Why We Charge for Our Designs

Friday, June 1st, 2012

After many years of doing estimates and designs for free we have started charging for our design time and initial consultations. While some people have shrugged us off for doing so we find it necessary in order to focus on clients with whom our limited and valuable time is better spent.

In this article excerpt from Luxury Pools, spring 2012, the author, David Tisherman, explains exactly how we feel about charging for designs. While he a pool and spa designer the same reasoning holds true for landscape designs.

Designing with Purpose
Great projects start with meaningful design decisions
By David Tisherman

As a starting point, homeowners should be wary of any pool and spa professional who does not charge for design. I’m a huge fan of Ernest Hemmingway, who once wrote, “Nothing’s free. Anything that was ever any good, you pay for. Nowhere does that time-honored adage apply more firmly than in the world of pools and spas. If the builder is using the design as a marketing tool, this should be a red flag indicating that perhaps he or she does not value design—probably because they do not know anything about it beyond an extremely narrow bandwidth.

By the same token, just because someone does charge for design does not necessarily mean the client will receive quality work. In my practice, I always charge for design, but I also always make sure my clients understand why. I let them know that as a designer and builder it is my job to use my background to imagine on their behalf. I become a psychologist of sorts, extracting my clients’ needs and assembling the various chosen elements in visual harmony.

By and large, people who can afford a luxurious pool and spa have a general idea about what they want. What they need is a professional to take those concepts and guide them in the right direction. Odds are (though not always) the discerning homeowner has traveled and has developed an appreciation of art and architecture. But an expert designer still needs to ask these important questions: Do you entertain? Do you want to be able to cook and dine outside? Are you interested in places to relax and read a book or listen to music? Do you want the tranquility that comes with the sound of moving water? Do you intend to exercise in the pool? Is privacy a big concern? Are there children involved? What are your concerns for safety? Are you interested in energy efficiency?

As a homeowner, if you do not get the impression that your designer is taking all of those questions and more into consideration, then you should be wary that you are not working with someone who truly understands the role of the designer. The design process is all about making the right choices from a world of almost limitless possibilities. That is why great designers are not constrained by a few product choices that they use time and time again or have seen at the latest trade show. In fact, there are situations where the designer becomes an inventor, creating a detail, or even a new product, to solve a particular design challenge.

High-end clients should expect to see quality renderings, material samples and specifics of great detail. The designer should come with beautiful photos of past works, strong client referrals, and confidence in his or her own abilities to create works of enduring beauty. Such designers understand the principles of line, texture, spatial relationships, color, art history, balance, fine materials, and all of the technical construction details needed to take a design from concept to reality.

Again, the point cannot be made strongly enough: everything that goes into the design of wonderful pools, spas, and more importantly, overall exterior environments, has a distinct purpose. Imagination and creativity are wonderful, but without the discipline that comes from purposeful execution of design principles, the process breaks down into a random game of chance.

When you do find and work with an educated and experienced designer, however, you have every reason to believe that the end product will exceed your highest expectations.”

View the the full article Designing with Purpose

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