DESIGN SHADOW: A DESIGNER’S ROLE ON THE TOTEM POLE

I am working on a project where the firm I work for is the local architect and we are partnered with a larger national firm from another state. The national firm leads out on the architecture and interior design and we support where we can and then are responsible for getting ready all the documents for contractor biding and construction. We also manage the day to day of CA.

This project has been interesting because there are so many people in the meetings that have opinions and experience to back that up; Owners, clients, contractors and teams from two different architectural firms. The phrase: “too many Chiefs and not enough Indians” comes to mind. We all work well together and are respectful of each other but that means it takes a long time to finalize decisions and to make progress.

Today I got a call from from one of the Owner’s users ( the actual people who will be in the buildings once completed). He and I have made a good connection, and because I am local to the project he wanted to see if I could run over and meet with him and his supervisor about getting some furniture from some local suppliers that they could test out and create “mocked up” spaces in some empty rooms.

This was such a great idea and such a great opportunity for me to work more with the client, but after talking the concept through more, I realized it wasn’t my place to do as he asked, even though that is all I wanted to do. Even though he knew that I wasn’t the project lead, he had hoped that I could resolve it quickly by just running over and getting something going. And though it would have been easy for me to do just that, I encouraged him to contact the project director and express his ideas and have him contact me, if they sought my help. I told him I could come right down and get started, but needed to keep things in order. He understood. And it was a good thing he did because shortly after his call all the team received an email from one of the directors letting us know our opportunity to do some room mock-ups and giving the rains to have that done to another individual at the national firm. Both of us would have been “toast” if we would have assumed that roll, without considering all the other people involved.

The thing about our roll as interior designers is that sometimes we are needed to lead out, and sometimes we are needed to follow. Even though one minute I am expected to manage a project, this minute, I had to recognize my place as the “low man on the totem pole.”

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