An Ear for Design

When we think about design, whether in architecture or in other disciplines, we often speak of a designer “having a good eye.” What may be even more important, is having a good EAR…being a good listener.

The Importance of Listening.

Clients seek out an architect because they need help in solving a specific set of problems, usually (but not always) related to space or a new building that is needed. They may have a strong grasp of their needs, or at least “where it hurts,” but they most often come from a culture or background that is not immersed in the language and ideas of architecture. The architect, on the other hand, may be incredibly skillful in creatively developing beautiful and functional designs, but he may not be completely in tune with the needs of this particular client. This is where the art of listening becomes essential.

We have TWO ears and ONE mouth.

I’ve always liked this expression. It reminds me that we should spend twice as much time listening as we do talking. I really have to work at this because I actually like to talk. It’s key that this listening is genuine active listening, and not just pausing between our own soliloquies.

We’ve all seen projects that seemed to be terrific designs but nonetheless failed to meet the client’s needs appropriately. This can probably be traced to a failure to really listen, leading to a disconnect between design professional and client. This is even more tragic when the project is for healthcare, where there are so many functional, programmatic, budgetary, and market considerations to be understood, embraced, and resolved in the project’s design.

Do you hear what I’m saying?

1 Comment

  1. Dave /Reply

    Well said! We have a project that we have taken to 95% CDs that is about to be redesigned because the layout doesn’t meet the client’s needs.

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