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How to Know When Your Project is Complete: From Satisfaction to Fulfillment

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

‍Image Credit: © Foundry | Pixabay


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 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.




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 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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