There are infinite methods to approach the design process. Regardless of the design tools or technology used, how architects work can be lumped into 3 basic steps:
Design should begin with a thorough learning process. An architect should be educated about the client groups involved and their project parameters – this information could be gathered through meetings, surveys, and observation. Empathizing with the client’s project goals and identifying specific items needing attention are critical in this initial phase. Investigating existing conditions and applicable codes specific to the site and the overall region should be conducted before time is spent proposing design solutions. Understanding the client’s aesthetic preferences, through image slideshows, building tours, and reviewing product samples, is also imperative. Technically, these “discovery” phases are called Pre-Design and Schematic Design, they lay the groundwork for the next step.
Using what has been discovered, the creative process of problem solving begins. During the discovery process ideas have been forming and now is the time to try them out in drawings or models to investigate how the various ideas work. Architects collaborate with the consultants to generate numerous solutions, and then focus on the ones that show the most promise. Ideas are then reviewed and refined with the client. Now is the time to get input and make changes before construction begins and changes become more costly. In terms of “Basic Architectural Services”, this work takes place primarily in the Schematic Design and Design Development phases.
When the direction is clear, architects proceed with detailed documentation. The Construction Documents phase is where architects spend a large amount of time, essentially creating an assembly manual for a building in the form of drawings & specifications. During the Bidding & Negotiation phase, an architect works with regulating authorities & contractors to procure a building permit and help a client select a contractor. Clients often hire an architect during Construction to resolve unforeseen issues as the building is built and verify that the contractor is building the structure as it was designed.
While each project solution is unique, a good architect creates a consistent process for their projects. The design process is full of choices, many without a clear “right answer.” Proceeding thoughtfully through these design stages can help a client articulate their vision and ultimately feel confident about design decisions.