This article will provide an overview of the five phases that take a design project from inception to completion and the typical tasks related to each phase. Once the parameters and the scope of an interior design project are defined, the design project kicks off, mirroring the five fundamental architecture design phases. Many tasks are performed at each phase, some distinctly different from those in other phases and further similar from phase to phase. It is important to note that a client’s needs might not require a designer to perform all the phase tasks. Note formal client approval is needed for the end of the first 3 phases before continuing on to the next phase.
Programming also referred to as pre-design, is one of the most important phases. It is the information-gathering portion of an interior design project. As a designer, you should gather as much information as possible on a project, such things as client expectations, functional needs, aesthetics, and factors concerning the interior space itself. This is an excellent time to deepen the relationship between the client and yourself.
The programming phase involves conducting interviews with clients to ascertain the project’s functional and aesthetic needs; obtaining existing floor plans, construction drawings, or related media can help a designer prepare space plans during subsequent phases of the project; identifying any existing items that may be used with appropriate modification in the design space or obtain information needed to specify new items; conducting visits to the proposed project site, measuring the space and assessing its present condition and location for later project-planning purposes; preparing the budget and schedule estimates based on goals of the project and the level of design and construction skills it will require to be realized; conducting research to ascertain how – and whether – designers will assume responsibility for the project.
An essential activity for designers is to ask themselves what knowledge they will need to complete the project—certainly, designers’ expertise over time in handling specific projects. However, each project is different and has different restrictions placed on its completion by a host of applicable laws and building and safety codes. The needs and requests of clients also differ from project to project. After review and client approval of the initial deliverables, the designer will move to the next phase.
The schematic design phase involves the execution of preliminary design decisions. These are accomplished by developing written design concepts, bubble diagrams, adjacency matrices, block plans, initial floor plans, and nay appropriate design sketches. Designers also include the research on all applicable codes, accessibility guidelines, other regulations, and environmental standards required for the project in preliminary documents and selections. Designers work estimating forms for the architectural finishes, furniture specifications, construction estimates from contractors, and budgets during this phase.
After review and client approval of the preliminary deliverables, the designer will move to the next phase.
The design development phase involves final decisions for plans, specifications, and any final presentation graphics. Depending on the project contract, the designer may have to prepare construction specifications, at least at the introductory level, to recommend color, materials, and finishes, to advise on cost-of-work adjustments. The interior designer must conduct final consultations with any technical consultants to review any changes made after presenting the client’s schematic drawings.
These documents are reviewed with the client in a final presentation before moving on to the contract document’s next phase.
The contract document phase is mostly devoted to preparing working documents, often referred to as CDS, schedules, and specifications needed and required to build and install the design project. Contract documents are technical construction drawings, not furniture plans or other presentation drawings like perspectives. The CDs are created to communicate the design project to contractors for pricing and construction. They must provide clear, complete, and accurate communications regarding a project’s design intentions. This phase involves finalizing the cost adjustments, obtaining permits, qualifying vendors, suppliers, and contractors, finalizing furniture, finishes, and equipment selections, and placing orders after the client’s approval.
The construction administration phase is where it all happens! The competitive bid process is completed, orders are placed for all furniture and equipment, and the actual construction and installation work are underway. Suppose this phase is part of the designer’s scope. In that case, he or she will coordinate and cooperate with the architect, general contractor, and subcontractor, review shop drawings and submittals from vendors and conduct onsite supervision of construction and installation.
It is essential to understand each phase’s associated tasks for preparing the design contract, pricing your services, and preparing project schedules. Follow the sequential process, avoid skipping one phase, for it has proven to be successful and help predict your project success.
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