pit bulls and child birth

So you read the title wondering about this one right? I don’t really know anything about dogs, but legend has it that a pit bull will not let go of the subject it bites on to. (please don’t email me to correct me). Yes, that’s one of my analogies for today because that’s how I think about design. Or that’s how I thought about it as I was driving in my car Friday morning after a feverish few days of sketching, freehand drafting and yes, thinking. Then I had to leave the office that afternoon to teach studio.

When I start working on a new design I typically obsess about it and I don’t want to put it down. It’s a bit like that dog. I don’t want to let it go until I have good ideas or until I’ve made the first round of drawings to present to my client (that contain good ideas). The process of design yields multiple ideas; however whether they are good or not is what makes it a challenge.

As we begin to design it is quickly evident that a very good solution is not going to happen easily. Now I’m going to liken it to child-birth; it will happen when it happens but you have to work hard at it all the same. Once you start to sketch and draw, you find out that the ideas in your head aren’t so great on paper. What seemed like a good idea in your mind has obvious weaknesses. Maybe it’s just plain ugly. Design becomes work, but it’s a rewarding work if you hang on and keep going.

I believe this is why it is so frustrating to architects when people ask us if we could quickly “draw up some plans” as if it is just a linear process that doesn’t take very long or much thought. It is probably the painful struggle we go through to “give birth” to a design that makes us so attached to our work. However that process is not always pretty. In fact, design can be messy.

The tenacity we must have to hang on to the design process until we reach some level of satisfaction or accomplishment is probably another reason architects can’t stop working for the day at a set time. Once you’re on to something you can’t just quit because it’s 5:00. We need to see it through. Call it a virtue, call it a vice. How do you look at design?

One last thing, the next time you wonder why your architect is acting strange, just say something encouraging.

photos are from L*Ali’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

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pit bulls and child birth

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