Even in our ever-accelerating, fast-paced world, you shouldn’t rush some things.
Design is one of those things.
The prevailing sentiment is that slowing down will cost the developer more money. But rushing the design stage can cost far more than extending your design time up front.
Unfortunately many designers have a habit of rushing through design – at the disadvantage of themselves and their clients. It’s so easy to do. In fact, for many of us it can be automatic. You need real discipline to take your time and reach the best design outcomes.
When you next find yourself rushing through design, remember these benefits of slow architecture and slowing down the design process.
1) Slowing Down Reduces Mistakes
Quality control takes time. And it’s generally not that exciting. That is why it can be difficult to make time for redlines and double checking. Most designers would rather be doing something else.
But, making time for quality control is a major part of slowing down the design process. It has many benefits. Quality control creates the opportunity to fix errors. It improves coordination with other consultants, firm standards, and client expectations. Considering how important the final result is to your clients, designers should commit to dedicating time for quality control. It is critical to project success that we slow down and check our work. By focusing on quality control you will make fewer mistakes during bidding and construction, saving time and money down the line.
Because some clients don’t understand the importance of quality control and internal reviews, designers should take the lead. We ought to make it standard procedure that is never compromised.
2) Slowing Down Produces the Best Ideas
It takes time to arrive at the right idea. We all want to produce something that we are proud of. That is why we need to devote time to let our ideas marinate.
The design process is an iterative process. Each cycle informs the next version of the idea, moving toward a better solution. If we cut this process short, we limit the efficacy of our ideas and put a cap on the value our clients will gain from our design. More cycles means better ideas. Better ideas lead to better results. It is important to project success that we slow down and let the ideas flow. After all, it’s the ideas that are at the core of what we do.
Clients have a range of design experience so it’s on designers to set the right expectations.
3) Slowing Down Keeps Budgets in Line
Keeping cost down is a constant battle. Nobody wants to throw their money away. That is why it’s urgent to keep the design within the budget.
Clients and designers both tend to get excited as things move through the design process. Together, they add a new feature here, or an expensive finish there. Then once the project goes to bidding, they discover the design is way out of line with the budget. Frequently, the budget was out of line to begin with. Clients often have budget expectations that don’t agree with their design aspirations. As we slow down the design process, we have the chance to check our design against the budget at key intervals. A running rough order of magnitude cost estimate can aid in the design process. It informs design decisions and helps align the design to the budget before it’s too far down the road.
Many clients resist discussing cost during the early stages of design. Smart designers understand the risks linked to ignoring budgets. We should insist on slowing down and starting the cost conversation early.
4) Slowing Down is an Investment
A typical workflow for a project looks a lot like the graph below. Time and effort expended heighten to a peak during the mad rush to produce construction documents. Then, much time and effort is required during the bidding phase as edits, revisions, and value engineering take place.
This happens because the earlier phases of a project get glossed over or rushed. Decision making is delayed until it is absolutely necessary for construction to take place. Consider instead what can occur when the schedule allows for design to flourish during the SD and DD phases of a project. A team spends a majority of their efforts and time in design instead of production. They spend so much time in exploration – becoming familiar with the project – that producing drawings is much less time consuming.
Traditionally, an architecture fee structure emphasizes the production stages of a project. But the greatest value to a client is in the design ideas. Those are what drive the whole project and determine the results. It is a disservice to your clients to spend more effort creating plans than originating creative designs and solutions. Our industry has over invested in production and under invested in creativity and problem solving. This is why so much design struggles to be inspiring and neglects to make a meaningful contribution to our built environment and culture.
It’s simpler to sell physical or digital plans and deliverables then expert knowledge and creativity. But to do so runs the risk of commoditizing design. Many clients struggle to know exactly what they are paying for when reviewing design fees. As designers it’s up to us to explain why slower design is valuable and a smarter investment.
5) Slowing Down Reduces Stress and Produces Confidence
It’s never a good feeling to be pressed up against a deadline and not know if you are going to make it or not. While some thrive under the last-minute thrill of racing toward a deadline, most of us could do without that added stress.
Even for those who claim they enjoy it, the cycle of procrastination and scrambling to finish work in time leads to burnout. It’s high time many of us ditch the unhealthy habits we picked up in school. Let’s end the tradition of late nights in the office. If we slow down design and set reasonable schedules we can relieve a lot of unneeded stress.
It’s been well established that creativity thrives when you take a break. This concept should play well into the design process as we come up with new iterations over time. We don’t get the benefit of fresh ideas and a new perspective if we never leave our desk.
As creatives, we should be helpful guides for our clients, not victims of unrealistic project timelines. If we trust our creative ability enough, we should slow down design. Let the results speak for themselves.
The Essence of Slow Architecture
In a world where getting things we want has become instantaneous, there is a lot of value to slowing down. As architectural designers slow down the design process, we’ll stand out and make a difference. Architect ml Robles sums it up perfectly: “If you’ve ever entered a building and you catch yourself and realize you have slowed down just to be in that building…that’s the essence of slow architecture.”
Slow down the design process and people will slow down and take note. Our world has problems we can only solve with thoughtful design. Let’s slow down.