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Better Together – The importance of a collaborative design team

In Conversation with Andrew Long, Founder of Iconic AD

We’ve worked on some really exciting projects together over the last few years; why is it important for clients to have an integrated design team that is truly collaborative?

In the old days, the architect was something of a jack of all trades, trying to do everything, and often spread too thinly as a result, leading to errors.

As I see it, the design process is more a consortium of creative and technical minds, each specialising in their own area but working together to give the client the best service. A side benefit from this is that as a team you help and learn from each other.

Collaboration was one of the core values that I was looking to capture in founding Saskia Kate Interiors. Relationships are at the heart of what we do, whether that’s with the fantastic clients that we work with or our trusted design partners. What are the guiding principles of Iconic?

Having worked in big and small practices over the years, my starting point is to enjoy what I am doing: waking up every day with enthusiasm for what lies ahead is a great starting point.

Secondly, it’s important to like who you work with, whether that’s client or consultants, as this enables creativity.

It’s crucial to listen to what a client wants, translating that to reality, rather than designing them your dream house.

Explaining how you work is also key. I believe an up front and personal approach often yields better results than using a remote office team from a large practice, as it ensures nothing gets lost in translation and clients get what they want.

Managing clients’ expectations is also crucial. Rather than telling them what they want to hear simply to secure a fee, if their budget is unachievable I will say so. In most cases I find this engenders mutual respect, which is fundamental to a good working relationship.

What inspires you and how do you bring creativity to a project?

For me the creative buzz comes from an enthusiastic client with an interesting site and a sense of humour; it makes brainstorming and designing on a one-to-one basis so much fun. I always perform better when it’s fun, which in turn means the client gets a better design.

How do you tailor your designs for client's individual aspirations?

There are some clients with similar lifestyles who want similar designs and layouts, but there are others that have unique requirements. Making their aspirations work, bringing together the reality of a budget (if they have one) with expectations of what can be achieved isn’t always easy but we usually find a way to make it work.

Undertaking a new build or large-scale renovation is a big investment for our clients and I know it can feel like a daunting process; what’s your advice for making it an enjoyable experience?

A realistic budget is the first thing, ignoring the hearsay from a friend-who-knows-a-builder who doesn’t know the site. Once a client properly grasps what they can afford, then I can design for that budget, making the process much more enjoyable. Sometimes it may take a few sessions to get there, which may be where a conversation with a trusted construction manager comes in.

What makes an Iconic project?

Well, it’s not the name! My children have told me that I also produce a range of makeup, offer debt financing and have two other practices in Surrey ( - I don’t!) So I would say the answer has to be me, the creative dyslexic with the challenging fringe!

Iconic AD

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