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spECIAL MASTERCLASS: Design concept formulation


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How Injecting Fiction Will Make You a Better Designer

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

‍Image Credit: ©Sipgus | Fotolia

Outsmarting Design Constraints

When designing, the constraints that reality brings to your set of programmatic challenges can be numerous. After all, you as a designer must solve for constraints including the financial, the technological, and the time-based. And while this must be done for each project, there is often a powerful aspect to design that goes unleveraged – the injection of fiction.

What if during early stages of design concept formulation, you stretched your creative mindset to think “outside-of-the-box” in a way that freed new and innovative ideas that could ultimately be applied? Often, it is by asking the right question during design that great solutions emerge. And to ask the right questions, it will help to inject fiction into your design process.

Injecting Fiction for Design

Many of the best science fiction books revolve around questions that start with “What if…”, and this becomes your doorway into how fiction can help you create new windows of opportunity for your designs. Just imagine working on the design of an office building. Of course, you would need to meet all of the programmatic requirements including office count, appropriate lighting, noise reduction, and so on. But meeting all of these requirements does not mean your design will be extraordinary. For example, how will your design improve the corporate culture? Will it improve productivity and creativity? Will it reduce stress?

To get into the deeper, more poetic, and often most impactful experiential design ideas, you can ask questions that bring a bit of fiction into your process. For example: What if you could create a hybrid office that syncs an employee’s home and workplace office in real-time? What would that design look like? What would that design feel like? And what design ideas and lessons could you bring back into your reality-based design solution?

Designers that Think Different

Many designers never stretch their imagination, creativity, or design process into these more fictional realms. But doing so will make you a better designer. By thinking beyond the current challenges, you will be expanding your design from merely solving present-day problems to more strategically innovating to create new amazing solutions that not only solve for those reality-based problems, but also create extraordinary experiences that will make your architecture a place occupants’ love.

Again, simply ask “what if…” to get your mind to think more creatively, to inject a bit of fiction into your design process, and to unlock the true potential of what your design can do.


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 an award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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