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Paid Design Vs Pitch Design – Which is Best For Me?

Updated: Sep 25

Office Design Models

Office design is the aspect of your office fit out that will have the biggest long-term impact on the performance of your team. The cost and disruption of the project, whilst very important, are short term considerations. Design, however, will impact the performance of your staff and company all day, every day for years to come.

The exciting thing about office design is that you get to transform your workspace into a collaborative and inspiring environment. A space that personifies your culture and improves business performance. However, office design can feel overwhelmingly complex. Managing the conflicting priorities of different business departments, as well as balancing staff and company needs is a challenging task.

At Zentura, we’ve been designing offices across 3 decades, fitting out and refurbishing millions of square feet of office space. During this time, we’ve worked with hundreds of internal project managers, from CEOs to PAs. Nearly all have found managing the design process challenging.

The traditional office fit out process involves having several design & build companies visit your office. They then go away, create a design and then pitch to win your project. But when you have different office fit out companies with different areas of expertise all pitching different designs at different costs, it can become almost impossible to decide which design is the best option for your business.

As a result, the paid office design model has become popular in recent years. It's a way of companies making sure they get the right design at the best possible value. But how are the pitch-to-win and paid office design models different? In this article, we’ll explore how both models work, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and which is the best option for you.

What is Pitch Design?

The standard office design process follows the pitch-to-win model. Once you have defined your project brief and budget internally, you reach out to several office fit out companies who may be able to help. Following initial conversations, you then narrow the list down to 2 or 3 different companies. You work with all these companies separately to create an initial design layouts, which is often accompanied by a quote.

Following this, you refine the 3 different packages until you are happy to make a decision on which company is the best option. Once you have made your decision, your chosen contractor will develop the detailed design and finalised quote. When you are happy with the final package, you sign the project contract, and your dream office design will start to take shape.

Pitch Design Benefits

The main benefit of the pitch office design model is that you get to work with 2 or 3 different designers. These designers all have different portfolios, perspectives and ideas. As a result, you get completely different designs. This variety gives you a great cross-section of ideas for your office. It also gives you more confidence you are getting the best design possible.

Another benefit of pitch design is that there is no upfront cost. Your shortlisted companies will include their design costs with the main project quote. This means you only pay for the design that you go ahead with. While this doesn’t make the design free, you do get to explore the process further without any upfront cost commitment.

Pitch Design Drawbacks

Pitch design is far from perfect. The inevitable drawback of having completely different companies create completely different proposals is that you create a lot more work for yourself. This duplication of having to carry out every task 3 times can become a serious waste of time. You may also find it very difficult to keep track of everything. Without careful management, your dream office project could turn into a disorganised nightmare.

While the variety of designs can be helpful, it also creates an equal variety of costs. The result is that you have 3 completely different designs with 3 completely different costs, from 3 companies with varying levels of competence to deliver on their designs. Needless to say, choosing the best company for your office fit out quickly becomes very difficult.

What is Paid Design?

With paid design, the design and delivery contracts are completely separate. You work with one design and build company to create multiple concept designs, which may be accompanied by budget costs. Once you have chosen your concept design, your office fit out company will create a detailed design package. This will include everything from CGIs to drawing packs. They will also create a detailed scope of works, detailing all the work required. Having finalised your package, you can then ask several contractors to quote on the same design.

Opting for a paid design package does not mean you pay any more for your office design. In many cases, you pay less than you would with a pitch-to-win project. This is because your contractor does not have to cover their losses from other projects they didn’t win. Unlike pitch design, however, you pay upfront for this design package, completely apart from any works commitment.

Paid Design Benefits

For many companies, an attractive benefit of the paid design model is that they get to work much more collaboratively than the designer. By demonstrating your commitment to the project by paying for the design, your designer isn’t minimising the time they spend on your project in case it doesn’t go ahead.

The biggest benefit of paid design, however, is that it makes choosing your works contractor much easier. You have already finalised the design, so you are purely assessing which company is best able to deliver your project. That decision is not only based on cost but on competence to deliver the design. By paying for each package separately, you remove the design/ delivery trade-off that makes the pitch-to-win decision so difficult.

Paid Design Drawbacks

One drawback of the pitch design model is that you only get to work with one design company. Even if they have multiple designers working on your project, or if one designer develops multiple concepts, you are unlikely to get the variety of styles that you would with completely different companies.

The drawback that prevents most people from committing to a paid design package is the upfront cost. You are committing to a financial investment before you have any indication of what designs they will provide you with. This is especially off-putting for companies who are not sure if they want to go ahead with the project at all.

Which is Right for Me?

Neither paid design nor pitch-to-win is the best office design model for every company. It depends on your situation, and which model will ultimately deliver you the best office fit out. Paid design is better for many companies, due to the simplicity and collaborative design process. However, this is not always the case.

If you are looking for a variety of perspectives of how to improve your office, and are confident about managing the duplication and additional complexity that this brings, then pitch design may well be the best for you. Likewise, if you are not sure whether you want to go ahead with the project at all, then the lack of upfront cost pitch-to-win offers will be appealing.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a collaborative relationship with a designer to develop a design that you are confident in, then paid design will be the right choice for you. You be able to do a like-for-like comparison on which contractor provides the best value for delivery. If you are certain your office needs improvement and you have the necessary project funds available, then paid design is also a better option. You remove the design/delivery trade-off that often makes office projects a failure.

At Zentura, we provide culture-driven, fixed-cost office design via both the paid design and pitch-to-win models. To learn more about which design model would be best for you, schedule a call with one of our workplace experts today.

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