What’s next for successful architecture, engineering, and design practices? This is the question we will explore more deeply in the upcoming months in DesignIntelligence. We believe that firms will not only be faster and smarter but also wiser and more independent.

What’s next for successful architecture, engineering, and design practices? This is the question we will explore more deeply in the upcoming months in DesignIntelligence. We believe that firms will not only be faster and smarter but also wiser and more independent. This much is known: the best firms always move forward. Fundamentally, that is why future clients won’t need today’s design firms.

We expect to see significant new processes that will break away from the linear project management processes most firms use today. Contract documents will be overhauled to reflect simultaneous multiphasing and nonlinear productivity. Powerful parametric technology will deploy artificial intelligence using voice command. We expect 3-D and 4-D smart BIM. Firms will integrate virtually in models, not vertically in service silos.

Changing demographics will alter the marketplace significantly requiring foresight—the client’s world will be changing even more radically than in the past. Some firms will change at a speed calibrated to the client’s changes. Others will wonder where the clients have gone.

Foresight and innovation will be first on the agenda of the most successful firms. Architects and designers will get serious about the business of running professional practices. They will understand that design firms are run for clients, not for firm employees. Their new agenda will create new scientific order from complexity. Increasing complexity will create new relevancy and new satisfying fee parameters.

Higher performance is made possible by technical and human creativity, and both will be systematized.

State and national governments will enact new laws to improve health safety and welfare and vastly improved social well-being. NCARB and other design licensing authorities will take on new relevancy as the power of place comes to be better understood. The experience of well designed spaces will be credited with better learning and increasing brain functionality. Architectural spaces will be credited with healing and emotional rejuvenation. Architecture, engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, and industrial design will shape social experiences and become forces to better the human experience. Design firms will create a blueprint for survival one project at a time.

Does this all sound a bit beyond your present and future strengths? Do you know what’s coming next? Are you the voice of opportunity in your firm? Do you know how to break through the cynicism and worn out excuses? Are you a well of strategic optimism? Are you designing alternatives to the status quo?

We believe that much that will happen in the future is knowable and that we can even plan for both pitfalls and windfalls. How likely is it that your new vision will become a reality? Time will tell. But this much is certain, the future won’t need today’s design firms.

—James P. Cramer