Architects vs. Designers: What You Need to Know
Here are the differences between architects and designers.

Architects vs. Designers:

What You Need to Know

Whether you are redesigning an existing space or building a new one from the ground up, finding the right professional to help you with a design project can be a daunting task.

After all, this kind of project is a financial investment. It will add value to your home or business, and it’s important for the job to be done well! But with so many choices out there, who do you hire for expert help? An architect, a designer, or both? And what’s the difference between the two, anyway?

Although these professions overlap in many areas like room layout and space planning, there are some key differences between them. Knowing these differences can help you decide who will be the best fit for the scope of your project.

Knowing the differences between architects and designers will help you decide who to hire for your next project.

Photo: Outsite Co

Licensing and Qualifications

The biggest difference you will find between architects and designers is in their certifications and levels of training.


The title “architect” is firmly regulated on a national level, which means not anyone can call themselves one. A licensed architect must have earned either a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in architecture (5-6 years). On top of that degree, they are required to gain enough experience working at an architectural firm (3-5 years) to pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). Once that has been passed, they can then receive a formal registration number.

Because this process is so strict, you can be certain that when you hire an architect, they are both highly qualified and experienced enough to design any building: a residential home, an office building, a grocery store, a tumbling gym…you name it, an architect can create it. The end product will be functional, aesthetically pleasing, and strong. It is an architect’s responsibility to meet the local and national building codes, protecting the health, safety, and welfare of those who live or work in the completed building. Being well-versed in sustainable and energy-efficient building practices, an architect will also work to reducing the environmental impact of your project.

Architects are regulated on a national level, ensuring quality and experience.

Photo: Jason Briscoe


In contrast, the term “designer” is not nationally regulated, meaning qualifications vary greatly, and small changes in title can indicate very different things. While just about anyone could start a business as a designer, to be licensed as an interior designer here in Utah, the individual must meet a few requirements set by the CIDQ (Council for Interior Design Qualification).

This does not mean that a designer is unqualified for a project. It only means that there is a wider variance in level of training and experience among them. If you need to spruce up an existing space through the use of color, lighting, and furniture, hiring a designer can be a great option. After all, Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines didn’t receive any formal design training, but she had a natural talent that has turned into a very successful career.

Architects follow local and national building codes to ensure safety.

Photo: Le Creuset


Another thing to consider when deciding between hiring an architect or hiring a designer is the scope of your project (are you renovating one room, or completely transforming your home?) and how involved in the project you want to be.

An architect is trained and highly skilled at project management. They can coordinate the entire project, from conception to the very last detail, even hiring contractors and obtaining appropriate building permits for you if needed.

Architects visit the construction site multiple times throughout the course of the project to ensure that the building being built matches the one they designed for you. Hiring an architect means you have someone to represent you, handling the nitty gritty details of a project, whereas with a designer, you may end up being a little more involved in those things.

Always interview an architect or designer before hiring them for your project.

Photo: Le Creuset

All of this said, please keep in mind that both designers and architects are human, and humans are not all alike.

Some designers have more educational qualifications than others, and some architects have a better eye for aesthetic design than others. A detail-oriented architect with a strong eye for design can give you the best of both worlds.

No matter which type of professional you decide to work with, you should always look at their portfolio and schedule an interview before hiring them. This ensures the person or team you hire is a good fit for you and your unique project.

master bathroom before + after

The Master Bath at Our House with the Red Barn, was a little outdated… to say the least.  It was a 3/4 bath, with wall to wall pink carpet and open to the rest of the master bathroom.  The shower + toilet room (also carpeted) in all of it’s musty mildew-y glory was screaming for help!

In order to reduce costs, we tried to keep the existing plumbing where it was.  With somewhat limited options for growth to improve efficiency, we chose to leave the  shower and toilet in place and forego a private toilet room, we were able to relocate the closets to add a free standing tub to upgrade the space (always considering resale value) to a full bath.  We implemented a dark color materials palette on white walls that played on variations of the same shape and with different sheen finishes.  Start scrollin’ now for the, the before + during & after.


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‘The ache for home lived in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.’

– Maya Angelou


Brittany 2016 Website 3Hi, I’m Brittany the Principal Architect of Trio Design.  I’m also a wife and mother, an architect, a lover of nature, a part time chicken wrangler and I’m also someone who is constantly planning my next adventure/vacation.  I started Trio Design about 2 years ago after getting licensed as an Architect here in Utah.  Over these past two years, I’ve watched my business grow, and I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time; about people, business, design, and construction.  One of the things I’ve realized most, is how much I love thinking about how people use a space, and most specifically how one LIVES in a space.  Previously, most of my professional experience had been in small commercial and ecclesiastical work, each night I’d go home thinking about HOME.

Last year at this time, my family of four was living in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, UT in a 2700 sq. ft. home, it was comfortable quiet, clean.  But I looked in the unfinished basement and realized we had all of the ‘stuff’.  ‘Stuff’ from childhood,  old decorations, sports equipment, unused furniture, broken lamps to be fixed, etc.  About this same time our family took a vacation, where we stayed in a small 900 square foot rental home near the beach; now it might have been that fresh sea breeze or the time away from all of that ‘stuff’ but I realized we needed to purge.  Everything we needed to live, was right there with us, the four of us.  That’s it.  Our life was comfortable, and beautiful, but we needed path to simplify, and I had a feeling it would be an adventure.  I also realized that my husband and I were already armed with the skills we needed.

Within a week of arriving home from vacation, my husband stumbled upon an old 70s ‘fixer upper’ not far from where we lived currently.  Flash forward to present day, and we are now living in that home fully renovated.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to chronicle that journey, the renovation highs and lows of ‘picking up and moving’ practically overnight, to ‘Our House with the Red Barn’ as my daughter fondly named our ‘new’ home.  I want to share our trials and successes, what it was like to ‘be my own client’ with tips and tricks for simple clean design and saving money, how to stick to your budget and prioritize design goals.  I also want to share how the way we lived, evolved through this process and how the meaning of ‘home’ transformed along the way.

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