Picking Paint Colors

August 6, 2021

Another friend reminded me to write this week. My still-standing favorite lecture in college was only that "Architects write."  That was the lecture. A slide show, photos of books. It's part of our obligation, our profession, to put pen to paper, to put these things into words.

I said my thoughts out loud this week.  The pandemic is, let us say, its in the middle.  I met with a friend, face to face, and I told him what I thought: "How do you pick a color of paint?"

And then, here's the hard part - how do you explain that decision to your clients? How do you defend that decision during construction?

Our profession is hard. That's not a joke, that's not a cliché. The work itself is hard. It's redundant, it's persistent, it's relentless. Constant decisions. Constant self-reactions, and then the justification, the standing up, over and over, to say what you already said, again and again.

How do you pick a paint color, how do you make a decision? The "why" is mostly academic, "Why" is a documention of process that, if we're honest, there's not a lot of market for. But, the defense of that decision, is relentless.

So, we pick a paint color, we design a roof, we put it in the drawings. We inspire our client, hooray! On to the next day! He signs our pitch, he pays his bill, we move ahead.

Phase two is the indecision, Design Development.  And let us not dwell here, because it's a passing moment, it's a pause and a recalculation, its accounting, checking, verifying, "Are you sure?" Yes, let's talk about it. "Was our first assumption correct?" Here's why, here's reinforcement. "Are you sure?" Sure we're sure. The numbers check out; what's next?

And then it hits home, and then the real persuasion starts. "Are we in budget?" Sure, were in budget, we tried hard. "Does it meet code?" Of course, are we amateurs? But, what if we didnt use that color, what if we didn't do that roof? Wouldn't it be cheaper?

Our profession is hard. Every month, in that job trailer during construction. What if we didn't do it that way? Let's review options, again, let's review substitutions. "Here is a submittal of a light fixture I found, and I think I want to pick the colors myself."

It's not the problems you expect, it's certainly not the engineering problems - our team can work miracles. It's not even the surprises, you know how to work through contingencies. It's changing the paint color when you already worked it all through. It's standing up in the face of money, after you've already fulfilled your contract. Then, it gets hard.

Dear client, please trust us. You'll enjoy it. We'll build it. Let it roll, trust your contract, trust your investors, let's move on. It'll be great. Here we go, full speed ahead.