Design, Photography, & Fashion

Creating With Your Client

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 15:03 min

Frank knows the importance of communicating with clients. By including them at every step of the design process, your projects will gain order and personality. In this chapter, Frank shares how to make creative collaboration a priority.

Frank Gehry
Teaches Design and Architecture
In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.
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When you're working with a client, you're working with people. They have feelings, they have needs, that changes from day to day. They may have seen a picture in a magazine that you would hate, but they came and say, "look! I want to do this!" So, it's non-linear. You've got to be willing to roll with the punches. I think of it as steering a boat, your hands on the tiller. It's subtle. When you're sailing it varies constantly, and things happen. And you have to be open to it. That's the excitement, to us, is to get people really involved. Because, if it's a house it's their, going to be their place to live. So you don't-- I don't like just making a sculpture and say, OK, here it is, take it or leave it, and move in. Every project you do, it's important to develop a trust relationship with the client where they know that you're working for them. You're bringing your art form to their-- to them. It's not unlike the, I mean he was pompous, but Michelangelo with Pope Julius. He was doing the paintings that Pope Julius asked him to, but he was doing them his way. We get a client, somebody calls us and says they want to do something, let's make it simple call it a house. They have a property somewhere, in a canyon or on the beach or somewhere. They have a family, they have a certain budget. We try to find out who the people are. What are their values, what are their art collection, what are-- how they live, what their dream is for this particular dwelling. What part of the site is-- why they chose the site, why they chose me, why they-- just getting to know you kind of period. We have a client now for a house whose background is Iranian. She has a different model for a family compound than a lot of different cultures. And so, to get into that and create this, the privacy that she needs from her family, and that allows for the communal activity, all of that starts at the beginning. I start to understand these people and what they like, what their values are, how they talk to each other. And during that period we sit and sketch. I mean, I can't help it. I just always have a pen or pencil in my hand, and some blank paper. And I'm thinking with them out loud as to the usual spaces-- living room, dining room, bedroom, blah, blah, blah-- and starts to develop a story that inspires a kind of visual response. An organizational response, an architectural response, a kind of a spatial response. And I'm not talking about six months of meetings. I'm talking about three or four meetings. Visit to the site, visit to their house they live in, maybe go out to dinner to their favorite restaurant. Just three or four meetings like that, you start to establish a rapport that is comfortable for both sides. I mean it's not that complicated, is just being aware that there's a lot of nuance in different cultures, different lives. It's...

Create the extraordinary

At 19 years old, Frank Gehry was a truck driver taking sculpture classes at night school. His vision for what architecture could accomplish went on to reshape our cities’ skylines and the imaginations of artists and designers around the world. In his online architecture class, this master builder invites you into his never-before-seen model archive for a look into his creative process.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Well, I'm a filmmaker i have nothing to do with architect, even I got so attached to his MasterClass because he is a real Legend.

A true designer, not afraid to look beyond traditional architecture and explore new forms to give a creative solution.

I have learned how architects and clients can work well together.

It was a great learning experience. The personal insights of Mr. Gehry's journey were very relatable, and give a sense of authenticity to the class. Very inspiring to see how legends are made by their relentless attitude towards their work and passions!


Hai L.

“At least $1,000/sf”...”you have to discuss Really stupid stuff like...mechanical systems like heat, air condition, and ventilation”. I disagree with his wording as those un-seen elements are what really create comfort in the space. It may be that there is more science and less artistic boundaries to push. What the eye can experience and appreciate in the layout, the envelope, the materials, etc is arguably less significant than the body feels the whole time it is in a particular space. Case in point for anyone who’s been to a 500 seat lecture hall without adequate air circulation because the heating set point has been more than satisfied.

A fellow student

I completely agree. Just last week I had to cut ties and recommended a different professional to do what they were looking for; and had to remain firm. Learning to “let my ‘yes’ be yes and my ‘no’ be no”.

Graeme R.

This is true and useful in every creative profession. How I have wanted to call a client a philistine and a fool. My arrogance, not his or hers.

Bill B.

I loved the last statements too. He communicates so well. His approach has made him the most important architect of the last 40 years so he must be doing something right! Thanks Mr. Gehry.

Natasha K.

Eloquent and masterful. The last sentiment seems like an afterthought but encapsulates his passion and true nature perfectly.

Dennis R.

I loved the last line of this lesson... "It's all about making people happier, richer, friendlier so they stop building fences and stop separating their selves and stop buying guns." When I look at a design I always look at how it can help make someone's life easier or give them joy. I always like to say, "life is tough, design it better."

Margaret B.

Relationships are at the heart of any project...understanding needs and perspectives...thanks for the insights


So If I am right, Getting to know clients is like having a brief with as much description as you can. I actually thought clients should be engaged right at the beginning , middle to learn the progress and the end , what if they constantly changing their minds. where to stop?

Mia S.

"The materials that we have available to us at any one time relate to what's in the culture. What's being built, what's being used - if you had to build a very inexpensive house in the last 40 years, you would end up using stucco. You build a frame and you put stucco on it. Budgets mostly would lean you toward, on a big house, to use plaster because it's the scale of residential work. When I started with my house in the 70s, our budget was $50,000 for that house; we used corrugated metal, wood, and glass. I think you have to want to do that, you have to say, 'There's gotta be something better, so we gotta look for it.' The technical work is ongoing. We have access to these people in the office, they're two desks away, we will call them and say, 'Hey, what do you think? Can we go down this way, can we study something?' I have them at the end of the day evaluate work that we've done and see if there's anything standing out that we missed, that we didn't catch, from a technical standpoint. Are we focusing on the right issues, from a budget standpoint? It's kind of having a constant critique, which we do ourselves, but having another point of view from somebody who's going to have to build the thing.That usually leads to - if it's something new, like when we're studying the brick - they'll go off and get a whole bunch of brick samples and energize a bunch of study concurrent with what we're doing. They'll start asking questions, and then if you're working on a glass curtain wall, they'll call up the curtain wall people that we like, we've been successful with, and try things. 'Is there a way?' We do that right as we're working, so we don't get caught in a six month delay and then we find out we can't do it. We try to vet stuff as we go. I like to develop it with the client over time, so that by the time they go into it, it's theirs. They feel it, they know it, they know why it happened, what are the values of it. They should know that you're seriously listening to them, that you care about them, that you're going to make sure, as best you can, they're going to get what they need with their product. It's going to make their lives richer - it's all about making people happier, richer, and friendlier, so they stop building fences, and stop separating ourselves, and stop buying guns."

Mia S.

"We build a site model at two or three scales, depending on how complex... the first models are eighth inch, and quarter inch. Quarter inch scale allows you to get into the rooms, eighth inch allows you to mess with the site. You work back and forth; there's no law to it. I may get going and ramp up and build a much larger model, even. The rooms are blocked out, so you know that a living room is like 14 to 16 feet wide, 20 to 30 feet long. We make a block like that, we make blocks for bedrooms, we kind of know what sizes... you just place them there, not that they're final or anything, they're just talking points, abstract blocks of wood or whatever that we place on the site and manipulate, move around, to get the best vantage points, interaction with each other, access, privacy, the viewpoints. It's during that process you discover how you are going to work on this particular piece of land. When you place them together, you start to conglomerate them, you can see how they interact, and you start to get these relationships. You start to understand how these - how you should enter the house, where you should park, where should the back door be, where should the doggy door be, what should the service entrance be, the wine cellar? It's also how you discover the interaction of the client to that, you get their responses, because they're looking at the land too, and they're saying, 'You love that view, but that's not why we bought this house. We bought this house because we want a lot more privacy and we want the view to be like a painting that you see only from one room, and we want it to be a drop-dead gorgeous, natural painting.' It's during that period you explore options with them, they began to see options they hadn't seen - they begin to understand the site and their program to the site in a more personal way. You're educating them, so that they can respond to you."