Looking to pick the collective's brain and see if anyone can offer any advice on a matter which I'm sure we've all experienced at some point. 

I've designed what I know will be a fantastic garden for a client.  It meets the brief perfectly, is balanced, it utilises the space well and (should) come in on budget.  The clients, (who I must stress, are really good people, not difficult at all), on the whole really like it, however there are a couple of elements that despite having seen the concept drawings and been given my assurances, they just can't quite get their head around.  They're not asking for a complete redesign, as I say, on the whole, they love it, trouble is, I know that if I adjust the plans according to the client's suggestions, the design just won't work and not only will they be left disappointed by the finished garden, I won't be able to use it as part of my portfolio as it will represent poor design.
I'm generally pretty good at being clear in my physical presentation of my design proposals.  I provide clear plans and detailed fully-rendered concept models using SketchUp so clients can see as close to what the design would look like in real life as possible, but I struggle a bit when it comes to vocalising why the garden should be pretty much as I've designed it, and explaining the reasons why I have specified as I have.  Obviously I accept that clients will want to tweak bits and I'm totally ok with that; I'm not quite that stubborn just yet.   Just wondering if anyone has any tips or tricks to addressing client concerns and putting their minds at ease................ I don't feel that "Just trust me" is really enough of an explanation; even if that's kind of what I'm actually saying :)
Any thoughts, most welcomed.  Thanks in advance

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  • PRO

    Hi John

    I've been through this with clients many times before. Ultimately it is the client's decision.

    Have you simulated their design requests in Sketchup for them to compare against your design?

    Personally - if you're not confident with talking to them face to face - I'd write an email setting out your concerns whilst also explaining why you think your proposal is right for their garden.

    Instead of saying 'trust me' use language like 'in my professional opinion' and/or 'in my experience'.

  • I reckon you really have to do what the customer wants. Everyone has their own idea what looks "right".......... obviously, they've made their mind up about what looks right to them and that's what counts.. Its a bit like one person will think a lady ( or a bloke) is gorgeous, another will think the opposite!! It's a  matter of personal "taste".

  • PRO

    Morning Gents - thanks for the responses.

    Phil:  Not so much a matter of my confidence, (no one who knows me would ever say I lack in that dept :) ) it's more that the clients don't have any experience to draw on, are spending a lot of money on the project and so are naturally nervous about taking the plunge.  I'm trying to hone my skills on putting their minds at ease without having to spend many additional hours more putting together graphical representations of their suggestions so they can compare and contrast.  

    Good idea of noting everything in written form though and firing that off to them.  Think I'll do that, thanks.

  • All you can do John is give your professional opinion. If they choose to go against it then thats down to them.

    Saying that on one or two occasions I have refused to do things the way my customer has asked due to it being bad practise and ultimately I didn't wish to be associated with it. 

  • I have had this recently too.  I backed down on some things, as it was being built in a very tight timescale, but their choice of stone was a bit dull for the garden.  They are happy with it and I have already done the 'you are spending a lot of money on this so it's important we get it right' talk. You could talk about 'balance' or whatever the reason is that you are concerned - hard to advise what to say without the details, but go into the reasons it will look wrong/be difficult to use, and they will hopefully look at it with fresh eyes.

    • PRO

      I must have read your mind (before your post Jane), thanks :)

  • While not being a Designer, I've had 40 years of landscaping projects. Some very basic, some not so, but I would draw up basic plans before working with the customer to flesh out the scheme, quite often easing them into what I wanted to do without them realising.  

    It's all too easy to get a bit possessive and set in our ways with our ideas and we can easily lose sight of the fact that it is not 'our job' - it's the customer's.  

    One little story that sticks in my mind happened probably 25 years ago. I had worked on various landscaping projects for an expanding local company for about 10 years and had a great relationship with them. Having completed the planting outside of a new office extension, I had a call from a director to say they wanted me to change the planting, even though it was done to usual spec, 5ltr pots - 'will be OK in a couple of years' sort of thing.  

    When I met up with the director, he said they now wanted 'impact planting', 'mature and semi mature' plants. I said 'blimey, they will cost a fortune!’ He put an arm round my shoulder and said "Colin, don't take it personally, but just remember, it's not up to you how we spend our money”. Point taken!! Unknown to me, the company was about to be taken over by a Japanese multi-national, who massively expanded them and dragged me along with them................and we still have the maintenance contract today!

    • PRO

      Thanks Colin, valuable experience to draw from

  • PRO

    Morning All - thanks for your contributions.

    My point was really more about how to voice my concerns to the client more clearly that I was rather than being precious (for want of a better word) about my work.  I totally understand that it is the client's garden and their money that's being spent.  It's just a shame when you see client's making what to you as a professional see are glaring errors due to their lack of experience and taking the risk that they'll end up being disappointed with the final results.  Still........ we can but try right :) 

    Having read through everyone thoughts and consulted with my fellow SGD members, I ended up put together a document which addressed each of their concerns together with some additional graphics and concept drawings and submitted them to the client.  Fortunately this achieved it's intended purpose and we're moving ahead as originally planned.

    Thanks again for responding 


    • That sounds encouraging, for me too, to keep trying to get my points across.  I think the fact they realise you are taking it seriously and wanting them to understand helps them to take a step back and look at things another way too.

      Thank you.

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