Project Planning & Client Communication, Client Communication, Alison
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Module 1: Project Planning and Client Communication

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Client Communication

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Why you need to develop project planning skills
Strong project planning is the core of every successful interior design practice. All successful designers, whether working alone or as part of a team, need to understand the principles that bridge an initial client consultation and the final outcome. In this module, you will learn how designers gather the information they need in order to make a project run smoothly, how they communicate with clients, the key steps involved in conceptualising and implementing a design and the tools they use along the way.
The first steps to take when designing an interior
Painting surfaces, choosing furniture and other aesthetic elements may be the most exciting aspect of designing a space, but space planning is absolutely fundamental to the success of any project. It is the only way a client and designer can be certain that that space will be used to its full potential. Whether a client is looking to design a single room in their house or overhaul a large office, the planning process will ensure that the space meets the client’s intended purpose. Interior design projects can be costly in terms of both time and money, so it is important that the space meets the client’s brief from the outset. Mistakes can be difficult to correct at a later date. Space itself is expensive – in general, the larger the space inside a building, the more it will cost. Therefore, clients will want to get the best value from the space they have available and expect a competent designer to use it in an efficient manner.
Whilst some projects will entail designing a completely new space, most designers will spend the majority of their time devising new ways of using existing spaces. They will need to work within a client’s budget and within a reasonable timeline. This means that the “perfect” plan isn’t always the most practical. There may need to be a compromise between what is theoretically ideal and what is actually feasible for any given space.
What questions should an interior designer ask when putting together an initial set of diagrams?
A designer first needs to understand how a space will be used and why a client requires their services at this particular time. This is referred to as “programming”.
Activity: What would you ask a Potential Client?
(Time: 10+ Minutes)
Imagine that a potential client phones you and asks for an initial consultation. They tell you that the project would entail redecorating the upstairs of their family home – three bedrooms and two bathrooms. They live with their partner and two stepchildren. What questions would you ask your potential client when visiting their home for the first time - and why?
 
They should ask the following questions:-
Who is using the space? The needs and wants of the intended user group are central to the space planning process. To draw on an obvious example, if a room is to be used for regular meetings, relatively more space will be devoted to tables, chairs and other movable furniture, compared with a living room designed for a family of four. If an interior is to be used by adults, the furnishings may be finer and less resilient than those included in a child’s playroom. Therefore, a designer needs to consider not only who is using the space, but what purposes the space will actually serve. For example, if it is to be a high-traffic environment, with many people coming and going, the floors and carpets will need to be much tougher than in rooms that are only to be used on an occasional basis, such as guest bedrooms.
What plumbing and wiring systems are currently in place and is the client willing to have them altered? A designer needs to establish where plumbing systems and electrical outlets are positioned, in order to devise a practical design. For example, if key plug sockets are located centrally on one wall, it would be inadvisable to plan the space in such a way that the position of heavy furniture makes accessing them impossible. On the other hand, a client may be willing to have them repositioned. It is the responsibility of the designer to ascertain their intentions and flexibility.
Are there any special access requirements? If the space will be used by people who have special requirements, a designer must take their needs into account when planning a space. Perhaps the most obvious example relates to wheelchairs. A designer will need to consider whether their proposed layout can accommodate people using wheelchairs, crutches, or other mobility aids. There is little point in allocating space for furniture, if the layout would prevent regular users of the space from moving around comfortably.
Fact: There are approximately 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK.
Source: NHS England
What kind of “feel” does the client want to create within the space? Most clients will have some idea of the mood or tone they want the space to invoke. For example, some might like the idea of a bright, airy room that feels large and spacious. This would warrant a space that features a few simple pieces of furniture that offer maximum utility. On the other hand, a client might specify that they are looking to create a cosy room that feels enclosed. This would give a designer more leeway to incorporate more pieces of furniture. 
What kind of furniture must be included, and why? Once the purpose of a space has been established, a designer must work with a client to determine what kind of furniture and fittings are essential. For example, a kitchen will require counters, a bathroom must contain a shower or bath and a dining room must have a table that is large enough for everyone to eat at the same time. Other living spaces, such as lounges or hallways, are often more flexible, but similar considerations must be taken into account – for example, if a client enjoys watching films and wants to make their large-screen TV a focal point, a designer will need to either ensure that there is enough space for a TV and stand, or that one wall is a suitable place on which to hang a screen.
If the designer has been asked to design a number of spaces in close proximity to one another, how can they make sure that the spaces complement one another? Although a designer might be asked to design or renovate a single room or space within a building, many clients will ask a designer to work on multiple spaces within a single project. For example, they may request that an open-plan office and a meeting room be coordinated using a similar colour scheme and that they have the same ambience. In order to fulfil the project brief, a designer would have to choose two layouts that serve different purposes, yet still feel sufficiently similar that walking from one space to the other does not feel jarring.
What is the proposed budget for this project? A client may have a specific figure in mind, but they may not have a reasonable idea as to the realistic cost of the project. A designer needs to use their experience and knowledge to shape the client’s expectations. Having a ballpark figure from the outset allows everyone involved to make sensible decisions on everything from material costs to contractors’ fees.
Fact: The average London resident spends around £6,000 on home decoration and maintenance per year.
Source: Ideal Home Magazine

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