“Just do what I tell you” … what a horrible arrangement of 6 words. You would hope that the only time this phrase is issued is when a 4-year-old is involved and even then … kind of dodgy. It’s rude and it’s not conducive to creating healthy working situations.
The phrase itself presents a scenario where one party is clearly at odds with the other … bad architects think it and bad clients say it.
[enter the narrative …]
Architect: “You should paint this wall white.”
Client: “I don’t like white, it’s boring. I want this wall to *POP* so I want it to be blue.”
Architect: “Well, white in this space is an appropriate color based on your programming objectives. This is the wall where you wanted to hang that painting … the white will recede and act as a backdrop for your art, allowing it to be the point of interest here, not a blue wall.”
Client: “But I really like blue and think it would be great.”
Architect and Client [in unison]: “Just do what I tell you.”
Luckily I haven’t had this exact conversation because it would be awkward for that client to see it reprinted here. I have had conversations where I’ve made some sort of architectural gesture and the client didn’t want it for one reason or another. I normally try and plead my case – they either buy into it or they don’t – and then I move on. There are times when I will pull out my ace in the hole and tell [ask] the client to do something just because I am telling them they this is really important and as their design professional I think they are making a mistake. They need to trust me on this (one particular item). That’s a big card to play and I rarely pull it out … you have to gauge the quality of the relationship because you are basically telling the client they are wrong in a very blunt way … you haven’t convinced them to your way of thinking, you lost … so this is a last and desperate measure.
Most formally educated designers have been trained to understand why they like something and to then be able to communicate those reasons. While the client might like a certain shade of orange because it’s pretty, I might say I like that shade of orange because the way the light hits it causes the surrounding areas to change and that modifies the perception of the size of the room.
Part of my role as architect is to be an interpreter and translator – to listen to what the client is saying and then to digest, interpret, prioritize and re-issue that information back to them. The goal is to ultimately protect the client from themselves, scrape away all the nasty bits of conflicting thoughts and imagery they have been assembling, and present back to them a clearer and more representative picture of what they are after. I truly believe that design professionals are better at their job when they are able to develop a personal relationship with the client along the way; It makes it easier to help them create a house that suits the the way they really live, instead of how they think or hope to live.
If I weren’t able to create meaningful relationships with the people I work with, it makes that moment when I ask them to “trust me” that much harder. Being able to tell someone what to do is not the key to a successful project, it’s all about collaboration.