A couple called us the other day for help with their new house project. We started working with them, having a kick-off programming meeting and visiting their potential house site. Back at the office, armed with notes and some sketches they had done, we jumped into sketches of our own. The experience I had struggling to discover a resolution made me recognize two traits all designers must possess to be successful: persistence and memory.
I am of course referencing the Salvador Dali painting of the same name.
By memory I mean experience: good designers are experienced designers. There are kids right out of school who are quite talented, but everyone will grow as a designer with practice. We achieve a muscle memory about the design process. It becomes like riding a bike, or playing a tune on a guitar.
The more interesting trait is persistence. I realized our clients got stuck as they tried to sketch their own design. The first element in the house was the mud room. They were placing the mud room in the corner of the ground floor, and trying to get adjacencies to work after that initial move. Looking at their sketches, I too started by placing the mud room in the corner. It was not working.
After a bit of struggle, I backed off and started sketching bubble diagrams instead of rooms: amorphous shapes that showed relationships. A light bulb went off. The mud room needed to be in the center of the service bar. A couple of massages later, and I had a pleasing floor plan.
The nature of persistence is that it exists when the designer knows a solution is out there. It is hard to persist when the quest is futile. Thus the relationship between persistence and memory. We know this problem can be solved because we have solved similar problems in the past. Our past experience encourages us to continue forward.
Hiring a Designer?
When hiring a designer of any stripe, for web, architecture, product or process, it may be helpful to ask about their design methodology. What is your design process? When do you know you have been successful? How do you prepare for a design project?