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Top 3 Questions to Drive Extraordinary Concept Design

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

‍Image Credit: ElisaRiva | Pixabay

The phase during your architectural project when you have the most leverage is during your concept design phase. Ideas, design decisions, and iterative changes made at this stage take less effort, cost, and time. But there is a critical driver behind the concept design phase, and it is your “creative vision”.

Creative vision fuels your architectural design from its concept phase through to its post-construction phase. If properly conceived, your creative vision for a project helps you to make your design smarter, faster, and more beautiful as the project to realize your environment evolves. Because of this, it becomes critical to understand how you can leverage your creative vision to help you expand and realize the potential of your design project.

The following are three key questions to help you test your creative vision during the concept design phase, to help ensure your design solution will be both strategic and beneficial for all who experience it once built – your client, your building occupants, and your own design team.

To empower your creative vision, ask yourself the following questions as you design…

QUESTION #1: Does my concept design have a “convergence point” solution within it?

This first question helps to expand your thinking as you solve for your design challenge or problem. This question gets you to think about your current concept design solution – to see if it is solving for a multitude of programmatic challenges. For instance, if your creative vision does not have a “convergence point” solution within it, it may be solving for one issue but creating a new problem with its solution. The key to having a “convergence point” solution is to identify your root programmatic challenges and then solve for them with one design that is multifaceted in the way it innovates to either fix or eliminate those challenges. The main goal for you at this point is to find the simplest, most elegant solution, which knocks out as many programmatic challenges as possible. This will ensure your creative vision is worth pursuing.

QUESTION #2: Will my concept design positively benefit all those whom it affects? If not, how can I make it so?

This second question is vital, as it gets you to think about your creative vision from an occupant-centered approach. And to push this question further, you should really be thinking about how you can innovate new ways of uplifting quality of life for your building occupant. Your creative vision will be strongest when it is innovating new ways for providing benefits for your client and your future building occupants. Also, this second question gets you to see your creative vision from at least two angles: (1) how your design concept brings benefit to the well-being of people, and (2) how your design concept detracts from the well-being of people. These two creative vision angles help you to find both the strengths and opportunities for improvement in your concept design.

QUESTION #3: How can I push my concept design to the next level by asking “What if?”

This third question will help you to improve your concept design exponentially. Within your creative vision process, it is important to ask, “What if?”. In doing this, you will be engaging in lateral thinking techniques, which will help you to make correlations between seemingly unrelated things. And when you make such lateral thinking correlations, you greatly increase your probability of making design breakthroughs and discoveries. For example, when designing the Duomo in Florence, Brunelleschi engaged in “what if” thinking by correlating an egg shell with the geometry for the dome: What if the dome for this building pulled from the geometry of an eggshell? As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to using the “what if” technique during your creative vision process. Your concept designs will be more authentic, strategic, and innovative.

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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.

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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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