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What is a Design Charrette?

Definition: A design charrette is a short, collaborative meeting during which a member or client can share their work with members of their team. They can talk through, collaborate, and sketch designs to explore and share a broad diversity of design ideas.

The idea for design charrettes (from the French word charrette meaning “chariot” or “cart”) is believed to have derived from stories of architectural students in Paris in the 1800s. As the story goes, students’ exams were collected in a charrette, and some of these students continued to sketch together as their designs were being gathered for evaluation.

Design Charette Process

Benefits and Goals

There are several benefits to hosting a charrette at a design firm.

  • being inspired by design ideas from various people
  • establishing/reinforcing firm culture
  • kick-starting a design or solution
  • hearing the priorities or consensus from people
  • making each person feel listened to and considered equally

How do we use Design Charrettes at Iconica?

With clients

Bob Feller: Charrettes are great collaborative tools with coworkers or clients.

With clients, we usually start with images of an existing building that have a similar use to the client’s project. With both exterior and interior photos, a back-and-forth discussion develops regarding what the client likes or dislikes, and why. The process helps us narrow in on what the client would like to see for the look and feel of the space.

For floor plan layout charrettes, I find that it’s best to have an initial concept already sketched. That gives the participants something to react to and generates feedback regarding what does not work, why it doesn’t work, and what ideas are heading in the right direction. This is a good time to circle back to the photo images from earlier to identify possible discrepancies between the vision and the concept plan.

Design Charette Board at Iconica
Design Charette process at Iconica

With each other

Steve Carbin: Design charettes within the firm are an important part of the Iconica process, as we improve our projects by having a fresh set of eyes critique and challenge our design assumptions. Charettes expand the way we think about our projects and foster a sence of community through collaboration.Design Charette process at Iconica

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