Great expectations : unpacking client perspectives of the client designer relationship in contemporary design practice

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- Sociological accounts of design practice are not common in the design literature. Few studies to date have focused upon design practice in itself; fewer still take the perspective of the client. Yet, the client-designer relationship is instrumental to understanding how design services are received and deserves critical and cultural analysis. This qualitative study explores the dynamics of the client-designer relationship enacted during the provision of design services. It examines the expectations of clients and how these expectations are formed. The setting for this case study is the City Projects division of the City of Sydney Council and the interactions observed over three months (December 2006 - March 2007) between the Council’s Design Managers and its architect, landscape and graphic design consultants. Central to this study is that the clients are also qualified designers. This extra dimension enables theoretical comparisons to be made with other services where client and consultant share expertise, such as management consulting, and facilitates the analysis of those expectations that derive directly from the client setting itself. The findings are analysed as a case narrative and further evaluated within a service quality framework that compares expectations with perceived performance. This thesis positions the study within the labour market categorisation of design as a service and consulting as the dominant form of contemporary design practice. In doing so, it aims to focus on the role played by occupational cultures, the limitations of professional models of design practice, the expectations engendered by ‘design as service’ and the gap between clients’ and designers’ expectations. It argues that a service context provides significant insights into how clients view designers and how service expectations impact on design outcomes. In this way, this thesis contributes to an understanding of design practice that demonstrates that client expectations are critical determinants for the way in which design services are received, enabled and evaluated. This case study is a contribution to the design literature which, to date, has predominantly focused upon the designer and not the client.
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