Types of design services

A design project has numerous phases to it; design, planning, management, procurement, supervision etc. Each of these has its own set of challenges. As a designer, the fee you charge would be based on the combination of service you provide to the client during the course of the project. For a majority of clients, one of these three service packages will fulfill their requirements:

  • Pure design consultancy
  • Design plus management
  • Design-build (turnkey)

The main concern here is your time. You are charging the client for your time, but if there is a misunderstanding on the amount of time the client expects versus what you are offering, things can fall apart very quickly.

In my early days of running a design studio I was often confused about which type of design service to offer my clients. Often I would ask them directly, but obviously that was a bad idea. As a professional you need to be able to gauge the level of interest, involvement and capability of the client. So in this post I’ll share my thoughts on the three common types of design services and what to keep in mind when choosing between them.

  1. Design consultancy 

Just design, the client is able to execute the project without you, he just needs design ideas and a few material options before he takes the project forward. You’ll create the concepts, spec sheet and all the supporting drawings and 3D’s. You should set a limit to the number of revisions and be extremely frugal about your time on site. None of the contractors or vendors will be appointed, negotiated or managed by you. Offer three or four site visits, just to make sure things conform to the designs, but also offer a pay per visit option in case more visits are required.

This is an efficient way to work on a project, you are able to focus on the creative part of the project and leave the tedious site work to the client and his team. Overall this works out more economical for the client as well.

Be careful about the project budget here, if your designs don’t fit into the client’s budget then they are useless to him, so start with a project estimate before getting into the design process, otherwise you’ll be stuck redesigning the entire project. Also, your drawings will have to be accurate and clear, otherwise any errors in your drawings will get executed the same way and you won’t be around to make the necessary adjustments.

This works with a very limited number of clients, usually clients who have managed construction project before with offices and assistants who can take over the project management, vendor appointment, procurement, rate analysis, negotiation etc. Be careful when assessing whether a project is suited to this model. Every client thinks they can manage their own project, but when things get rough they expect their designers to step in to handle all the on-site problems, which is fine as long as the fee is high enough or the client is willing to renegotiate.

  1. Design plus management 

This is the most common model followed. You design the project, source the products, coordinate with the contractors, and are a constant presence through-out the cycle of the project. You will help the client negotiate with all the vendors but won’t get involved in payments, all bills will be raised to the client and he will make payments directly. This type of a project will take up a lot of your time and mindspace so charge accordingly.

The main difference between this model and the previous one is that you are responsible for managing the work on site, which includes appointing the contractors and vendors. The best part about this process is that you are in control of the project and its outcome.

Site visits are still tricky so be clear about how many visits you are offering, but account for about twice those many visits. You will have to explain the difference between project management and site supervision to the client; ideally it is the client who appoints a site supervisor, but if the client expects you to have the site supervised then charge him a monthly fee, to cover the cost of a daily supervisor, over and above your design fee.

Also be very clear about who gets to pick the vendors. In this model it is always best to get your own teams involved as you are comfortable with them and know their strengths and weaknesses. If the client insists on having some or all of the vendors appointed by him then make sure you still reserve the right to refuse anyone who doesn’t follow your protocols. Contractors who are appointed by the clients directly will avoid coming to your office for planning meetings, they expect you to be on site whenever they need you.

This model works best for clients who live close to the construction site and are generally available and willing to be involved but still understand that they need professional help at every step. As mentioned earlier, this is the most successful model I have come across; it allows the client to have some level of control without having to take on the burden of project management. He is involved in every step so is less likely to feel cheated, atleast not by you.

  1. Design/Build (Turnkey)

In this model the client pays you the entire project budget and leaves the design and execution completely up to you, profits come from the difference between the estimated and actual cost. On paper this sounds easy, but in fact it can be quite challenging. You will be responsible for all aspects of the project and won’t need to run minor decisions by the client. You can buy the products from wherever you want, appoint teams as you please and organize the project schedule to your convenience. The client has agreed to pay you a certain amount and in return you have agreed to handover the project by a certain date.

These kinds of projects are inherently full of hidden costs and escalations. It’s almost impossible to forecast the contingency expenses and budget overruns that might occur on site, and one has to budget for a high profit margin just to account for this. Also, you will need to be very specific about product brands for fixtures and appliances, any changes in the agreed upon brands will be viewed with suspicion. Project delays are another big concern as a lot of delays are caused by the client themselves or by situations outside your control, such as the recent lockdowns.

Be very clear about the payment schedule. Any delay in payments will throw the project off completely, so try and setup the payment schedule accordingly and insist on being paid on time. Also it’s best to have your accountant involved from day one. There will be hundreds of bills on either side and without proper accounting you might end up paying more taxes than necessary. You will also need your accountant to explain the details to the client at the time of billing.

This model works best for NRI’s or outstation clients who basically aren’t around to interfere. If the client lives in the same city and seems like they will be on site often, avoid making any hard commitments on time and budgets.


So that’s it from me, hope this was helpful. We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.




How to make design proposals that will win you more projects

The two major challenges one faces when pitching for a design project are:

  1. Other vendors quote very low rates (and increase it later).
  2. Clients don’t understand the complexity of a design project.

Both these need to be addressed in your proposal. A good proposal should help convert the lead and set you up to execute a successful project.

In today’s times designers and builders face tough competition. It’s common for home owners to get multiple quotes for their design projects. Apart from boutique design firms like you, larger players like LivSpace and HomeLane also pitch for renovation projects. With that in mind it’s essential to make a great impression upfront. Your project proposal is the document that will differentiate you from the clutter and build the trust that is essential to win projects.

What does a winning proposal entail?

The secret to a successful proposal is to anticipate the questions in the clients mind, and then respond to those in a concise and sleek proposal. The client wants a team of experts whom they can trust. Forget about name dropping and heavy discounting, instead focus on highlighting your integrity and process.

So what are these questions in the clients mind? 

Well It’s not very hard to know what the client is thinking: What will my project cost? Why will it cost that much; How much time will it take? Why will it take so long; Who are you? Why should I trust you.

While these questions are straight forward, the way you answer them is key to building trust. For example when forecasting a project budget don’t offer a thumb rule based ‘rate times area’ calculation, instead do a detailed breakup or BOQ. A good estimate itemizes the tasks and products that you believe are right for this project. Similarly when it comes to the project timeline, don’t just throw out a number like ’90 days’, qualify it with a breakup or gantt chart that helps the client appreciate the importance of sequencing the tasks correctly, and the expertise required to manage a project efficiently.

This gives the client an insight into your expertise, process and transparency. Everyone involved understands that the budget will evolve, but it’s important to present the base document in way that sets up the scope of work clearly.

Presentation is extremely important. Sending a rough excel sheet or a badly designed document will create a bad impression. Yes you are busy and have limited resources, but if you don’t care enough to compose a nice proposal, you don’t really care about this project.

Lastly, don’t try to win projects by charging a low fee. Remember the client is about to spend a lot of his hard earned money and is extremely insecure of being cheated out of a large sum, trust is his foremost concern. It’s your job to make him understand the complexity of the project, and why he needs a trustworthy professional like you to manage it. If the client is impressed by your proposal he will be happy to pay an appropriate fee for your service.

Do leave your comments and share your experience with design proposals.

Budgeting your kitchen renovation


It’s never easy to commit to a kitchen renovation. One is always concerned about the noise, disruption and the cost of renovating. While some disruption during the process is inevitable, at least when it comes to budgeting your project we can help. Here are a few tips on how to establish a renovation budget.
Identify what you want to keep
If looking to do the project within a budget one should consider re-using parts of their existing kitchen. Your oven, fridge, chimney and hob could be reused if in proper condition. If you are fine with the location of your water inlets and outlets then you can save on redoing the plumbing, and the same is true for electrical work. You might even consider reusing the original flooring.
Set priorities
What is the goal of the renovation? Do you want to Increase space, change the look and feel, or make it more functional for your changing requirements? Make a priority list of what you care about, this will help you pick and choose tasks when fitting the renovation into your budget.


Modular Kitchen Renovation Cost Breakdown
Most modular kitchen companies will give you a rate that seems quite low, but one must note that they are only referring to the cabinets. When it comes to a holistic budget one needs to consider the cost of plumbing, electrical, tiling, painting etc.
The cost of renovating a typical 8’X 10’ size kitchen with branded materials and midrange specifications should be around Rs. 4 Lacks. The budget break down per task is as follows:
Modular cabinets: 40% (includes good quality hardware, and laminate finish)
Electrical: 17% (includes hob, chimney, fans and geyser)
Plumbing: 11% (includes kitchen sink and faucet)
Tiles: 7% (floor and walls)
Doors and Windows: 12%
False ceiling: 3% (includes recessed lights)
Kitchen Counter: 3%
Misc. civil work: 7% (includes demolition of existing kitchen, waterproofing, painting etc.)
Please note that this budget doesn’t include larger appliances such as a fridge, OTG or microwave oven.
Also it is always advisable to keep an additional 15% of the budget available for unplanned tasks that might come up once your old kitchen is removed.
This basic thumb rule guide should get you on the right track in terms of preparing a budget, you can go high end with your cabinet finishes if your budget allows it, or cut some costs down by choosing not to redo the electricals and plumbing as mentioned before.
And finally to avoid going above budget, stick to the plan
How much extra you spend is completely dependent on you, once you have decided on a reasonable number, stick to it. Making changes through the course of a project leads to cascading budget increases that will surprise you at the end.
Hope these tips help you plan your upcoming kitchen renovation.

Get creative by reusing old materials for sustainable and cost effective renovations.

Sustainable development begins from sustainable thinking. Before you begin building, do take a good idea of the direction of the breeze and sun at different times of the day. Speculate how seasons would change the course of the wind and light, and then build accordingly to optimize on the breeze and natural light, thus saving electricity consumption. Apart from this, here are few more points you may want to keep track of:


1) Re-Use whatever you can.

2) Dispose of material in a responsible manner. Recycle whatever you can.

3) Use effective insulation.

4) Try and use as much solar energy as possible.

5) See if you can create a small rainwater catchment and use that water for irrigating gardens.

6) If possible, create a roof garden to keep the interiors cooler.

7) Choose native plants that are accustomed to the climate, as they would require less water and maintenance

8) Refurbish furnishings to reduce landfills

9) Locate rooms most used (kitchen, lounge and bedrooms) on the side of the house orientated to the North. Locate rooms to take advantage of winter sun and cooling summer breezes. Thermal mass can be achieved by locating utility areas (laundries, bathrooms and garages) on the south or west where possible, avoid locating sleeping rooms on the west.

10) Consider window size and placement to promote and enhance cross- ventilation to the south, east and west.


Hope you find these tips useful. To look up some products that would help you create a sustainable home, Click Here

Work smart with BuildingBlox

Anyone involved in the construction business, or working on a project, would understand the importance of collaboration, planning, finding the right materials and verifying quotes.

What if you got it all with the click of a button, on one platform? Well, that’s what we at BuildingBlox.in are working towards. As the building industry moves into the era of cloud computing there is huge potential to improve our project planning processes. Whether it be product discovery or virtual collaborations with professionals, technology has opened up possibilities for a much more efficient and well-coordinated design process.

There is no need for architects to stock samples in their offices or to go out and spend hours on material sourcing. With our platform they can shortlist the products that they like and very quickly access information about such products. Similarly users can find service providers, view their portfolio and connect with them with a few clicks.

By placing these elements onto one platform we are creating a tool for professionals and end users to connect these dots and create a more transparent process of designing which will not only save time and costs but also allow sharing of knowledge and faster absorption of innovation in a rapidly transforming industry.

We hope you find the idea interesting and that you will share your valuable feedback and insights with us so that we can mould this platform into a truly groundbreaking tool. With this in mind we would love for you to join us and invite others from your network to do the same.