The Cost of Good Design: Comparing Sunshine Coast Building Designers

I really love a quote I once heard from the CEO of Jaguar motors, he once famously commented that “if you think good design is expensive, you should take a look at the cost of bad design”, which I feel is such a relevant statement that applies to Sunshine Coast architecture and the broad field of design on a whole. I also really love two stories that I have been regaled with in recent years many times, all with minor variations but essentially the identical story. The anecdotes are both attributed to Pablo Picasso and both perfectly relate to the subject of the costs associated with the subjective area of house design perfectly, I am highly doubtful as to whether any part of the stories are based on any factual events and not just merely metaphors, but regardless they’re entertaining and serve a purpose. Pablo wasn’t referring to the cost of architecture on the sunshine coast in his parable but none the less its easy to draw the connection.  The first story I heard was to do with Picasso sketching in the park one day he was supposedly happily sketching away without a care in the world when he was approached by a woman who interrupted his drawing session and insists that he immediately stop what he was working on and sketch her portrait instead, the artist reluctantly agrees, sets aside his work and produces a fresh sheet of paper and with one fluid flick of the wrist he captured her essence perfectly in simple curvaceous silhouette, the woman was impressed that he had done such a fantastic job in such a quick time frame, so effortlessly she told the artist she must have the sketch and enquired as to how much he would like for the work, without hesitation or a hint of sarcasm he responded by saying that she could have it for no less than $5000 the woman was dumbfounded and scoffed incredulously remarking that that price is a ridiculous fee as it only took you a few seconds -a minute at the most to execute. Picasso laughed and smugly proceeded to explain that it took him a lifetime to acquire the skills.

Building Designers Fees:

It is so often the case with building design that fees are viewed in a similar way and people shop for the cheapest designer rather than comparing apples to apples they choose an orange because the orange is a few dollars cheaper, but when you examine the orange you find it is not the same thing. Just because a house design might be quickly conceived and the layout is remarkably simple it is rarely the case with a good designer that the first thing that popped up in their head just was conjured out of thin air. I know for instance in my own work I can visualise often complex schemes in a very quick time frame but this is not because I chose the first thing that popped into my head or gave the problem little thought it is because I constantly immerse myself in architecture and design books, product manuals etc. and I am forever learning new tricks and acquiring knowledge just as I have for the past 10 years of my career and previously with my 5 years of education having acquired two degrees in architecture and still forever trying to solve the riddle in my head. It is not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night and sketch down a problem I have being trying to mentally resolve on a project I am working on it is one of the few professions where it is difficult to switch off outside of 9-5 even on overseas holidays the dedicated designer is often taking more photos of seemingly insignificant details of door hinges rather than landscape of cliché portraits of their spouse pretending to hold the tower of Pisa up.

The other Picasso story that I heard involved a remarkably similar scenario, but instead of a woman’s face the artist was commissioned by a wealthy collector to paint a picture of a chicken (god knows why) some time elapses and the customer returns excitedly to the artist’s studio a few weeks later after engaging him to complete the work just to check on his progress, only to find the artist in front of a blank canvas staring intently at a white rectangle, brush in hand the customer angrily says “what! you haven’t even started?” and enquires as to how long he needed to finish the work and Picasso shrugs nonchalantly and replies that if the man gives him a moment he’ll have the work ready for him and just as the previous story he instantly conjures a resplendent rooster or chicken with lightning speed, the customer is dumb founded he is impressed by the beauty but also outraged by the arrogance of charging such exorbitant fees for something so quickly formed. In an analogous fashion to the woman in the previous story the man is understandably outraged “I gave you thousands of dollars to paint me a picture and you pull this out last minute how is that value for money? Picasso asks the man “are you happy with the design? is it everything you wanted?” and the man nods in agreement “yes! I love it!…but how can you justify charging so much money, if you can churn these things out so quickly?” the artist gestures to the man to follow him into his studio and the man is confronted with hundreds of sketches of chickens, models or bird wings, feathers, dead birds in various poses, sculptures of beaks and anatomical books on poultry and various other items related to testing ideas, he goes on to explain although it seemed like a quick process it was the behind the scenes part which took up all his waking hours for the previous two weeks this combined with a lifetime of experience and that only now had he mastered the subject.

Sunshine Coast Context:

You might be asking yourself what does this have to do with building design and architecture on the sunshine coast? you might not be but either way I have to add those key words to this article in order to please the Google overloads.  I feel this is relevant and a mind frame that should be adopted universally when you are obtaining quotes and shopping around for a home designer or architect you should ask yourself am I comparing apples for apples ? and not just looking at the price. Look at things like qualifications, are you comparing someone who did a two year TAFE course and has a basic understanding of the technical requirements to build a basic box or has the person dedicated years to their education and undertaken multiple university degrees and performed un paid internships with the best designers around in order to glean as much about creating spaces that work on a myriad of levels and not just price and technical proficiency because while the less educated designer may in fact possess more natural ability than his or her more qualified counter part ( which is occasionally the case) There is more of an emphasis on critical thinking and exploration as well as sustainable systems thinking at a university level and therefore more consistently innovative outcomes as is blatantly obvious when you compare the prize winners of the Building Industry design awards as compared to the Institute of Architects Awards.



“If you think GOOD [Building] design [on the Sunshine Coast] is expensive, you should take a look at the cost of BAD design [on the Sunshine Coast]”