As an environmental designer, it is important to make smart design decisions during your creative process – at all stages. This is where the practice of design fiction can be injected into your process, to help you formulate not just one design solution that you iterate; but a variety of possible solutions that you can compare, test, or explore quickly at the beginning of your concept formulation process.
The phase during your architectural project when you have the most leverage is during your concept design phase. Ideas, design decisions, and iterative changes made at this stage take less effort, cost, and time. But there is a critical driver behind the concept design phase, and it is your “creative vision”. To empower your creative vision, ask yourself the following questions as you design…
When designing environments, do you adhere to a “one-size-fits-all” approach? Or do you try to personalize your environments for individual building occupants? Many designers use technology to help with the personalization of a design; yet, there is also another approach to consider that, when coupled with technology, can strengthen your design even further. This approach is what I call the “Gradation Method”.
It is wise not to take your design tools for granted, and to analyze how much they are helping you so you can make necessary adjustments to improve your design process. The following is a question to ask of your most-used design tool(s)…
Yes, a design project can do its part to solve for local challenges, and can even do its part to create new local opportunities. But as designers we must go beyond the local to ask: How can this project give rise to more global solutions and opportunities?
I was surprised by the number one question architects asked me during a recent survey I conducted. They wanted to know “Should I ever be completely satisfied with my architectural design project? And how do I know when to be satisfied with it?” These are both very good questions, and they each led me to think even more deeply about my own creative design process. The following is how I think about design project completion and satisfaction.
As you work your way through the all-important design concept phase, how do you assess the quality of your design concept? There are numerous aspects you can base a design concept’s success upon.
Why do you do the work you do? As an architect, is there a specific threshold you are trying to cross with your design creations? Or are you simply designing building after building to meet basic needs, without giving much thought to what contribution your designs are making? It is important for you, as an architectural designer, to bring your designs to that next level – where they push boundaries for better innovation.
Have you ever felt that you were running out of creativity – where a sense of boredom or lack of excitement about your work surfaced? If so, you are not alone. Many designers hit a creative wall, but the expert designers know how to break through that wall quickly.
Some architectural design features are meant to be the focus of attention, and their visibility makes the spatial experience an unforgettable one. Yet, other architectural design features are meant to be invisible, where they are purposefully designed to recede into the background.
For so many, great change-making design ideas seem elusive. Just how does one find that initial spark that launches an entire project around a game-changing idea? Really, it can happen in unlimited ways, but the following five idea generating methods are the most common that I have experienced, and seen other designers experience as well.
Creativity is as much about new ideas as it is about making those new ideas converge with existing conditions. In other words, perhaps you are trying to uncover a new design process method, a new design style, or a new way of using existing materials --- to do this, you must see your method, other design styles, and existing materials through new ways of "seeing".
As you design your architectural concept, it may help you to think of design features and their materials as exuding both scientific and poetics effects. For the scientific, one may question how a particular design was achieved. While for the poetic, one may question how a particular effect was captured. In either case, the scientific understanding when coupled with poetic meaning leads can lead to amazing beauty.
What if while designing, your creative exploration takes you down a path toward an architectural idea that is "unbuildable"? Once you make the realization that your design approach cannot be physically realized…what do you do next?
Most designers rely on the same design tools to formulate their design concepts, over and over again --- without giving much thought to how the design tool, itself, impacts the design outcome. You see, your design presentation tools can be used to experiment with new design ideas, and they can be innovated to help you breakthrough to new levels of design.
Yes, architectural design evokes behavioral response within its occupants. And as an architect it is important to understand, analyze, and improve upon your design process and end-results. Thus, by delving more deeply into the ways your design impacts those that engage with it, you can ultimately gain information to help improve its outcome.
By pushing environments to do more for occupants, you will delve further into uncovering the nuances behind what your building occupants need, both in the short-term and long-term. As you research in this manner, you will see ways for your design to reach higher synergistic levels by envisioning your design in greater detail.
It is important to challenge yourself to create extraordinary architectural concept designs. You see, architectural concepts help to not only improve the results of your own project, but they also can work to pioneer and guide the architectural profession, emerging technologies, and new design processes. Much innovation is born during the concept design phase.
The coming together of your architectural elements will impact occupants, to either help them or hinder them. Of course, when you design, your intention is to help occupants through the environment you create. But how can you prevent your design from being used differently, or from becoming just another status quo building?
Many say that the most important phase of an architectural design is the concept formulation phase. Yet, many designers debate aspects related to architectural concept design – like what is the definition of a concept, what are the proper steps needed to achieve a concept, and what makes a concept design meaningful.
Have you ever considered how you would like your architectural environments to be remembered? Yes, there are certain famous buildings that are recognized in an instant, and at times the “images” of such buildings spread throughout the world in iconic fashion.
Have you ever designed for a solution that works in one environment and not in another? For instance, a certain architectural feature that uses color-shifting glass might work for the design of a restaurant, but not for the design of a library. Or a smart watch’s alarm reminding you to check your email or voice-message works well if sounding when you are waiting on a bus, but conflicts tremendously if alerting you while you are driving.
The place to start innovating healthcare design ideas is by better understanding patient needs. This includes not only a deep understanding of what limits their healing process, but also a deep understanding of what propels their healing process.
What would you do within your design if you had access to glass in architecture that was stronger and more durable than steel? Would you span longer distances with it? Create more transparent and “warped” forms with it? Or might you even create new combinations of perceptual intrigue — like a transparent cantilever which extends outward further, or a transparent building base which makes all that is above it appear to “float”.
Architectural objects collectively say a lot about us. And as such, you as an architect can use this information to not only design better spaces for your occupants, but to also learn more about your occupants before you ever design their space.
Commercial building plans evolve over time as you travel through the different stages of creating your building, from schematic all the way through to your construction document set. As your original architectural design concept materializes in the beginning, you soon begin to anchor in those building design ideas that need to be finessed and built upon as your design process moves forward.
Have you considered that by thinking about a design on water, you may actually come up with more innovative design solutions to many of the problems that arise when trying to design for land?
How do you know you are really leveraging them during your design process to streamline your efforts — lifting the quality of your design, the speed at which you design and lowering your final building cost?
how you do you decide which design process is the best one for you? Are you wasting valuable time and money by working with the wrong or not quite right architectural design process? Should a design process be specified by each designer or be carried throughout your entire firm? Or should it be based on your building-type? Your client preferences? Or some other parameter?
Communication is fundamental in getting your design vision executed correctly. You communicate with a multitude of people as an architect: first and foremost with yourself, then with your team, with your client and ultimately with your occupants. And all of this makes up your design system.
Even as you formulate the initial schematics for your architectural concept design, it is wise to comprehensively research not only what your occupant thinks they need now, but also how they would like to grow: physiologically, intellectually, emotionally, behaviorally, and even spiritually. This will help you to grasp how the environmental design’s behavioral language needs to adapt.
Is all of life a game-like journey? Or is the journey more of an experiential process with no real end-goal? Whatever life seems to be at a given moment, it is interesting to consider what physical environments would be like if they were designed with a gaming mentality.
I invite you as an architectural designer to unlock the power of 3D to 4D visualization. Going from 3D visualizations to interactive 4D immersive VR experiences of your design projects (with sound) will convey your concept ideas better by making your multi-sensory design interventions come to life in more tangible ways.