2 types of Clients: Navigating the Architect-Client Relationship

Architects have a unique and challenging job of balancing their creative vision with the needs and wants of their clients. In the course of their professional journey, architects encounter a variety of clients with different expectations, needs, and communication styles. Broadly speaking, when it comes to architects interacting with clients, we see two major types of individuals: Client A and Client B.

Client A? Who are they?

Client A is a gentle client who believes he needs an architect. He agrees that architects are the professionals to deal with when it comes to architectural designs and services.

They normally don’t interfere with the architect’s work or design ideas. Mostly they trust that the architect knows what he is doing and will deliver the best result.

Client B? How are they different from Client B?

Client B is the informed/exposed client. He is confident in what he knows. Often desires to birth his ideas but is limited by his lack of architectural skills.

He requires architects to help him make sense of his thoughts and integrate them into a workable plan. These are the two extremes of clients you will generally come across as an architect. How you continually handle them mostly will determine the success or failure of your practice.

What are the merits and demerits of Client A

Client A for me is every architect’s dream client. When they come financially empowered, architects are happier. With him, the architect’s original ideas are mostly unaltered and are built as designed. This kind of project is quickly delivered because the interruption and revision to the design process are minimal. One demerit of Client A is that the architect may not often get the needed feedback to improve his work. In design there are technical errors that clients may not see, thus can’t give feedback on. However, there are also simple errors that can impact the functionality of the building that only the building users/clients can see.

Therefore, if the client is not inquisitive enough he may not quickly detect these errors. Thus, the building will go on to be built that way.

Between Client A and B who is easier to work with?

Client B can both be interesting and difficult to work with. Sometimes they may be more informed and exposed than the architect.

These clients find it hard to work with architects who can not act and deliver at their level. Which often leads to a frustrating architect-client relationship.

Architects and these type of clients misunderstand their roles a lot. Most architects see themselves as the sources of building design ideas and custodians of the knowledge and experience required for building designs.

Thus, expect the client to respect that and give them the needed leeway to express themselves design-wise. We trust that whatever comes out will ultimately be for the good of the client.

Though sadly, this is seldom the way client B sees the operations of the architect. Some see the architect as a means to an end, the end of which is the design document.

The mindset of Client B.

  • The client is the source of the ideas, concepts and inspiration.
  • He gives these to the architect and pays him.
  • The architect is the individual who puts these ideas together with his technical knowledge.
  • And the design document is the end product.

Major merits and demerits of Client B.

One merit of Client B is that they regularly scrutinize the architect’s work, forcing architects to think deeply and explore all avenues to improve their design.

The major demerits are that the architect’s design may take longer to finish because of regular revisions.

Unique ideas of the architect may be repeatedly altered discouraging him from trying to do anything unique for the remaining period of the project.

This can lead to a tiring and expensive design process and sometimes an aborted one.

What is the best way to relate with your client?

Whether Client A or B, the architect has to create periodic avenues for the client to make inputs into his work. After all, it’s the client’s project and his money too.

You don’t want him dissatisfied. Even though allowing the client avenue at every moment to make inputs may be counterproductive, frustrating, tiring and undesirable.

You could try coming up with a planned and periodic avenue for him to make inputs. For example, in the course of carrying out the project, you may create stages of work and inputs.

Stages that can facilitate an easy exchange of ideas between Clients and Architects.

Stage 1.

When receiving the brief, listen to the client and ask questions so as not to miss any component of the brief.

Stage 2.

Make a simple and schematic proposal of what you think the client desires and present it to him. It could be in form of a detailed design brief, hand sketches or a previous portfolio of works you have done.

Sit with him to further discuss his ideas and try to extract more information on what he wants.

Stage 3.

Produce simple plans with conceptual 3D visualization images. Present them to him and also discuss them with him letting him know that he can make inputs at this stage.

Inform him that final drawings will be produced afterwards therefore subsequent major inputs will require greater effort to implement.

Too inputs may alter other consultant works on the project, delay the design process and cost more.

In conclusion

In conclusion, architects may encounter two types of clients: Client A, who trusts the architect’s work and does not interfere with design ideas, and Client B, who is confident in their own ideas but lacks architectural skills. While Client A may be a dream client for architects, they may not provide feedback for the architect to improve their work. Client B can be both interesting and difficult to work with, leading to a frustrating relationship. The best way for architects to relate with their clients is to create periodic avenues for the client to make inputs into the work, while also balancing this with the need for the architect to have creative freedom. Overall, the success or failure of an architect’s practice depends on how they handle these two types of clients.

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