Industry experts discuss the influence of client demands on design process

Client demands and their influence on today’s design process was one of the topics discussed during the designMENA Summit roundtable to determine potential  topics for the conference.

Christina Morgan, director at Pallavi Dean Interiors and Jason Burnside, who is partner at GAJ both attended the discussion.

They were joined by: Atkins’ design director, Janus Rostock; Maliha Nishat  who is design director of interior design at DWP; and managing director at B+H Architects, Phillip Jones.

Nishat started off the discussion by pointing out that designers today are too reliant on technology to produce work, abandoning the tools and resources that were originally used by designers. She argued that drawing and sketching is where “real creativity stems from”.

“For me not drawing just stumps creativity,” she said. “I always encourage my team to sit down with their yellow trace paper and get on with the drawing first and get creative and do crazy things before we even get to the computer.”

Burnside argued that the reason isn’t that designers aren’t keen on sketching and brainstorming their ideas, but due to rising demands from clients who are now expecting the first phases of projects to be presented in their complete forms. Presenting pencil sketches to clients is no longer compatible to their expectations, he says, which is also creating confusions within the design industry.

“Ultimately – and with fees being as tight as they are – you know that you have to get from inception to a finished product in the most efficient way possible which forces you into 3D [drawing] at a very early stage,” Burnside explained.

He added: “[Clients} are over-demanding now in terms of what they want to see and at what stage and everything is being front loaded. So you are almost forced straight in.”

Morgan agreed, stating: “From the concept stage where we might have previously put together a few mood images, rough plans and sketches, we now do everything straight away on Sketch Up and 3D and think about everything. Because the projects are so fast-moving you need to think about how those details work straight away. There isn’t really the time to explore. You just need to get on with it because next week you have to deliver a detail design package.”

Jason further added that be assessing recent RFP’s that are coming out and seeing the deliverables, one will notice that tasks that were traditionally completed at the second or third stages are now being demanded in the first stage with additional options.

“You are again in a situation where, to achieve even the end of the first stage, you are working in a median of copy/paste and change a little bit here and there to be able to meet requirements,” he said.

The agenda for designMENa Summit is still under process. If anyone has any suggestions or would like a specific topic or issue to addressed during the summit, please contact, or

Last year, Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto delivered the keynote speech about the relationship between nature and architecture. 

Other topics that were discussed included the architectural evolution of Dubai, as well as the role of restoration and renovation in the region.