20.01.21

Apt Creative Approach

Having a clear creative approach is something fundamental to our studio, and to the success of our projects.

But what exactly is it, how do we implement it and why is it so important?

Essentially, we undertake the same process from the outset on all projects; buildings, masterplans or product designs & identifying the most important elements of each and setting them out in a written brief to ourselves, with clear design ideas for that project. In essence, we establish a set of key principles that are to be used as the core DNA for a project and that are to be protected, discussed and held onto throughout the projects development.

This helps to clearly define what is to be fought for throughout the rough and tough of any projects life.

These principles will naturally be different for each project, but by establishing what they are from the start, the Apt team is aware of the core ideas and issues that are to be developed.
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So, where do we start?


At the beginning of course! As soon as a project has the green light, time is invested by the senior team to discuss and agree the opportunities that exist - both ambitious and modest - as well as assessing the constraints. The initial briefing and discussion will result in an agreed set of ideas - clear principles that are no longer than a sheet of A4 paper! Once agreed, this written manifesto is brought to all subsequent design reviews and pinned to the wall next to the emerging drawings / sketches / model. It should always be available as an ‘aide memoire’ as to what we are trying to achieve. 

Design reviews – following through on the manifesto!

Reviews at the correct times in any project development cycle are essential, enabling the direction and opportunities to be explored and developed at the correct time before a project gets too immersed into the detail. In essence, reviews too late in the development of a design can lead to frustrations (from all sides) and valuable time expended on discussing items previously looked at by the team and dismissed. Sometimes there are equal frustrations, that reviews too late in the process have missed the opportunity of great ideas being developed due to time constraints, established, and agreed principles being accepted by clients / QS’s / Planners etc. 

We all agree design reviews are essential and that our diaries must prioritise reviews for fledgling projects over the first few months of their lives. Once the project is established and all are happy with the emerging ideas, the reviews can become more focused on milestone dates and less regularised, but the core issue is a firm diary commitment at the correct moment in the developing design process. 

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Why do we do all of this? What are the benefits?

Ultimately, having a clear creative approach and regular design reviews brings clarity as to the design direction of a project and also establishes the things that are critically important to the design. This includes the things that the studio is looking to enjoy and explore with the project, rather than just crafting the client’s brief and project delivery. 

The long-term benefits of this approach include reducing project frustrations, for example in subsequent design reviews where competing design ideas erode the initial clarity. This enables more time to be spent on crafting exceptional design, focused on the agreed key principles. 

This approach also enables us to get established diary commitments focused on design into our weekly timetable and for these slots to be ‘ringfenced’. It is refreshing and fun to have sessions where we can talk freely and honestly to each other about design and the opportunities of any project, but with lots of sharp minds on the case, channelling ideas can be challenging! Our creative approach allows us all freedom to flex our creativity and provides us with parameters to ensure we are doing the very best by each project.

Ultimately, these benefits are passed on to our clients because they know they are getting clarity and efficiency from us throughout the project lifecycle. Understanding the client’s aspirations is essential for a successful project, but sometimes, especially on projects with long timeframes, perhaps of many years, it can become difficult to retain and remember what the key important items were that set the design solution apart at the outset. Our creative approach allows us to hold on to these, no matter what. 
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So, that’s our Creative Approach - and it’s crucial to us and our clients. 

But whilst we are passionate and care about the integrity and quality of our work, we are not overtly precious either. We understand where to be rigorous, when to innovate and how to be flexible when driving a projects design agenda forward. 

I love our studio because we work as a collective in a transparent and logical way. We do not have a house style and believe that every project should be looked at afresh.

We work fast and with energy, always challenging our clients and our consultants. As a result, our clients trust us and value us, and this means everything. 

Jason Geen is Studio Leader at Apt. 

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