Why design hurts…


I’m currently planning on participating in a student/recent grad architectural design competition and am having a bit of trouble starting. You could say that I am experiencing the architect’s version of writer’s block. Which got me thinking about the design process and why it hurts so bad.

There is nothing more intimidating to me (and I’m sure other designers) than the blank page at the beginning of the design process. Especially in moments like this in which there is no site, no client, no responsibilities to which the designer must conform. The only thing a person in this situation must answer to is the story they create and gravity.

So how does the process start?

It is different for every person.

How does the process start for me?

I begin by cleaning. I clean everything; my desk, my room, my computer’s desktop, my email inbox. This cleansing helps me to focus. To purge whatever problems or difficulties I am facing in life and enable myself to focus solely on the problem at hand.

I then look at precedence images: Things I like. Things I don’t like. Things that make me think. Things that make me ask questions. Mostly just things.

I then select my tools. Perhaps a roll of trace and a thick black marker. Or sometimes a mechanical pencil and a small journal. Sometimes even some butcher paper and crayons. Once the tools are laid out, I hit the wall.

I try everything in my power to rationalize putting off the work I’m about to do. I check emails and Facebook and emails again. I wonder why today of all days nobody has called to distract me. In fact, this post is just another thing to keep me from doing the work I desperately need to do.

I fall into extreme anxiety, depression, and frustration. Then I just start to draw and write and think, mostly pure nonsense. I catch a glimpse of an idea, but quickly lose it in a fury of flying trace and crooked lines. By this time I’ll have a large pile of worthless ideas and broken visions. I’ll be worn out and stressed out.

Then suddenly, the “ah-ha” moment I had been searching for. The dam cracks, then shifts, then bursts. Ideas begin to pour out rapidly and my hands struggle to keep up. A quick pace of production follows until the idea is exhausted and I’ve created something to be proud of. It is a feeling unlike any other.

Then the tiring process begins again the very next session as I build upon old ideas and invent new ones.

I love it.

just thinking


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