth
  7. Mischievous ( I would call this "willing to challenge status quo", something we are often called upon as archietcts to do): charming, risk-taking, limit-testing and excitement-seeking
  8. Colorful: dramatic, attention-seeking, interruptive, and poor listening skills
  9. Imaginative: creative, but thinking and acting in unusual or eccentric ways
  10. Diligent: meticulous, precise, hard to please, and tends to micromanage
  11. Dutiful: eager to please and reluctant to act independently or against popular opinion

Buildings go boing!

Architecture is motion.  No building is static.  Buildings breathe, absorb and reflect light, materials patina over  time, people adapt space to their needs.  It’s kinetic.  Designing is not unlike illustrating a comic book.