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Design User Experience by Immersing Yourself in Your Vision

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

A Second Life shopping mall design that reflects trends instantly, showing what people buy, current fashions, quality levels and so on. Image Credit: © Torley | Flickr

I wonder if one can say that what you put into your architectural design, your occupants will get out of it? Yet, I do not necessarily think that the amount of time or money spent on a project is linearly reflected in its positive or negative outcome for occupant experience. Yes, it can help…but with the proper design ingenuity and by capitalizing on the right leverage points within your design process, your architectural designs can speak volumes to your occupants no matter how large, small or costly the project.

However — does the level of “immersion” with which you design get carried through into your occupants’ experience of your design? And what makes for good design immersion?

Well, another word for immersion is “absorption”, also defined as “the state of being deeply engaged or involved. In light of this definition, I must say that most often reaching the proper level and state of immersion while you design user experience in a building can work wonders for creating an equally immersive environment for your occupants. For, such an environment will cradle your occupants in such a way as to not only alleviate their functional needs, but to also present them with an architectural world that seamlessly and almost invisibly brings beauty into their lives. 

How to Think Immersively When You Design

In today’s day and age, when speaking of an immersive environment, people generally think of virtual reality spaces in terms of another world often filled with things like amazing graphics, avatars and new rules that make up the physics to their new world. However, much can be learned from such virtual reality environments…especially when you bring those lessons back into the daily life of your occupants.

For starters, immersive experiences can occur for your occupants well within your physical, and very real, architectural buildings. I think that in order to do this, however, you as an architect need to truly “immerse” yourself within your environments as you create them. This requires that when you design, you go beyond the programmatic needs of your occupants so you can instill that poetic value within your future building. After all, if you can feel the poetics of a building on your drawing board, the probability of your occupants feeling it once built will be greatly increased.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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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.


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A design process definition can be explained as the creative and iterative methods one goes through in order to solve for a particular challenge, need, or goal. Within architectural design, one’s design process goes through various stages that begin with an initial creative vision that ultimately gets built as a building that occupants can use. The goal for architects is to optimize their design process in order to create the highest quality architectural design in the shortest amount of time, and within budget. The following is an architect's guide to design process.