When designing architectural environments, how do you notice your creative thinking? Yes, this question asks how you as a designer can observe your design process. Why is this important? When you become truly aware of your creative process, you are able to step outside of it to ask important questions and make critical decisions to improve and optimize how you design.
How can environments be designed to nurture human happiness? How can environments work to help people evolve into the best version of themselves? These are important questions for which to factor as you perceive, use, and/or design environments.
Your sketchbook holds a world of useful insight that you can use to push your design process even further. Thinking is a critical part of design, and a sketchbook helps you to unlock how you can exponentially improve your own design thinking. How do you use your sketchbook to design? What pages are your favorite? And how can you strengthen your sketchbook system?
It is my hope that you take time to improve your design process. For this is the root of your architectural projects’ level of success. Thus, I invite you to begin with the the following three steps that will help you to tackle the core of what makes your design process work. After all, this is how your projects can evolve over time to reach those next highest levels.
What will the future of the architectural design process bring? Will you carry forward your trusted design methods while also injecting the opportunities that emerging design technologies bring? As a forward-thinking designer, I invite you to consider what your own future design process could be like, with the continual development of augmented/virtual reality, prediction algorithms, and faster global communication.
The creative process is like a spring. You wind-up the spring to prepare for its release. When creating, I absorb in the world and explore internally (my wind-up), and then I have creative emergence (my release). And as I delve into my creative practice, I go back and forth between the two. How do you "absorb" as you prepare to "release" your creativity within your design solution?
When analyzing the finished results between a hand-drawing versus a digital-drawing, the stylistic differences are easy to see. Both types of drawings can be very beautiful, if thoughtfully composed. Yet, a designer will think about what they are drawing very differently depending on which drawing process they use.
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.
How often do you capture a "creative spark"? The key when modeling a creative spark is to create an MVM, a Minimum Viable Model, that quickly tests your creative spark. This initial physical model is a quick handmade prototype to help yield proof of concept: built to see if this creative spark has depth for further development.
The above close-up section of a recent environmental drawing I created explores what I call the structure of gravity. This paradoxical term speaks to the bridging of architecture between the earth and sky – as built form rises upward as if to collaborate with the science of gravity through the structure of design expression.
Developing the ability to evolve your design process is critical not only to your architectural brand, but also to the clients and building occupants your design projects serve. By formulating design concepts that push boundaries, you eliminate getting stuck or plateauing as you improve your design thinking and design doing from project to project.