Post 538  by Gautam Shah


Projects come to a Designer through many different channels. One of the simplest and obvious source is through a (user) Client. The client, in a very simplistic term is a person who pays for the design services. But a client may or may not be the person to own or use the entity to be delivered. Clients and Professional both need to have a right to initiate the relationship. The right to be a client, though fundamentally derives from the capacity to pay or compensate for the design creation services, it has many other facets. A person as a client must have:

1 investible resources or finance to execute a project; 2 a space or site as land or building for the project, 3 some form of experience; expertise or knowledge as to what the project is or know how to secure the same; 4 and an intense desire, aspiration, vision or motivation for the project.

Shop in the The Crystals in Las Vegas wikipedia image by Author Gryffindor

Clients must have a need for the design services. A project, which is fairly complex, requires some expert input, and must be handled by a professional. A client on own could have the qualifications or organizational backing to generate a design for the project, but may be circumstantially restrained to do so. Government officials and persons in charge of an organization as an employee must remain at ‘arms length where their positional neutrality can be questioned. Such clients must hire external or independent professionals.

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A client realizes the potential for a project when the assets such as land, building, money; and personal qualities like knowledge, expertise, experience; remain unexplored, or are not providing sufficient gains. In case of assets the financial adviser provides clues how to explore the situation. Personal qualities motivate a person to an activity to pursue. For the first set, the financial expert suggests the ways, and agency who can give a shape to it. For the second set, the person with knowledge, expertise, experience, will still need an agency to formulate the project. For both the cases the agency could be a project consultant or a designer. Financial advisers and project consultants are the largest referring agencies for designers. Next lot of design assignments arrive from designers of other branches of design. An architect would need services of structural, interior or landscape designer. An interior designer would have to depend on an architect, structural or landscape designer.

wikipedia image by Author Derzsi Elekes Andor

To initiate a project, a professional requires some prime information or mandatory data. The clients’ potential for a project, reflects in the nature of data, available to generate a design. Providing prime information or mandatory data is both, a client’s duty and right. A professional must get basic data like the nature of ownership or rights of access to the site, site identity, design requirements, nature and sources of funds to implement the design. A professional can get such data from other sources, yet to check out the capacity and sincerity of a client, the design professional demands such information during the first meeting. A professional relationship is initiated with handing over data by the client, to a designer. Provision of data by a client, is a token of job commitment and retention of the professional’s services. Provision of data to a design professional is a clients’ right. A client may exercise that right to control the cost (by appointing own agencies) and accuracy of the data.

Non specific groups as clients > Wikipedia image by Author Jaimoen87

Small individual clients, casually begin to discuss their needs and dreams. A professional must accept such submissions formally by acknowledging it in writing. Organized clients, with complex projects bring in a brief or project programme. Non specific groups as clients, like a statutory body representing a mass of faceless clients, may have nothing more than the assignment title and appointment letter to offer at the start of a job. Virtually no data is offered. Projects postulated by other professionals, come with extremely detailed brief.

Projects postulated by other professionals, come with extremely detailed brief. >>> Wikipedia image by Author Smallworldsocial Permission (Reusing this file)



Post 305 – by Gautam Shah


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Relationship between a client and a design professional depends how they are introduced to each other, the status of client and design professional, and if it is fresh or renewed contact.

Relationship between a design professional and a client develops very gradually. The Client and professional usually have had some rapport, or social introduction even before a job is discussed. Any premature attempt to formalize the relationship disturbs the rapport. Difficulties occur at both, the client’s end, and the professional’s end, so they need to proceed carefully.


It takes few meetings to formalize any level of relationship. Delays in relationship occur due to both the parties.

A client wants to delay because:

  • The client is unsure, if a design professional is needed.
  • The client is also not certain if the (introduced) design professional is the right person for the job.
  • The client, as an official, may not have the authorization to initiate the retention process for a professional.
  • The client may not have clear land ownership, adequate funds, or capacity to own-operate a project once it is delivered.
  • A shrewd client may wish to negotiate with other professionals.
  • A client may wish to collect many freebies (design ideas), and than perhaps carry on the job on own.


A design professional is in a different setting.

  • A fresh starter -professional, is always very eager to get on with the job, yet such a professional avoids the formalized relationship, so as not to disturb the budding but fragile relationship with the client.
  • An established design professional, on the other hand is not in a hurry to formalize the relationship so early, till all facts about the client are known (status, land entitlement, funding, etc.).

Design professional desire, an early resolution to the dilemma. A relationship can be construed to have occurred when a formal commitment is available. For a design professional, securing a formal commitment (consent) from a client, for a job, is one of the most difficult of tasks. Consent commits a client to pay the design professional for the services to be rendered. The professional also becomes obligated to deliver the expected services.


For a design professional the job has already begun the day the idea of a project is discussed. The design grows to a concept (sketch, doodle or ideation sketch) with investments in labour, stationary, materials, and most importantly the intellectual skills. All this process the client invests in time, remaining worried, if the design professional will at all deliver. When a professional fails to deliver, (even if any advance that may be fully refunded) client’s time and effort are wasted. (both non calculable entities).

On discussion of feasibility of a project, if a client refuses to appreciate the design professionals’ work, not only calculable inputs are lost, but abstract cost of intellectual skills, go uncovered.

Ideally two parties must initiate their relationship with a contract, according to the laws of the land. A contract, is a very formal expression of intent. It is too much to expect a contract level relationship in the initial stage of a job, when the client and the professional hardly know each other, or have fully formed a project. Just the same, even without a contract a relationship must be nurtured. Normally this is not very difficult, when both the parties are willing, enthusiastic and have a mutual faith. A memorandum of understandings (MoU) is a less formal tool, frequently used as a step towards a full legal contract.

At a later stage when problems arise, either of the parties may refuse to even acknowledge the relationship between them. An informal relationship could turn very vicious. The design professional and client, both lose calculable and abstract costs.

It is very natural for clients and professional to be extremely careful about things they say and do in the initial stages of a job. For a design professional who is often operating without formal consent, securing a proof that his involvement has a tacit approval of the client, is very important. The evidence in such a case is usually circumstantial, and generally not tenable in a court of law, unless corroborated by other circumstantial or real evidences.


The best commitment, next only to a legal contract or a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), is payment of a Retainer fee. A retainer fee, however small, signifies establishment of a relationship, between the client and the design professional. Ideally the quantum of a retainer fee should be large enough to cover the labour, stationary, and the cost of patent (original or exclusive) ideas, required to generate a schematic design (or similar a stage, when the first fee becomes due). The cost of patent or unique idea is collected at first go, because a unique idea or a concept once exposed to an outsider like a client loses its originality, and so the value.