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Tips on Writing a Brief

May 5, 2015

Explaining what you want to a design professional or builder is perhaps the most difficult part of a building project. Here are a few tips on making it more successful.

  • A picture tells a thousand words. Your version of ‘modern’ or ‘electic’ may not match that of the person you’re communicating with. To avoid any ambiguity use images to explain what you desire.
  • If you’re engaging a design professional make use of their creativity and focus on objectives and not solutions when writing your wish list. For instance saying you want somewhere to read allows the designer flexibility to propose novel solutions, whereas a request for a chair in that corner does not. I would always advise clients to write out a list of activities that they want the space to accommodate rather than a list of fixtures and fittings. This allows me to search for solutions that facilitate multiple activities.
  • Consider the extent of the service you require. The more work you commission someone to do the greater the bill. In my experience the following are items that vary from client to client;
    • Extent of presentation material. The ability to visualise a design in 3D varies from person to person. Some need lots of 3D models while others can gleam the design from simple mood boards.
    • No of site visits / updates from site. Some building owners are very involved in the construction phase and want to know exactly what’s happening when; others prefer not to get involved. The level of information that you want will determine the fee you pay a professional that is managing the construction phase for you.
    • Sourcing of finishes, fixtures and fittings. You may be able to save yourself some fee by sourcing these items but it depends on the professional / builder. Some designers / contractors will have preferred items that they get at a discount while others will be quite happy to take this work out of the contract. Be careful with this though, if you drop the ball on ordering stuff on time you could end up paying your builder and professional compensation for holding up the project.
    • Assisting in the Construction Management phase. This is the day-to-day management of the project on site and mostly involves chasing deliveries and tradespeople who 9 times out of 10 don’t arrive on time. Providing this service will help the construction phase go more smoothly but don’t underestimate the time involved and the flexibility required to do it well. I would suggest you set down 1 – 2 hours a day to chasing people and this needs to be throughout the day. Just phoning before or after work or during lunch hours just won’t work.
  • If you’re hiring a design professional that is offering consultancy only you can be very honest with your budget because it doesn’t make a difference to them how much you spend. However if you’re hiring someone who gets commission on products that they propose or offers a design-and-build service then i wouldn’t give a figure, instead i would set a quality standard for them to work to, i.e. ceramic or natural stone tiling, formica or marble countertops etc. and ask them to quote for the work. Not all designers declare openly that they get commission so ask!

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