Reminder: It’s not about you.

I know, I’ve said this before. Apparently, we need a refresher course.

This morning, a question was asked about “aesthetic theory” or something like that. Basically it was asking designers and architects why they feel compelled to talk about some kind of overriding aesthetic concept/principles when clients rarely prioritize the theory behind such things. Lots of answers.

Question:

The number of clients who are interested in the aesthetic philosophy behind a project is minimal #justsaying so why do architects bang on?

The answers ranged, but several were super disappointing, dripping with arrogance and barely concealed disdain for clients as a whole.

My answer:
Holdover from arch/design school. all asked to justify our projects in this way, even tho clients dont care about that.

It’s true. We’re required to justify entire design philosophies, even beyond concept, lest we be accused of “putting something in because it looks nice.” Every decision we make MUST be justifiable in some larger sense.

What’s also true is that clients usually don’t care. They care about whether or not it looks good and how much it costs. They rarely go farther than that because hey, isn’t that what they hired you for?

However back to the arrogant responses(which I am not reprinting)- once again, let’s remind everyone that ultimately, it’s not about the designer. It’s about the client. And when the client *MAKES* it about the designer, I suggest you should be concerned, because that says to me that the client is less concerned with their own project and more concerned about whatever perceived “status” they’re getting out of it. Truly, if that concept rocks your socks, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know that about you.

Check your overinflated ego and remember that what you design is about your client. YOUR job is to coalesce their wants, needs and desires, create a package that meets them (and their overall aesthetic preferences), and prevent them from doing something illegal, unsafe or grotesquely stupid, while working within the budgetary constraints they have. Really, that about covers it.

Aesthetics aren’t about you. They are about *them*. You should be able to design things that they love, but you wouldn’t choose for yourself if it were the last available design on Earth. You should be able to design outside your own narrow personal aesthetic preferences (and if you can’t, please send your job to me, because I can, and your clients deserve better than you’re giving them.)

You *SHOULD* be able to justify any design choice you make. But not by some abstract aesthetic theory. This isn’t design/arch school. By showing how each and every choice relates to the needs *THEY* lined out in the programming (brief) phase. That’s how this game is played.

FFS, it isn’t about you. It’s about the people you’re there to help. LEARN IT.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s important for the designer to be familiar with style elements so that when a client tosses out “I want it to be in X style” they don’t have to describe every element. When the designer presents a fleshed out idea, and the client says “I don’t like elements X, Y, or Z” it is useless for the designer to try and convince them they should be kept just because they are part of the style. Aesthetic philosophy is like any other tool – when the hammer is no longer putting things together but busting holes in the wall, it’s time to put it down and step away. Use it where it’s useful, put it aside when it’s not.

  2. Surely it’s also about knowing your customer. A designer/architect is required to supply those things when the customer is a board of tutors. It’s not when the client wants a “pretty result”.

    • Education about everything we do is always part of our job (also, see preventing things that are illegal, grotesquely stupid, etc.) But if all they wanted was “pretty” they’d have gone for a decorator.

      The ability to explain how you got from point a to point b is essential. The issue is though that it’s still not about the designer. It’s always about the client. It’s about understanding what they want and need, not what you as the designer want and need.


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