How to Know When Your Project is Complete: From Satisfaction to Fulfillment
A SURPRISING QUESTION
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.
TWO BETTER QUESTIONS
As a designer, you always want to feel that you did your best to solve for a given design challenge. And you want to feel that your design will help people to uplift their lives in new way(s). But how do you know when to feel satisfied with your design? In other words, how do you know when it is complete?
First, I would like to exchange the word “satisfied” with the word “fulfilled”. It may help you to think about how your design project fulfills your vision, your efforts, and your clients/occupants’ needs. To me, the word satisfied seems to imply that your design project is “good enough”, while the word “fulfilled” implies that the design project is meeting a higher standard that pushes you, as a designer, to stretch and grow your talents and skills. With this in mind, it may help you to ask a different question: “How do I know when my design is fulfilling its potential? And how do I know when I am fulfilling my potential as a designer?” The two latter questions are deeper questions, that will help you as an architect to create a compass by which to create “next level” architectural designs.
Of course, you can always work to improve your design solution – making it better and better through your iterative design process. And this can happen within one project, or over the course of your career (from project to project). As you may know, design is a process, and finding the solutions that work within your process is key to reaching a “completion point” within a project’s design development.
This leads us to the following answer:
Yes, it is great to reach a point within a project when your design has fulfilled your clients/occupants needs, your own needs to stretch your talent and skillset, and your career goals to grow as each project you do is better than the last. Experience helps you to learn, grow, and evolve as a designer. You should strive to reach that important “fulfillment point” in a project where it brings significant innovative benefits. I think this type of fulfillment is best to use as a measure of “completeness” – rather than your own fuzzy measure of personal satisfaction. For me, fulfillment brings a certain type of satisfaction but also a motivation and inspiration to do more – perhaps, even better.