Monday, May 01, 2006

Viva la revolucion!

Yet another post about architecture... with a twist. (I am including some images and unrelated links, just to fill it up, mainly british design... you know, to join the american boycott and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Torre Latinoamericana)

Raul sent me pictures of the finished house at Jardin Real. Congratulations to Heriberto, David and Raul (Arquitectura Progresiva) Very nice house!!! I remembered that he told me how lucky they were, in having a client who let them choose the land section, and gave them full control over the project... or something like that. Maybe he can explain that further.

Anyway, I remembered my car's mechanic, Carlos. He's a wise guy. My car broke one day, and I went to his workshop and told him: "you know Carlos, the telekinetik-unilever hydraulic dashboard is making some noise, the multigear must be oiled and replaced by an external counter-plug device" (or something like that)

Then he said: -Wait a minute. When you go to a doctor, do you tell him wich medicine to use on you? Usually you would tell him your symptoms, where it hurts... he will check, do some tests, and then tell you a diagnosis and give some options for your treatment. In other words, let me check your car, and I will tell you what is wrong.

Why is it so different for designers and their clients? Well, it is a tricky relationship... and you have to know your client to be able to work things out... or just, have work. There's the client who ask you to put all kinds of kitsch (like cupulas (domes) or wants almost (a copy) of some design he saw on a magazine. Then, there's the client who's changing his mind every time you meet. Then, there's the client who, after several months of working, when you ask for money, he regrets that probably he's paying too much because there are other cheaper designers... there's also the one who has actually no clue of what he wants, and the one who knows exactly what he wants...OK, let me stop on this last category.

Let's analyse those. When I say, they know exactly what they want, I mean literally and non literally. Example, I know that I need a high quality product, with this and that level of performance, about this aproximate price range, and this and this functions. That is because... well, I know my business, and I know the kind of design that I need. Those are very valuable clients! They make the work very easy, if you can deliver uo to the expected level. Usually, a client like that will give enough freedom to the designer in terms of design... not in terms of specifications. But that is good.

As a teacher, I try to be that kind of client, but some students complain that they want more freedom... example: the tubular chairs. They had 3 constraints only: 1 chair should have no arm rests, 2 chair must be mainly of tubular steel, 3 no more that 9 meters of tubular. That was it, nothing else... and still, a student (furtunately not mine) claimed that those rules were an obstacle to his creativity... so he used wood to build a sofa and put only a small piece of tubular inside. In real life he would have lost the job... or got fired... because the client was asking for 3 simple things to follow, and he didn't follow the rules. Same problem with students at Unitec... they don't like to follow constraints. However, in real life, having a project with no constraints, is like winning the lottery! Can you imagine if a client asks you for an electrodomestic device accessory and you come up with something like this? Not every client would like the idea...

I mean, there are limits... one thing is when your client lets you choose the best lot section to build a house, and another thing would be if the architect says: "you know what, I am not going to build you a house. I am going to build a skyscraper... or a museum... I don't know, it will depend on where my creativity takes me". Doesn't that sound silly? Then, WHY industrial design students want full freedom to choose wether to design a chair, or maybe a cellphone, or a lamp... or whatever they "feel" they are in the mood of drawing... and if something starts to bring some dificulties, well, there's always time to change one's mind and do something else the night before the presentation? Real life is not like that.

On the other hand, there's the client who knows exactly what they want... literally... so you have to become like an extension of his mind... no matter the result. But, let's talk about that kind of clients later.

I guess, that by doing real projects for real clients can help students develop the necessary skills to deal with all sorts of clients. If a project is just a classroom project, then think of the teacher as your client... i.e. the client is always right... meaning, then try to please the teacher, not your creative ego. I remember Raul's coleagues... at the start of each semester, they went to the university library to see the thesis of their teacher, to try to get an idea of the kind of style he/she liked, or the methodology followed...etc. I guess that is a good idea. In real life that would be: do some research on your client's company, their profile, their products, their buildings, etc...

Summarising, every client is unique and you have to learn by practice how to deal with different characters, moods, and relationships (don't get me started on money matter for example) Clients are not going to adapt to your creative ego. Is like when you go to a store that it is not your style, you just leave and go somewhere else... So, you have to adapt to your client's needs and expectations and not viceversa. Unless you win the lottery!

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