What would you say is the most important skill for an architect or designer to have? Would you say “creativity”, “problem solving”, or “organization”? While each of these skills are very important for a successful architectural design practice, one would be wrong to think that any of these are the most important attribute for a designer to possess. Without excellent communication skills an architect or designer is like a three-legged dog, bound to fall behind other dogs in the race to provide the client with excellent service.
There are architects and designers where I live, in Kelowna, British Columbia, who know little about running a proper business, yet they are very successful in their practice, why? At the end of the day their clients are happy with the provided service and resulting building design. Good communication is the key ingredient in achieving a design that both the client and architect are pleased with.
Any personal or working relationship is bound to be short-lived without open, respectful communication. Yet, like many people who should know better, some architects and designers evidently think that good communication means that they need to talk more (and louder) than others around them, resulting in strained relationships. They don’t seam to understand that great communication requires listening before speaking.
As an architect or designer, recognizing a client’s body language is a huge part of listening. I highly doubt that I have even had one client that didn’t tell me something through their body language that their speech was hiding. In life people often make concessions and say things that they don’t totally agree with, just to appease the situation and it is no different during the design process. It is the job of the architect to recognize even subtle signals that conflict with the spoken word, acknowledge those feelings and make sure that each party feels validated as to their opinions, desires and role in connection with the design.
I design custom homes for a variety of clients, most of which are married couples. Planning and building a home can be one of the most stressful of life’s undertakings for any couple. Even in the most solid relationships each mate will have their own desires and priorities regarding the design of the home in which they will live, and that is natural. But I have seen couples at each other’s throats over what may seam to be a trivial issue. As a peacemaker I direct the client (together) through the design process to achieve the best possible balanced amalgamation of all the ideas brought to the table. The result is the creation of a home well suited to the personality of the couple as a whole, not just one individual. And I am pleased with the results.