The Emotional Timeline
by Matthew Hufft
Doing something different is hard. Doing something meaningful and different is downright emotionally challenging.
After running a design practice for over 13 years, I think I am finally understanding the significance of communicating this message to both our team and clients. I would be the first to admit that it seems as though I should have understood this before now. But this is not as easy to understand, and especially control, as one might think. Every person is different. Every design is different. Even the seasons and weather can play into this challenging up and down we call the ‘Emotional Timeline’.
They don’t teach you this in architecture school. I have two degrees on the subject, and no one ever told me the importance of understanding emotions, when it comes to designing with meaning. In fact, I kind of feel like I may be breaking some strange architectural codes of silence by writing this very piece.
Now, I don’t want to scare off those that may be thinking about taking on a custom design project of some sort. The only frightening thing to the process is not understanding it or knowing what is next. That is tricky, and that is what took some time for me to figure out. Being in a low spot emotionally is always better when you understand there is a high spot just up ahead. Dealing with the stress, anxiety, and decision fatigue is really not too bad if it is clear that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And no matter what, the emotional roller coaster is always tamed by the assurance that you will end on a major high note at the end.
Our current version of the ‘Emotional Timeline’ is nothing scientific, and it is not for everyone and every project. This version is an average (or maybe above-average) of what we have seen our clients experience on a typical custom home project. But this same timeline can be applied to a restaurant, workplace, or any other space that has customization and special meaning. We have placed this timeline into a book we hand out called ‘What to Expect’. It has certainly opened many eyes and probably delayed a project or two. But it is not something we start a project without any longer, and we are quickly learning it is a great reference during the low points.
To help explain better, here are a few key moments.
Schematic Design – Prepare for takeoff. You have decided to create something super special. There is nothing but up from here it seems. Your dreams and endless, and so is the excitement.
Initial Pricing – The rocket has abruptly run out of fuel. What was amazing, has turned into a bit of work. There is nothing too terribly difficult here, but the trajectory is turning towards earth.
Interiors – You have leveled off, and maybe started climbing again. You know what the project looks like, and now you are obsessing about the details. This tends to distract from the other hard discussions, like ‘what is this really going to cost’?
Final Pricing – Welcome to the valley. This is the least fun part of the whole process, but the good news is there is nothing but up from here.
Break Ground – This is the loop de loop. It is so exciting to see the actual start of a physical manifestation. But it also a little nerve wrecking if you have never been through it before.
Framing – When it starts coming out of the ground, it typically comes out pretty fast. But at the same time, all the inner workings must be ‘roughed in’, and that can take what seems like forever. Things may seem too big in this moment, but trust the plans.
Drywall – Now you can really feel the space, and that is such a key moment. And now you will think everything is too small. But again, trust your designer.
Finishes – This is like putting jewelry on, and such a fun moment to watch.
Final Punch List – You are close, but also tired. This high moment may drag on and down a bit – the last 5% takes the longest.
Move In – Okay, you are in! But, it is not over. First off, you just created something awesome. Second, the furniture is in and the space is just the right size. But, this is not a manufactured product, so there is going to be some tweaking. And you may feel like it should be perfect from the start, but it is not going to be. It will take a full year to perfect your new custom-tailored environment. But the great news is, your life is now going to change in ways that you could not have imagined. You are going to occupy a space designed for you. The rocket is officially in orbit.