One of the biggest challenges in executing a design is fighting mediocrity. Here's what I mean.
You can have the greatest concept in the world. You can display it in stunning renderings, brilliantly written design narratives and even full scale mockups. The client can sign off on your brilliant ideas and you can even have perfectly drawn and designed details for how to install your solutions.
Never the less, somewhere along the way, your project will hit a rough patch. Resistance will creep in and you have no choice but to fight through it or succumb to mediocrity. The resistance (in the case of project work like executing a lighting design) is defined to me as all of the things other members of the team will use to try and reduce the initial design down to something they are more comfortable with or that's less expensive.
This resistance will often take the form of friendly fire and it will usually come from people who don't work for you. Here are three common forms of that resistance:
General Contractors love using this as a reason not to do something that will take more time and money than they initially bargained for. Rather than simply be honest about it, they attack the design, sometimes going directly to the client saying that the designer is running up costs. This is a defense of mediocrity. They know how to do something one way, they really don't want to try and do it another.
How To Fight It:
As a designer it's important to mix it up with reps and distributors and understand the pricing of gear as it's coming to the GC. This upsets the apple cart all along the procurement chain, no one likes justifying their prices, but doing so allows you to find out exactly what's costing so much so there are no excuses for not getting something done.
This is a variation on the theme of "it's too expensive." A designer specifies a product for a reason. If a replacement were allowed they'd say so. Often these products aren't readily available through standard contractor channels. The contractor waits too long to order it. When faced with an 8 week lead time they didn't expect and a client that wants to know why things aren't moving, they offer replacement lights they can get quickly and cheaply. This is another slide toward mediocrity.
How to Fight It:
Set deadlines for shop drawings and stick to them. Leaving procurement up to the GC leaves the actual execution of the design in their hands. Shop drawing approval is the best way to make sure that what you really want gets on site and better still if you set a deadline for approval, it takes away the excuse of short time for supplying the a lesser quality fixture.
You hear this one a lot from contractors who simply don't want to do anything they haven't already done before. Perhaps, for instance they've never installed the detail you've created or they've never used the particular control gear you've specified. Whatever the reason the "this seems too complicated" argument is just a way of saying "I'd like to do this the simple and boring way I've done it 1000 times before."
How to Fight It:
Kill them with kindness and appeal to their sense of professionalism. Contractors are used to getting treated poorly. Clients and designers are terrible about respecting the quality of work good craftspeople and contractors do. They usually care about their work and so when they are asking for simpler design details what they are really asking for is something they are sure they can do right. Walk them through the installation and get on their team. Sometimes it's the only way to get what we really want.
We have mediocre spaces in this country because we all settle for it. There's a maxim of project management decision making that says "Good, Fast, Cheap - Pick Two" The thing is, we hardly ever do. We usually want some combination of the three which leads to mediocre or worse. We have a distribution system designed to provide mediocre products in mass quantity. Your client has hired you to fight mediocrity. Make sure you do.