Tips from the Architect: Better Communication with Client Through Visual Design Tools

May 1, 2018

When we begin the design process with new clients, our first job is to listen to their goals, needs, and wants for their project. This might include space for a growing family, a certain design aesthetic, or something specific like charging outlets within a drawer in the kitchen for the family to charge their electronics. Both large-scale and small, we listen to our client’s wishes, incorporate those features into our design, and make sure the client understands all aspects of the proposed design before construction begins.

Standard drawings we produce over the course of a project include floor plans, exterior elevations, interior elevations, detail drawings, and coordination plans for framing, mechanical, and lighting. These are all 2-dimensional drawings created for the purpose of displaying design intent, construction details, and methods for fabrication.

Just as though the stock market or legal documents may make your head spin, so too can floor plans and section details through millwork. Part of our job as architects is to figure out the best way to communicate design intent with our clients, sometimes requiring going above and beyond the standard range of drawings. A few methods include:

  • Detailed Floor Plans and Elevations – The first example below is a drawing in which we oriented large-scale floor plans in line with interior elevations so it’s easier for clients to understand the relationship of cabinets and appliances within the kitchen design. We have labeled each individual drawer and cabinet, corresponding to a list of what each cabinet will house once the project is complete. Also shown are proposed light fixtures and hardware to illustrate how all facets will visually come together. Presenting this level of detail to clients reinforces their confidence in the design, they can see how we have accounted for their needs and requests in the finished product.
  • Sketch Renderings - In working with clients, we often turn to sketches and renderings as tools to illustrate our proposed design in 3-D. Depending on the project, client, or space, one approach is a quicker sketch-style rendering where elements are not photo-realistic. This approach is meant to give you a general feel for the volume of the space and design elements. However, sketch renderings do not necessarily represent a full understanding of color, texture, and materials.
  • Photo-Realistic Renderings - These digital renderings take the concept of sketch renderings one step further, adding materials, finishes, and a sense of realism. Currently, we are working with a family that lives across the country from their new home, and they aren't available to meet in person to review all aspects of the design. We have found it helpful to render various portions of the project in this method to give them a better understanding of what the finished space might look like.

Not all visual aide tools are appropriate for every client and project. We tailor our approach to each specific project, whether this means simple but detailed 2-D drawings that take into account storage and functional considerations or photo-realistic renderings that provide a final view of a space with accurate portrayal of materials, finishes, etc. It is important to us that each of our clients has a full understanding of their design before construction begins. All of the tools we have discussed are invaluable to our process, as we build a bridge from technical to transparent for our clients.