KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jun 16 2011

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Project collaboration between design professionals: Does it work?

Collaboration, what does it mean between design professionals? Can it comfortably exist? The question is always in the background when folks from different design disciplines get together. And recently an old post by a young architect surfaced again to stir the sometimes bitter soup.

Designers have egos. It is part of our DNA. Although we can agonize over the smallest detail at the end of the day, we love what we do. We are proud of our work. Can we also be good collaborators on the same project? Does the collaboration diminish us as professionals or enhance our work?

I think the answer depends on the individual him or herself. I am a professional kitchen designer. Years ago, I made the decision to gear my practice toward collaboration with other architects and interior designers, AIA members, ASID members, IIDA and IFDA, etc. Why? Because very early on, I realized that the 2 critical things you can do for your career are:

# 1. Find your niche and become the expert in that field.
# 2. Understand where you are not an expert and seek out those that are.

No one can be the expert for every aspect of a design project. If you are, it usually means that you have not stretched your imagination further than your own nose. The project may be “good” but it will never be great.

During my career I have worked with some fabulous architects and interior designers. With them I have helped to create projects far different from any solo endeavor I would have accomplished (and I am a good designer). And I have learned so much along the way.

Working with architect, Matt Bremer, AIA, taught me to suspend belief and concentrate on bringing the (im)possible to life. The Fractal Pad (below) won Best of Year for Kitchen design.

11 kitchen foyer 1

Architect Michael Lewis, AIA, (my ZEN architect!) has taught me that going quietly, listening carefully and creating a peaceful island during design meetings results in clients who are calmer and happier during the process. The best “last word” is a finished project that reflects serenity.

Elher_Kitchen left 1

Interior designer Robin Baron, ASID, IFDA, IDS, etc. is teaching me now how to keep my enthusiasm and sense of humor when a project changes its vision AND its address multiple times—“and please hurry we need this now!”

With all of these collaborations and many others, I have been respected as a professional and a member of the project design Team. I love my architects and designers. My expertise and experience would be smaller, my practice less interesting, without these alliances.

Even when it comes to “my own” work, Barbara Roth, AKBD, CAPS and I team up to help, check and generally cheer each other on through indecisive clients, complicated specifications, late deliveries and “hopeless” installations situations that result in pure art.

Critical Item # 3: Two sets of eyes are always better than one!

Collaboration with other design professionals: You may find that your ego is very happy with the results.

Come have a glass of wine and meet some of your colleagues from the ASID, IIDA, and NKBA, etc., at this year’s Summer Social 2011.

Roberta Kravette

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business, Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  Michelle, Studio M |

    I enjoy collaborating with other team members, like
    architects, kitchen designers, lighting consultants, etc.
    We each bring a unique perspective and specialty
    to the project!

  2.  BIlly Williams, AKBD |

    Roberta, what a wonderful post. I too choose to work with a variety of other designers, Architects and industry professionals and always will. A second set of eyes is a nice thing, I seem to remember sending one of my recent designs to you for a glance and critique. Your professional input made my design better.

    Interestingly enough, I just posted a blog discussing why design by committee doesn’t work. My committee, however, was not made up of industry professionals.


  3.  Roberta |

    Thanks for your input Billy. Yes a second set of eyes is a good thing and I was honored to be asked to give input on your design – I loved it!

    Design by Committee is a different thing altogether. Someone must drive the bus! But when the bus is being driven by a talented professional, then the little details are covered. As kitchen and cabinetry specialists a few things we can add are the “inside the box” details, and the “inclusive design” elements, as a LEED AP I can “green” the specification and sometimes tighten the costs of the cabinetry and periferals – all without changing the Design Vision. Each design speciality have their own expertise which when added to the mix make a better project.

    But design-by committee?! On every project there needs to be a leader – or it will never be completed!