draw it up


We know what we want, we just need someone to draw it up.

A phrase occasionally asked by potential clients inquiring about services includes the question “can you draw this up?” I know people have good intentions and I’m not here to be nasty or mean but it’s time to clear the air because when things aren’t said, people don’t learn anything new. Many of my friends are laughing now as they read this today because we joked (or cried) about this recently.

At this point in the discussion I suppose the higher road would be to “bullet point” a few reasons why one would not want their architect to merely “draw something up” and explain why it is not in their best interest to limit the services of the architect to the least, the lowest, or cheapest. We could expound upon how it might harm them financially, qualitatively or in the least break it to them how they’ll be disappointed with the result. Well, that’s not going to happen today. It is true that limiting services or reducing services by going a cheaper route may have a negative effect. It seems self-evident.


Let me elucidate the reaction to that phrase so that one might be able to decipher the strange look on the architect’s face or the sudden quietness on the phone when one utters those words. Perhaps this is a rant, perhaps a soapbox, but after all these years, I’ve concluded that unless someone shares their feelings or thoughts, nothing changes.

My first reaction to this question is realizing this is going to be a project where I am not appreciated for my talent, expertise, or education. In an effort to be thrifty, the caller has inadvertently insulted the professional and immediately diminished the motivation to work with them. I understand this is service profession, but motivation is a key factor. Face it, some projects are more motivating than others. What? I’m just being honest.


Second, one has shown their cards. In the spirit of being frugal, they’ve demonstrated an unwillingness to invest in architectural services, which likely means they are unwilling to invest in architecture. We interpret your phrase as a desire to have more shelter for your stuff…that’s all. It questions whether one truly understands what an architect does or whether one has done anything to prepare themselves – in a world where the answer is at our fingertips. An educated client is the best client. We prefer clients who not only know what we do but will be engaged in what we do, challenge us to our best and will be seeking the best result within the limitations of their resources. That does not come through when one asks us to just “draw it up.”

Whatever your skills or expertise is I can almost guarantee that a part of you will react negatively when one undervalues those skills. Would we go to our doctor and ask him to skip the evaluation and simply write out a prescription for whatever we believe our ailment is? We certainly wouldn’t ask our attorney to do something to shortcut her process. Would we ask our auto technician if critical procedures or the recommendation of replacement of key parts are necessary? Why would someone do that to an architect?


We live in a hyper-sensitive culture that is hyper-sensitive to words and phrases and misunderstood intentions behind things that we say. This causes many things to go unsaid for fear of being misinterpreted or reprimanded with a scathing Facebook post. I don’t intend to come across as insensitive and add to the noise of social media. Nevertheless, if you happen to be seeking the services of an architect show respect, don’t presume the result, but explain your needs, describe your goals, state your budget, explain your concerns with the architect. I bet the discussion will go a lot further than if you merely ask them to “draw something up.”


Give it a try. Think this way in all aspects of your life. It will make a big difference.

draw it up

10 thoughts on “draw it up

  1. Even though we don’t do residential work, we still see a version of this from clients. My response has been something along the lines of: “If you only need a draftsman, please don’t hire us. We’re much too expensive – a really bad buy. But if you need ideas and experience that can help you get it right, we’re a bargain.”

    1. No this is not limited to residential, in fact it can happen quite often for commercial as well it just is a little bit different. Commercially it is often driven by a municipality demanding something that the property owner didn’t want to do. Coincidentally that actually happened to me this morning. I said no.

  2. Perry Cofield says:

    The master suite plan shown in the intro is a rather dubious. The long stub wall in the closet area reduces the size of the already small bed area. Married couples generally don’t need all that much privacy. Just sayin’- if this is the authors’s work, it shows love of plan formality more than a sense of space! If the client requested this arrangement that would be another matter. But many aren’t so hot at reading plans, that’s why things change in the field…

    1. Seth Terry says:

      Perry, I see where you’re coming from, but I’m not sure I buy it in this instance. I imagine the sense of space I’d get if that wall were removed would be that my wife and I were now sleeping in our closet. Heck, at the very least that wall means we have a place to put our dirty laundry at the end of the day without having it in our bedroom proper (i.e. on the floor of the dressing room).

      Anyway, on the topic of the OP, I have mixed feelings about this. I absolutely agree that “just draw it up” reflects a lack of appreciation for or awareness of the architect’s skillset on the part of the person or entity making the request. When I come across these clients, I try and gauge which of those lacks is at work. If it’s a lack of appreciation, then it’s usually “thanks but no thanks.” If however it’s a lack of awareness, then I like to see if there’s an opportunity to educate the client (or potential client) and structure my proposals accordingly. Often I find that this latter group of clients are the ones who benefit the most from the services of an architect.

  3. Mike says:

    Wow! You made a good connection for me. I am a doctor, and I am similarly get negative feelings when I see somebody come in and ask for a medicine without finding out if I think it necessary. May ask a question? I am working with an architect for designing a custom home. Lately I have become a little frustrated, and considered firing him; which is why I have been reading your blog and trying to figure out why I am paying my architect a lot of money. In essence, I feel like ever since a meeting when he suggested a design that I did not like he is not giving me any opinion, but will just wait until I say “draw it up” before he will do anything. Of course I have not actually said “draw it up”, that would be rude, but I just feel like he is not giving any input. A few days ago I asked my wife if she thought we should fire the architect, and she has been feeling the same way. What if I got a lemon architect?

    1. Mike, on the record here, I’ll say you need to have a talk very soon with this architect to get an understanding of the situation. If you wish more input from me, email me at the address in the contact section of this blog.

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