September 25, 2012, by Jenny Gallow

Wearing The Right Hat

As designers and architects we wear different hats over the course of a project: designer - drafter - modeler - writer - problem solver - negotiator - the list goes on and on.  Most likely all of these roles fall within the job description you signed up for.  To me, the diversity in my days keep things interesting.  I get to do it all and I am grateful for that.

Sometimes I think this "do all" attitude in the industry leads to complications.  We are so used to doing a little bit of everything that architects play interior designer ... interior designers play graphic designer ... and so on.  I'm not saying we aren't capable (I for one love graphic design and page layout).  By attempting to wear different hats I sometimes wonder if our clients always get the best of all worlds ... or would the solution have been different (and maybe better) if we wore less hats and focused on our true specialty?

Smaller projects, with their (often) tight schedules and budgets, typically have smaller teams - the smaller the team, the more hats you will likely wear. On a recent public library interior renovation we opted to let all of the right people keep their hats and created a team of specialists.  The owner wanted a detailed mural on the wall - so we teamed with a children's book illustrator.  The owner wanted large, 3D sculptural elements - so we teamed with an industrial designer/fabricator.  The owner wanted to utilize existing and new shelving - so we teamed with a library move specialist.  These are all hats I could have worn - and services interior designers can and do offer to their clients.  At first letting go and letting others take control of certain aspects of the projects was difficult (I, like many, tend to be a control-freak).  In the end, I sit here looking at a project that has been delivered on-time, on-budget, and is beautiful.  By letting the right people play the right roles the job is more then I could have imagined - it's a combination of multiple minds instead of just my own.

Letting go is difficult, as is confronting the reality that you can't do it all (or perhaps shouldn't).  I sit here a believer in creating the right team so that you can focus on a smaller piece of the puzzle and deliver something greater to your client.