Creating value from the start
Harry Spetnagel in Innovation

As designers, we’re constantly challenged to devise multi-functional, engaging, and effective programs under tight budget restraints. At the same time, fabricators are challenged to deliver high quality products for less cost and are often forced to use value engineering to meet budget expectations late in the game. While the phrase “value engineering” — the process of improving the value of goods, products or services by examining function — is an admirable goal, the phrase often causes designers to cringe. The process usually means modifying original concepts and ideas to incorporate lower cost products and materials that don’t always match the initial design intent. Is there a more efficient way to achieve these lofty goals, without literally going back to the drawing board?

The answer is simple. The key to reaching these goals is that the process should come into play earlier. Rather than setting up our contractors and clients to make last minute cuts during the construction or fabrication phase, sustainable, responsible, efficient design should be our standard of design delivery from day one. By doing so, it makes the phrase “value engineering” obsolete; we’re creating value from the start – not engineering value at the end.

Check out the article I wrote on this topic in the most recent issue of segdDESIGN magazine and tell us what you think. Have you experienced success by working this approach earlier into your process?

Harry Spetnagel is an Associate Design Director in Gensler’s Denver, Colorado office. He has worked more than two decades in project management, communications, and sign/graphic design. Contact him at
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