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spECIAL MASTERCLASS: Design concept formulation


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How to Know When You Find the Right Design Solution

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

‍Image Credit: © mohammed_hassan | Pixabay


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. For instance, how well does your design concept meet the needs and goals of its future building occupants? Or, how well does your concept solve for your client’s needs and requirements? And, how does your design concept add to the architectural body of work you have created thus far? All of these are valid questions, and each one requires exploring and assessing your concept design from different perspectives – the building occupants’ perspective, your client’s perspective, and from the architectural design quality perspective. Thus, the right design solution emerges once you have found the convergence point that solves for all three of the latter perspectives.


Then one must go further to assess the quality of the solution. For instance, is it an elegant and simple solution that solves a complex design problem? Or is it an over-complicated solution that is bloated in the way that it solves for the design problem? Your answer to this question is where the use of iteration in your design process will be beneficial. Often, one can “chisel” an elegant solution from an over-complicated one – with the right design iteration process.


Yet still, one can go further to elevate the quality of an architectural design concept. For example, does the elegant and simple solution that solves for a complex design problem, help the building occupant by transforming them for the better in some way? In other words, will your design leave its occupant better off because they experienced the design? Essentially, you will find the right design solution when it does more than solve for problems – as it will also innovatively uplift quality of life in new ways.

A simple example of this can be found in the design of a chair. Does the chair only meet the functional need of sitting at a desk to work? Or does the design of this chair also account for ergonomics that helps the user to sit with proper posture? The former chair only solves for the design need which is to have a place to sit while working, but the latter chair elevates the experience of sitting into one that can help form the beneficial habit of sitting with proper posture.


When formulating your architectural design concept, keep these steps in mind as you assess your design solution? Ask yourself: has this design solution made it through all three steps? Or does it stop short at Step 1 or Step 2? If so, keep iterating or asking yourself better questions to improve your concept. This is important. After all, the rest of your design’s success depends on having the right design concept, so think it all of the way through.


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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