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Design Management

zulqarhelal

Do you see any value in design management for architects?

 
Aug 11, 21 12:43 am
Wood Guy

Yes, somebody needs to manage the process, regardless of what type of firm or project. I'm a sole practitioner but still spend hours a week on management. Why do you ask? (Are you selling something?) 


Aug 11, 21 9:00 am  · 
1  · 
zulqarhelal

Trying to learn more about it, thanks for your thoughts.

Aug 12, 21 12:00 am  · 
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Sounds like the OP has no experience in architecture and is trying to develop some type of process management app. 


Aug 11, 21 5:39 pm  · 
3  · 
zulqarhelal

I bet already there are a number of useful apps for this...

Aug 12, 21 12:03 am  · 
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atelier nobody

That's a bet you'd lose.

Aug 13, 21 4:35 pm  · 
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zulqarhelal

Perhaps I should explain a little- I am learning the subject by reading minimally available materials and by asking questions to others in the industry. Architectural projects are sometimes very successful and other times not so much. For the latter category, often the architect is blamed both by the client and contractor. Even for successful projects, the architect may need to invest an enormous amount of free services for nothing just to see the completion. I wonder what architects and academics think about managing design in such a way that supports everyone's success, or will they keep dropping shoes on those trying to talk about it until the industry buries the architects under the design-builders?

Aug 12, 21 12:08 am  · 
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Design / build is a simplified management system.

Aug 12, 21 8:47 am  · 
1  · 
SlammingMiruvor

What do you mean minimally available material? I can go pay countless Universities thousands of dollars for a degree in design management. It's literally a graduate program.

Aug 12, 21 9:56 am  · 
1  · 
zulqarhelal

You are correct, but most of those degrees are for fashion design, not architectural design. My focus is on the professionals who practice it and can show results. I am less interested on theories.

Aug 13, 21 1:23 am  · 
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ash13

Masters in Project management / Construction management?

Aug 13, 21 3:27 pm  · 
1  · 
zulqarhelal

Project/ construction management would deliver something out of something, design management on the other would deliver something out of nothing. That's why design management is much more complex and architects are more capable of handling it than PMs or CMs can.

Aug 19, 21 11:14 pm  · 
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zulqarhelal

Hope this link helps to some extent- https://dbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Design-Build-Design-Management-Guide-Edition-2.pdf

Aug 20, 21 12:27 am  · 
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SlammingMiruvor

It's better than endless pessimism and belittlement.

Aug 20, 21 10:37 am  · 
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SlammingMiruvor

zulqarhelal: To respond to delivering something out of nothing. Sounds like you're working with the clients before architects even get in involved, and helping them vocalize what their project can be, wants to be, and is. Something similar to programming, but more visionary.

I think it's a pretty small segment of the market, and I still think architects could deliver this. I know for myself, that was one of the big leaps between undergrad and graduate school. Undergrad we were handed project briefs, and acted on them. Graduate school was about developing your own project brief, and then reacting to it. You want to live in that world where you're developing the project brief? 

Aug 20, 21 10:38 am  · 
1  · 
zulqarhelal

Dude, have an open mind and learn something new, original or not. When the learning faculties stop functioning, the person becomes a walking dead body.

Aug 22, 21 3:40 pm  · 
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oiltincan

So by hiring you, an architect who fails to produce a solution can toss away more money?

Aug 12, 21 12:36 am  · 
1  · 
zulqarhelal

Firms should not hire someone else to do the design management for them. The staff should be doing it collaboratively with the principals' support.

Aug 13, 21 1:27 am  · 
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tduds

I'll be blunt have no idea what you're proposing here. Meaningless buzzwords abound, too little in the way of actual explanation.

Aug 12, 21 11:39 am  · 
7  · 
zulqarhelal

It is the business side of design. Financially stable firms are good at it and unstable firms can become stable by adopting it.

Aug 13, 21 1:30 am  · 
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proto

nothing like adding more mouths to feed to a budget in the spirit of "organization" and then claiming improvement

concentrate on building the right team, not just a bigger one

Aug 12, 21 2:01 pm  · 
2  · 
zulqarhelal

Agreed 100%- the right team is so important!

Aug 13, 21 1:31 am  · 
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zulqarhelal

How do you quantify a successful project? A great question that has many answers. For some, a successful project is one that gets published, for others, one that made good money. As long as the goal is clear and is achieved, I would call it a success. 

Aug 13, 21 1:43 am  · 
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Wood Guy

Why do you rate getting projects published so highly? I've had some shitty projects published.

Aug 13, 21 4:28 pm  · 
2  · 
zulqarhelal

You are too honest!

Aug 19, 21 11:15 pm  · 
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Bench

The responses here remind me of a lot of some certain tech-bro friends when they try to pitch me on the next big thing ...

Aug 13, 21 10:02 am  · 
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Bench

I mean *some* of them have good ideas too ...

Aug 13, 21 4:42 pm  · 
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atelier nobody

The term "design management" is used to mean different things.

At one level, all design projects must be managed, whether that's self-management by a sole practitioner or a PM overseeing a team. Someone needs to verify that the design is satisfying the client's program and budget, as well as managing the "burn rate" of the budgeted hours to keep the project profitable for the architect. It is critical that any architecture firm be appropriately managed in this way (and shocking how many firms seem to operate without it), but it is usually done by an architect (or senior unlicensed person with architectural experience) who may have some additional PM training/certification/degree or who may have just learned through experience. I would personally never even consider hiring a "design manager" who didn't have enough architectural experience to thoroughly understand the design he/she is supposed to manage.

There are also folks who offer "design management" as a separate service, usually under the aegis of a CM or program management firm. There are a handful of good CM and program management firms in the world, but in my experience the overwhelming majority of such firms are about as helpful to their clients as piling money in the parking lot and burning it, and in many cases are actively causing harm.

Aug 13, 21 4:51 pm  · 
3  · 
zulqarhelal

You hit the nail on its head! PMs and CMs are a disaster for design management as they have no clue what they are managing. But the design-build market has created a huge demand for this service that the architects don't like to recognize. That's why the PMs and CMs are filling up the vacuum. I am shocked to learn how fast the design-build market is growing- https://dbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Design-Build-Market-Research-FMI-2018.pdf

Aug 19, 21 11:22 pm  · 
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zulqarhelal

SlammingMiruvor, thank you for adding some positive words to this thread! I wish that the market segment I am referring to was small- it is the design & build delivery, which has gobbled up over 40% of the public sector within a very short time. I have provided a link to market research in a previous response. Design management for design & build has become an absolute necessity and the designers and architects are being stickhandled by the CMs and PMs, who have been looking for this opportunity for many years. Again, greatly appreciate the conversation.

Aug 22, 21 3:55 pm  · 
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zulqarhelal

Another thing- the design-build projects need this service starting from programming, design, construction, all the way to occupancy. The design-builders want to eliminate design-related risks from the projects, especially the change orders generated from design/ scope gaps, sloppy documents, last-minute change requests by the owner, constructability, delays due to numerous RFIs etc.

Aug 22, 21 6:01 pm  · 
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zulqarhelal

The second thing that actually comes first is that the design-builders want the design team to never exceed a target value- some people call it target value design. The management of design related risk factors will follow the target value design stage. I am still learning, that's why describing things out of sequence.

Aug 22, 21 9:10 pm  · 
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gwharton

Toasting in old bread, but this is a subject near and dear to my heart, and the combination of scorn and dismissal on both sides of the discussion threads above bothers me.

Traditional-practice architects have a problem with effective management of the design process. Everyone knows it, and it's why the clients look for solutions and the OP is asking about it as a business opportunity. At the same time, non-designers don't really understand what happens in the real design process at all, and so try to impose all sorts of conceptual project management models to it with very little success and lots of failure.

Successful design management requires the people doing it understand what's actually happening and why the stuff we do during design is categorically different from what we're doing in documentation or something else. A few industries seem to have figured this out in narrow, domain-specific ways. Architects aren't on that list, and I say that as an architect and designer who has been doing this for nearly 30 years.

Most project management techniques are oriented to dealing with well-defined, linear problem-solving processes with a focus on predictability and efficiency (which is literally what "management" is primarily about). But design is neither well-defined nor linear. We start doing design as a process of learning and discovery, which through trial-and-error, ideation, and a number of other heuristic processes helps us find problems as well as solutions.

The nature of the problems is different too. There are few "right-wrong" problems in design, and lots of "good-bad" problems. There are also lots and lots of stakeholders involved too, so it's fundamentally an iterative, social activity.

In fact, if you look at the reality of how design actually happens, there is no natural endpoint to the process at all. You just keep going in iterative feedback cycles until you run out of time, resources, or interest. At which point, you just stop wherever you are and move forward with whatever you happen to have (yes, this is an exaggeration, but not by much).

To "manage" that effectively, the design leader (not manager), needs to be really systematic about allowing the iterative process of discovery to proceed while helping to arbitrate, edit, and channel it toward critical milestones and goals. So that when you do run out of time, resources, and/or interest, you've made enough progress to settle on something which has a much higher probability of satisfying requirements with a good fit everyone can be at least minimally satisfied with.

Oct 11, 21 4:21 pm  · 
7  · 
midlander

well written. i think the key is that good design management requires a well-informed vision for the project, otherwise it's inevitably run towards death by 1000 cuts. its probably more similar to movie production than software or manufacturing design management.

Oct 11, 21 11:39 pm  · 
1  · 
gwharton

To a point, yes. But design actually includes forming the vision itself as part of the process. Which creates a chicken-and-egg problem and the iterative feedback loops which are characteristic of doing design. The key insight is to recognize that as a feature, not a bug, and act accordingly.

Oct 12, 21 3:23 pm  · 
2  · 

Creating a direct conflict between quality (time spent in design) and cost (time spent in design). How do you like your eggs?

Oct 13, 21 10:08 am  · 
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betonbrut

More time spent in design does not necessarily lead to a better design or a higher quality of design. Too often we equate amount of time spent with the value of that design. Design management, done correctly, seeks to balance quality and cost.

Oct 13, 21 1:14 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

gwharton - Well said. Also, some good replies from midlander and betonbrut.

Miles - If there is a conflict between cost and quality, then the project is being poorly managed - that's the whole point.

Oct 13, 21 1:24 pm  · 
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@beronbrut Time does not equal quality per se. Early in my architecture career I spent lots of time developing quality. Later in my career quality came faster and more intuitively based on experience. Experience has a time cost. When someone asks 'how long does it take?' to make one of my artworks I reply 50 years and two weeks.

@nobody There is always a conflict between cost and quality. Fast, cheap, or nice: pick one.

Oct 13, 21 2:59 pm  · 
1  · 
betonbrut

You are changing to topic a bit... yes, experience has a time cost, agree completely. However, I believe the topic had more to do with design management on a particular project, not one's entire body of work. Your Father, and I can only assume you as well, operate(d) as a sole-proprietor, the architect as artist or solo act and less architecture as a team sport. When you are a solo act, you end up doing it all and experience plays a much more significant role. When part of a larger team, singling out design management as a part of the team makes more sense.

Oct 13, 21 3:21 pm  · 
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Architecture is always a team sport and experience (or lack thereof) always plays a significant role. I wasn't talking about 'an entire body of work' but rather the experience gained over time and the effect of that on efficiency. As gwharton said, "design is neither well-defined nor linear". His entire comment is keenly astute and recognizes the trade-offs we all encounter.

Oct 13, 21 4:56 pm  · 
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gwharton

There are a lot of trade-offs, certainly. But we have moved into an environment where the old saw about picking at most two from cost, time, and quality isn't valid or acceptable anymore. We have to do all three equally well or we become irrelevant. That's compounding the challenge by an order of magnitude, but that's the new reality. The only real way to cope with that is to be extremely systematic about how you do it.

Oct 14, 21 9:03 pm  · 
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The adage referred to the often unrealistic demands of residential clients, not the ability of architects to satisfy them.

Oct 14, 21 11:37 pm  · 
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joseffischer

time money cost, pick 3? If that's truly what you believe then you're under/practicing poor management. You can say what you want about balancing the force or whatever, but in reality we need to be better managing our clients.

Oct 15, 21 9:09 am  · 
2  · 

If only there was an app for that.

Oct 15, 21 11:45 am  · 
1  · 
x-jla

Client management should be a job. I envision a Steve Irwin like character would be best fit.

Oct 15, 21 3:04 pm  · 
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greenlander1

Not sure what purpose is but seems like a totally redundant thing.  Just hire a good architect.

Oct 15, 21 3:15 pm  · 
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greenlander1

I could see 'design management' as a PM/ owner's rep type keeping things on track but that's not a new concept.

Oct 15, 21 3:25 pm  · 
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midlander

wait, isn't your current job doing design management at a developer? hiring the good architect is part of design management.

Oct 15, 21 3:32 pm  · 
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greenlander1

yeh totally agree. Getting a better architect reduces my work so I dont care if fees are higher and usually it is cheaper in the long run for the project. No brainer.

Oct 15, 21 3:54 pm  · 
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