Architect vs Architectural Designer

Architect vs. Architectural Designer – Which Is Best for You?

Specific terminology can often become a difficult-to-parse thing, so we occasionally need someone to come along and give a bit of a pointer in the right direction, such as, when it comes to the architect vs. architectural designer distinction. To the average Joe, there is probably no real distinction here. They are both architects of some kind, but they are quite different from one another, and this article will attempt to show some of the distinctions between these two professions and when one should be called over another. If you’re in need of either an architect or an architectural designer, keep reading!



Architect vs. Architectural Designer

Many fields have very specific distinctions between different types of workers within them. This is exactly the case when it comes to the architect vs. architectural designer distinction. It is often a pedantic thing to differentiate these two from one another, but it is what we will do over the course of this article. However, before we jump into our full discussion of this idea, we will first stop for a short while to have a look at a short and sweet summary.

What Is an Architect



Summary of Architect vs. Architectural Designer

If you’re in at least something of a rush or you need a bit of a generalized overview or quick refresher, then this summarized section is just for you. If you need to know some more about the architect vs. architectural designer distinction, you may need to read further than this summary alone:

  • An architect is responsible for structures from an overall design perspective. This is a very broad term, and there are actually many different types of architects. The basic idea to understand is that these figures are educated and licensed to design buildings.
  • An architectural designer is responsible for structures from a creative and technical perspective. These architectural workers are more conceptual in their role. They are not always licensed, and they can instead focus on the design of structures but may require an architect to help with the overall vision of a project.
  • An architect and architectural designer are distinct from one another. While the architect is someone who is typically licensed, the architectural designer is not necessarily licensed. This is also why they often work with one another. The architectural designer is generally more conceptual, and the architect can often be more practical.

This has been a brief summary of the whole idea of the architect vs. architectural designer. However, you may wish to know a lot more about this idea.

If you do wish to know a lot more, you can start on the next section of this article.



Definition of Architect vs. Architectural Designer

It can be a rather irritating and pedantic thing when it comes to the specific differences between different terms that can appear very similar to one another. When it comes to the realm of architecture, this is very often the case, especially when it comes to the distinctions between different types of architectural workers. In this case, it is the architect vs. architectural designer distinction.

In very basic terms, an architect is a very broad label that refers to a person who has a specific qualification that allows them to design structures. They are typically also licensed, and the term itself is a protected one. This means that you can’t just say that you’re an architect. You have to actually be an architect. This is similar to, for instance, a medical doctor. If you call yourself a medical doctor, then you can’t lie about that. You could actually face legal issues if you were to pretend to be a doctor.

Architect Definition

When it comes to an architectural designer, on the other hand, this is not a protected term. Instead, an architectural designer is someone who works more on the conceptual phase of design. This also means that they often work in tandem with an architect to design structures. What makes it more complicated is that some architects who are licensed also call themselves architectural designers. These architectural workers are often more specialized in what they do, while an architect may be more focused on the overall design rather than conceptual specifics.

This is the distinction in the architect vs. architectural designer binary that has been presented today. These two are not entirely distinct from one another, which can also make it a rather difficult thing to determine for certain. However, the primary thing to keep in mind is that one of these is generally required to be licensed and the other is not.



The Functions and Uses of an Architect

When it comes to the actual functions of an architect, this is a very broad thing to examine. There is not entirely such a thing as a standard “architect”, as many architects choose to specialize. Those who design malls do not typically design houses. The ways in which different types of structures are designed usually entail an understanding of different kinds of needs and requirements.

The requirements of a type of structure are some of the most important aspects that need to be taken into account.

For instance, the number of exits for a stadium is quite different from a house. Most houses don’t even have such a thing as an emergency exit because we don’t typically assume that if, for instance, a fire were to break out that you’d end up getting caught in a crowd. Houses don’t usually have crowds in them, but stadiums do! So, understanding regulations is generally an important aspect of the duties of an architect.

What Is an Architectural Designer

Furthermore, the architect is often involved in supervising aspects of construction too. Not all architects do this, especially when the projects are significantly larger, such as a hotel, but this can often be the case. So, they supervise as well as being involved in the design and development of the plans needed for the construction of a building. Another important part of the job of an architect can often be to collaborate with other architectural and construction workers, such as interior designers, landscape architects, and even architectural designers.



The Functions and Uses of an Architectural Designer

The functions of an architectural designer are quite different yet similar to an architect. It can be rather easy to confuse these two terms. While an architect will typically be there to supervise a design, an architectural designer is more of a figure in the conceptual phase of design. They are not usually educated in structural engineering, but can help with the initial aspects of design, and are often there during the early phases of development.

They are also often involved in the researching of materials that can be used in construction as well as aiding in things such as the coordination of contractors.

They are also often used when it comes to the finishing touches of a building. They generally lack the kind of technical skills that an architect has and, as has been explained, they do not usually need to be licensed because the term “architectural designer” is not a protected term. Anyone can do it, although some kind of architectural training is still typically seen in those who work as architectural designers.

Architectural Designer

These figures in the architectural process often work alongside architects, but they can also operate on their own when there are smaller design projects that need to be conducted. For instance, you probably won’t bring one in on their own when you’re designing a mall, and you may not even legally be allowed to do that, but if you’re remodeling a house, it’s something that’s easier to get away with doing.



When to Choose an Architect vs. Architectural Designer

It is very easy to confuse these two terms, but they are quite easy to understand in terms of when they should be used. As we have explored, when it comes to an architect vs. architectural designer, an architect is a more protected term. It is someone who is generally fully licensed, as it is a protected term in many countries, and this means that they have the full right to design structures.

An architectural designer, on the other hand, may not necessarily have a license but do operate within the realm of the design of spaces. It can become difficult as some architectural designers are also architects, but they are not all fully qualified architects. So, if you want someone fully licensed who can design an entire building on their own, you will likely want an architect.

If you are designing something on a smaller scale, then it is perfectly fine to use an architectural designer.

Types of Architects Fallingwater House (2007) by Frank Lloyd Wright; Sxenko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These two types can also often work together though. An architectural designer can be someone who operates on a more conceptual level, and, as a result, they can often work alongside architects to fulfill a certain creative vision. However, it entirely depends on what you are planning on having planned and constructed. If you are trying to add to an existing house, an architectural designer may work, but if you are wanting to build something from scratch, you want an architect. If you are trying to create something from scratch or something that is very extensive, and you have the money to provide extensive work to it, then you can use both in tandem with one another.


Specific terms can be irritating things, as they can have very particular meanings, which is the case when it comes to the architect vs. architectural designer distinction. Hopefully, this article has provided an overview of this issue and given you some of the information that you need to try and understand how these two types of architectural workers are similar and different from one another. So, if you need an architect or an architectural designer for an upcoming project, make sure you choose carefully!




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is an Architect?

This is the term used to define a person who has received an education in the design of buildings. Architects often do a lot more than simply design structures and are instead there to also plan a lot of the overarching systems and such that go into a building. Many are also there to supervise the construction of the building, but this is not necessarily the case in all instances. Architects typically work quite closely with their clients when designing buildings. This is also a very broad term that can encompass other types of architects.


What Is an Architectural Designer?

This is the term used to define a person who is focused on the conceptual and technical phases of architectural design. This means that they are often the ones who aid in the production of the blueprints that are necessary to construct a building in the first place. The kinds of duties that they are involved in include the conceptual, development, and technical aspects of the design of structures, but they do not become involved in the supervision of the actual construction of the building.


How Does an Architect Differ from an Architectural Designer?

These two types of architectural professions often work alongside one another to design structures. The architect, which is a rather broad label, is often involved in the overall design and construction of a structure, whereas the architectural designer operates along a more conceptual level. However, there can also be a slightly different meaning for legal reasons in that an architectural designer can sometimes be someone who does not hold the same licensing as an architect and so cannot design a building alone.


When Should You Use an Architect?

If you want to build a new structure, remodel a structure in some significant way, or engage in a more large-scale project, it is usually best to have an architect. The design of structures can result in rather dangerous situations, and an architect is there to mitigate against that. They are there to understand why buildings should be designed in a certain way and how to ensure that the building is safe.


When Should You Use an Architectural Designer?

An architectural designer is someone who operates more as a conceptual figure, and as a result of this, they can often be best for when designing smaller and more simplistic structures. This is provided they are not working in tandem with an architect, because full architects can often be more qualified or fully licensed, and so they are allowed to design larger and more complex structures than architectural designers. The term architect is often a protected term that has a legal definition in many countries, whereas architectural designer is not a protected term.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Architect vs. Architectural Designer – Which Is Best for You?.” Art in Context. January 8, 2024. URL:

van Huyssteen, J. (2024, 8 January). Architect vs. Architectural Designer – Which Is Best for You?. Art in Context.

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Architect vs. Architectural Designer – Which Is Best for You?.” Art in Context, January 8, 2024.

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