FAQ Part Three (2 of 2): How to Navigate the Design Process as a Client

Posted on
April 23, 2019

Now while you are getting ready for your first meeting with the architect, you should understand some of the problems related to the process, design, timelines and cost which will be associated with your project.


Understanding each step of the process and the accompanying milestones will help you and your design team get on the same page when it comes to general deliverables and the expectations along the way. Discussing the search and selection process for an appropriate construction team, as well as the architect’s role during construction, should clear up some of your most pressing questions.

Questions about process may be related to:
sharing ideas, images, needs, wants, and research,
deciding on communication strategies, and
clarifying the budget, timeline, and scope of the project, as well as outlining evaluation criteria for all these components


It’s better to talk about this upfront, as these criteria will likely be the major influencing and driving factors for the design of the entire project. You need to understand and agree with your architect’s design philosophy, as well as:
the scope and design requirements of your project;
the most important issues and considerations for your project;
the agreed-upon presentation and communication methods;
the techniques that will be used to help you understand the scope and design of your project; and
whether or not you want the project to incorporate sustainable strategies, green architecture and/or overall eco-friendly design.

Timeline and Deliverables

Getting everyone to agree on timeline and deliverables is key for the success of your project. A clear understanding of the project criteria/deliverables that are driving the timeline, as well as the challenges that could arise and change that timeline, will help you and your architect foresee and avoid delays, as well as ensuring that your expectations are met.

It’s also important for you as a client to understand that you can play a role in your project timelines by setting clear priorities and making timely design decisions.

You and your architect will need to make sure you are on the same page when it comes to understanding and agreeing on:
the issues and considerations that will have the greatest effect on the deliverables;
a realistic timeline as well as potential challenges that could influence that timeline.

Value and Cost

Value and Cost need to be approached together because they often influence each other. For example, one of your main questions as the client might relate to the architect’s fee - how the fee is established and what the fee will be for this particular project.

In addition, discussing scope changes and how they will be reflected in potential additional fees, as well as how these additional services and fees will be justified and communicated to you will make the design process less stressful and peaceful for everybody.

Other questions worth discussing upfront are:
What services are included and/or excluded from the basic fee, and
What extra services your consultant can provide.

While this process may seem labor-intensive, it is well worth the effort to get you and your design team on the same page before the real project work begins. A little preparation and some preliminary discussions will go a long way towards ensuring that the design process for your custom residential project is as efficient and productive as possible.  

If you would like to learn more about how to navigate the design process as a client, please download our “How to Hire an Architect” brochure.

Image credit: Kyla Anderson

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