At the very beginning it is important to determine exactly who will be the authorized person to deliver final choices, decisions, and sign-offs. In order to avoid misunderstandings, mid-work conflicts, serious mistakes and dangerous assumptions, you and your designer should make sure that the authorized person (or persons) be named in the design services contract.
More than one individual may determine some decisions, but the final responsibility for transferring action authorizations to your designer must be specifically designated.
Once vital factors have been established and documented, it is important to consider the issue of mutual trust. Your designer will be moving forward with the responsibility of advising wisely and guiding intelligently ‑ all of which usually leads to spending your money.
Your designer will be trusting that all relevant factors are on the table previous to each decision that sets a process in motion.
One factor that compromises trust is called the hidden veto. That is when a significantly influential person (who does not openly and consistently participate in the project dialogs and process) exercises opposing influence after the fact of an important decision that has been authorized for action. Such power can result in reversals that can be financially disastrous as well as significantly harmful to mutual trust.
When there are significant others to whom you may defer regarding the many choices in a design project, bring them out of the shadows and give them a legitimate voice before the fact of decisions that trigger serious action.
The paperwork challenge is not only about your initial and primary agreement to work together. It is also about the on-going communication and documentation necessary to maintain clarity and adherence to the project’s vision.
Just as your primary contract secures the front end of the process, other communication and documentation tools keep things on track throughout the life of the project.
It is a good rule and wise to avoid verbal orders, authorizations and directions. There are many tools available for capturing and transferring relevant information. The project’s cumulative army of details must be recorded, transferred, checked and re-checked, re-directed, and coordinated comprehensively for the purpose of easy and accurate retrieval when needed.
Changes happen. Whether thoughtfully and systematically, or out-of-the-blue because of a hidden veto, they must be carefully documented.
Develop good habits for maintaining phone records, with comprehensive reference information. Documented phone and email traffic provides the material you need when a problem arises concerning how something did or did not occur.
Field notes, site memos, photos, and even the casual jots on a lunch napkin, carry important fragments from the active outside rhythms of the work to the internal record keeping mechanisms of your project. Developing simple information transfer disciplines saves time and money that might otherwise have to be spent on damage control.
Thorough contract inclusions, specific authority designations, trust, and good systems of simple ongoing documentation will ground your project and will help insure a smooth journey.
Robert Boccabella, B.F.A., Certified Interior Designer
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Collaboration & Writing: Ms. Zoe Tummillo