Architect or Building Designer

What’s the difference


You can type this question into google and see the battle that has been raging on for quite some time and it isn’t specific to Australia. In most countries in the world the decision on who to use is difficult. So I am not going to enter into the debate in this article. Instead I am going to look at it from a different perspective. Let’s look at it from the consumers perspective, that’s you. Quite a novel approach really, I mean who’d have thought that the customer would have an opinion right?

The Design Professional

Let’s start the discussion off by changing the labels so that we can avoid the noise of who is better or who is worse. And just to clear up the confusion there is no difference between them from your perspective because both can get the job done. From your kids cubby house to a multi-story office block both can do it if they have been licenced by the appropriate authorities.

Full disclosure, I am a Building Designer by trade but the direction this article is taking, that bios will be irrelevant.

Like I said, to avoid the noise between the two let’s call them “Design Professionals“! Now we have placed them all under one label, let’s look at what we can do to answer that all important question we want to know the answer to.

Who is the best person to design my home?

Which Design Professional will I choose?

Right now finally we are on the right track and asking the right questions.

The most common response I get when trying to decide is “You get what you pay for”! Meaning the more you pay the better the result. And nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen buildings designed by Design Professionals that have been an absolute disgrace and I have seen buildings designed on a budget price that have won design awards for excellence. Not my opinion, they have been chosen by their peers. So that dispels that myth.

So how do I decide?

Here it is! The number 1 best way to determine who is the best Design Professional for the job is…….

Drum Roll

Look at what work they have already produced!

That’s right it’s that simple. Actively seek out projects they have done is the best way to decide if they are going to be right for you. And nobody can make the decision for you because no one else has your tastes. All Design Professionals have their strengths and their weaknesses and it all becomes apparent in the body of work they produce. Strengths and weaknesses also is misleading because what you see as a strength someone else will see it as a weakness. It’s not that the work is good or bad it is just our own personal opinion. And your Design Professional won’t mind if you say you don’t like their work as long as you can give a reason. We as Design Professionals are not going to please all of the people all of the time (John Lydgate) and that’s ok. The fact that you have ruled someone out makes you one step closer to find the right someone.

What else can I do to help me decide?

We have already covered the single most important thing to do but here are a couple of others worth mentioning.

  1. Check with the design association in your state / province – Most professional “Design Professionals” (doesn’t sound right does it?) most professionals are registered with an industry association that governs their code of ethics. They do this mainly for the networking with other like minded people and to stay abreast of emerging trends. If they belong to an association there’s a good chance they are capable of doing the job.
  2. Talk to owners and occupiers – If you see a house you like, knock on the door and ask them who designed their home. It’s that simple. Most people who have chosen well are happy to talk about their house and show it off to people so don’t be embarrassed to ask. For larger projects like office blocks the occupiers of the premises are not usually the owners but they can point you in the right direction.
  3. Magazines – In most countries in the world, houses and commercial buildings are showcased in industry awards. Some are done by the design association mentioned in item 1, and some are done by magazines mainly to increase their readership but the result is just the same. You get to see buildings that have been judged the best by other peers in the industry. The designers name is usually indicated in the article and in a lot of cases, so is their contact details.
  4. Social Media – Platforms such a Facebook have groups dedicated to architecture and design and can be a good source of information. Get on the platform and get involved with the group. Ask questions and you will get (hopefully) unbiased replys from people with experience.
  5. Friends and Friends of Friends – Social networking is one of the best ways of getting the word around about whether someone is good or bad. Ask your friends if they have used anyone they can recommend or if they know of anyone who has used a design professional. 80% of my income comes from this source, it is a really powerful marketing tool. If I do a good job, my customers tell their friends about it. Whoda thought right? But seriously, apart from checking their body of work, this is the next best way of helping your decision on a Design Professional.

In Closing

Well that’s about all I can say on the subject for now. I will probably come back and add to, or take away as I get comments back from my readers (that’s you) so leave a comment and let me know what you think about the article or if there is anything you can add that will help people in this very important step.