contact maria lorena lehman

send your message

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

spECIAL MASTERCLASS: Design concept formulation


Join Now to learn my HPA Design Formula to improve your architectural design concept formulations. This formula will help bring your mindset, skillset, and project design results to new heights. Plus, get the Design Insight Digest, FREE.


Unlock the Potential of Your Most-Used Design Tool

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

‍Image Credit: © ptra | Pixabay


When designing, you use many tools to help derive and realize your creative vision. Yet, it is likely that you gravitate toward certain design tools more than others. And you most likely have a “go-to” design tool that you use more than any other. For some architectural designers, this tool may be a 3D visualization tool, a BIM tool, or a drafting tool. For others, it may be the tool one uses to create physical models of their creative concept and vision. Whatever the case, it is wise not to take your tools for granted, and to analyze how much they are helping you so you can make necessary adjustments to improve your design process.

The following is a question to ask of your most-used design tool(s)…

Is this tool a mirror or a catalyst? Or both? It is important for your design tools to act both as a mirror and a catalyst. That is, your tools should help you see your design in its current state (mirror), and your tools should help you push your design to the next level of innovation or breakthrough (catalyst). To figure this out, you may start to become aware of how actively you are designing when using a given tool. For example, do you make best design-decisions and breakthroughs when using a particular tool? Or are you simply copying what is in your vision, without pushing to evolve as you simulate with your tool?


Note that there are times for both mirror tools and catalyst tools within the design process. Yet, it is also important to make certain that your catalyst tools are being used early in the design process. This is when you have the most leverage to make significant design improvements for a project’s quality, schedule, and budget. Thus, you should be empowered while designing those breakthroughs and key decision-making moments through a catalyst tool.

It is simultaneously important to think about how your design vision and design process can shape the tool itself. For example, is there a way for you to innovate the tool so you can improve your design process? Think about how new tools within the architectural discipline help environmental designers to construct completely new types of architectural designs. In fact, when you feel that you are reaching the limit of a tool, where you are exhausting all of its features to create your design vision – you may need to expand the tool itself, look for another tool, or invent a tool, so you do not feel as limited in your design process.

Design tools should expand your design thinking, not limit how your design gets realized.





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
read more testimonials
journal article collectionsresearch designs

Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

maria lorena lehman, as seen in...
featured posts
Urban Design

Urban Architecture – A Design Process of Co-Creation

To view urban architecture as the result of a design process of co-creation fundamentally shifts how it can be used to bring higher levels of thrivability to citizens. By integrating citizen ideas, behaviors, and experiential insights into how such urban systems and elements adapt, the city becomes a more joyous, peaceful, healthier, and inspiring place to live. This is how urban architecture can help cities to reach these higher levels – by pulling from the wisdom and ingenuity of its citizens through its buildings, that together act as a bridge that opens communication between people and city.

Design Process

Schematic Design – Using an Occupant-Centered Design Approach

Schematic design is the first stage of an architectural design project, and within this phase there are important milestones to get right that will greatly leverage the project’s results throughout the rest of its impending design phases. For example, by iteratively designing through various schematic prototypes, it becomes possible to optimize one’s design concept idea in a way that prevents future errors and expands the discovery of new design opportunities.

User Experience

How Architectural Poetics Improves Human Performance

With the design of each built environment, it is possible to help make the world a better place for individuals, the collective, and the planet. The key is to rise as architectural designers to create poetic architecture, not mere status quo buildings. You see, it is with poetic architecture that environmental design can awaken potential to nurture the self-actualization of those it serves.