Value of Design
Some time ago I was part of a local business networking group here in Brainerd, Minnesota. It was a group that met once a week and gave several different professionals an opportunity to mingle with other professionals in the area and build better business relationships. I was a member of this group for about two years. I made several friends and associations that I value.
At one point I had an opportunity to meet with another individual in this group who represented another company in the commercial building market. His company is actually a design build firm in which the primary business is construction but they offer architecture and design services as part of their package. I remember this gentlemen telling me that they give away their design services for free. This is the companies marketing pitch they give to potential clients. When I challenged him, he insisted that they “eat the design costs.”
That was an interesting concept to me and I was immediately skeptical. Clearly, their staff architects, engineers, draftsman and others who produce the design are getting paid a salary. The money to pay those salaries has to come from somewhere and I know construction margins are not quite that good. I just don’t see how, if it’s true that they “eat the design costs,” that it is a profitable business model.
Regardless of the veracity of his comments, it has led me to consider the idea of giving away the design for free. How do I as just and architect compete with that? I don’t offer another service to cover the costs of generating the design. In a small market, this didn’t seem to bode well for me.
As my train of thought rolled along the tracks to it’s next stop, it occurred to me that this is a clear indication of how much they, as a company, value design. It’s not even worth paying for. Isn’t that a dangerous precedent to set? How does it make the architects at the company feel about the work they do when the company says they are just going “give it away?” I mean, hey, it’s free. And, again, how do I compete with that?
But then I had had an epiphany.
I don’t have to compete with that. In fact, I don’t WANT to compete with that. Those clients who don’t value design to such an extent that they expect it for free simply would not agree with me and I would not be the right architect for them. It’s the difference between price, and value. I will compete on value. Then again, what’s the old adage, “you get what you pay for”?