Will good design hold its value?

During a discussion with a builder about the pros and cons of taking continuing education classes, the builder said to me, “I’ve seen the work done by my competitors who have letters after their names and I’m not impressed. Yet, they still get work. So what’s my motivation for taking a class? I can do better than them, and I don’t have letters after my name.”

I didn’t know what to say. So, I thought for a few seconds and told him he had two options: 1) Don’t take any classes, and continue to survive on his skills and reputation; or 2) Take a class and therefore eliminate his competitors’ ability to paint him as a lesser entity. At least this way he’d be perceived by homeowners as being on a level playing field.

He shrugged his shoulders in frustration, said, “Who knows what to do? It’s tough for everyone. Anyway, nice talking to you,” and he walked away.

I believe the better solution for this builder is option 1. He obviously places limited value on continuing education and professional certification programs and should not waste his time and money taking classes. He should continue to earn business by focusing on results, not acronyms. He’s in good company with plenty of designers and builders who have had successful careers and run profitable businesses, never having taken a class after high school or college.

It’s important to acknowledge that this builder’s opinion about professional education is simply an opinion. I’m sure his competitors with acronyms after their names do good work, because passing grades and acronyms aren’t given away on street corners. They’re awarded to individuals who have proven a certain level of skill and knowledge.

In the end, though, letters after a person’s name isn’t what will be remembered. The work — the homes and other structures you design and build — is what will survive to be judged, and good design will stand the test of time. When the projects entered in this magazine’s design competition are being judged, the judges aren’t flipping through the documentation to determine if the builder or designer has completed continuing education classes. They’re looking at the photos to determine if the home looks nice, if it’s architecturally accurate, and if the design meets the clients’ needs. They’re reading essays to determine how challenges were solved. Winners are chosen based on good design, not the designer’s education level.


Good design, however, is at risk of being devalued. Some believe good design already is suffering thanks to the recession. On page 6 of this issue, Luis Jauregui, AIA, takes a serious look at the value of design; the residential architecture profession; those who make a living within it; and whether the clients who consume their services will ever be willing to pay for the true value of good design.

If you’ve never read one of Luis’ columns, this is one to read.

And if you’ve never entered a design competition — or even if you have — now is the time to get the recognition you deserve by entering our 2012 Excellence Awards in either the design or business categories. More information and registration details can be found at ForResidentialPros.com/Awards.