How to Select a Lighting Designer
Retaining a capable lighting designer is essential to the success of any lighting project. Proceed carefully. The National Lighting Bureau (NLB) suggests that you identify five or more candidate designers and ask each to furnish a statement of qualifications and experience. The furnished material should include information about commissions for which the designer has been engaged, with an emphasis on those that are similar to the project you’re involved with. Contact representatives of the clients involved. Ask them about the designer’s performance; e.g., the individual’s or firm’s ability to work with client representatives in establishing an effective scope of service, ability to fulfill the scope, reasonableness of the fee, the designer’s ability to deliver on time, and, of course, the effectiveness of the designer’s services.
Once you have identified three or more candidate designers that you believe are suitable for your needs, interview representatives of each, asking such questions as you believe appropriate to learn about a candidate’s proposed approach to the project, the competence and experience of the individual or individuals who will be assigned, and so on. Based on the outcome of these interviews, rank the candidate designers in order of preference, and open negotiations with the one you most prefer. Work with the candidate to develop a scope of service unique to your needs, and develop a budget for implementing that scope. We suggest that you include an allowance for contingencies that, in your and/or the candidate designer’s experience, may transpire. If you believe the budget, schedule, scope of service, and terms and conditions are acceptable, enter into an agreement with the designer and end discussions with the others you “short-listed.” If you cannot reach an agreement, however, conclude discussions with the candidate and open negotiations with the next-most preferred.
Asking two or more candidates to submit priced proposals or bids to facilitate selection based at least in part on fee may be unwise. True: Fee is an important factor, but the quality, cost-effectiveness, and performance of the project’s outcome are far more important. Quality, cost-effectiveness, and performance are determined largely by the quality of the services performed by the lighting designer. Those services typically begin when you collaborate with a designer to develop a scope of service that is uniquely suited to your own needs and preferences, in light of variables associated with your project. Some clients develop a standard scope and require several candidate designers to use it in developing a proposed fee. The NLB believes that the use of a standard scope can degrade quality; because each project is unique, the most effective scopes will reflect that uniqueness. Consider, too, that by informing candidate designers that the likelihood of their being selected is inversely proportional to the fee they each propose, you could be encouraging them to “interpret” your standard scope in such a manner as to minimize the proposed fee, or – when each candidate is asked to develop its own, unilateral scope – to propose the skimpiest scope possible, Be careful! Project risk is inversely proportional to the extensiveness of a scope of service; i.e., the weaker the scope, the more likely it is that a project will experience more and more severe “unanticipated” or “unforeseen” conditions that can result in delays, the need for additional financing or time extensions, disputes, etc., any one of which can create problems severe enough to result in claims, litigation, and/or other serious project disruptions.