How to Simplify Your Design Work

This article is written to help you simplify your design work if it is confusing or complicated and hard to understand. When developing your project, a spectrum of ideas tend to occur immediately. This article will help you through that process and hopefully help you eradicate any concerns that you may have on the legibility of your design.

1.      Know Your Concept

Prior to doing any design work on your building, you should have a clear idea of what your concept is or at least you can summarise it in a couple of sentences. The concept can emerge from any area of the design process or one design process can lend into the other.

The site analysis may give you a vague understanding of the possible concept, this could be due to its history or unique features of the site. The stakeholder study could provide another push towards this concept. 

Allow your concept to be diverse or extreme at this stage but setting a strong foundation before starting the design stage can help your overall narrative be strong otherwise it may be somewhat foggy and hard to see through. Communication can be another hindrance to your concept being understood. Since you have to present your concept to people who may not know the project, you should keep that in mind. One mistake that can fall under this is having too many concepts without a clear link. Another mistake students tend to make is that they believe the concept in and of itself, has to be complicated to make your project in depth. 

Having too many concepts without link is one mistake that can fall under this. Another mistake students tend to make is that they believe the concept in and of itself, does not need to be complicated to make your project in depth. 

A concept as simple as sequence or time may seem repetitive but depending on your project, scale, site and context, the concept can be twisted and turned to suit your needs. Don’t be put off by giving your concept a one-word ‘umbrella term’ and subsequently describing it in more depth.

2.  Plan Your Work

Your university will have provided you with a brief stating everything you need to have by the end of the project. Use what you have! The brief will not only help you allocate the time and effort spent at each stage, but it also helps set a structure to your time.

Trying to understand your project against a criterion can help you pick out if you have missed out a key part of the narrative which could have helped you with your design. From there you can cut unnecessary parts you don’t add to your project.

One great way to prevent overcomplication is to avoid repetition. This is not in regard to repeating your concept in various parts of the project but rather repeating diagrams. Often times, one diagram can be enough to convey one particular thing. Including multiple diagrams trying to convey a single thing can be confusing.

It can also save you time in the long run, you will be able to spend all of your energy on one outcome and make it as good as possible rather than diverting your focus to something that is less productive.

3.      Include Precedents

At the start of architecture school precedents can be very confusing. The question is often “why identify buildings that have already done what I would like to do?” My tutor described it like this, they are the footnote and proof that what you want to design is realistic since it has already been done before.

Do not leave your citation and bibliography empty. Those looking from the outside will be able to compare your project and what lessons you have learnt from them.

4. Read Often and With Purpose

Reading is always recommended when it comes to architecture. There is a large amount of theory to uncover, but descriptions of buildings help you look at your designs in different lights.  Understanding other works and their thought process can help you understand how you could tackle your work. 

5. Use Visual Tools

Visual tools are a great way to identify where the complication is occurring. You will be able to understand and see the dimensions compared to other parts. 3D models are a strong tool to provide justification towards your design decisions.

This will provide clarity and reinforce this narrative that we need to constantly strengthen. Do not feel compelled to start designing a 3D model right away, creating small models out of paper or card-paper can give the same effect but faster and more disposable.

6. Allow Yourself to Procrastinate

 When you have worked for hours on a project everything may seem confusing! You can try moving away from a particular aspect and switch to something else. When you had a long day at the studio, I recommend just taking time off your project completely.

Some ideas and solutions occur outside of the scope of your desk. This, however, doesn’t need to be the case just after a couple of hours but you can implement this after you have completed a large portion of your work. Focus on another part instead of construction details, revisit the site plan you haven’t yet completed. This should prevent you from hyper focusing and overcomplicating a task.

7. Stop Overthinking

Overthinking has done more harm than good so be vary of your own habits. If you tend to overthink your work like me, you should limit the time you spend on one particular thing. When painting, you can spend hours painting small parts but for an outsider the painting was completed hours ago.

Spend your time wisely; one render or one diagram or one working model is not going to set the stage for the rest of the project so setting limits helps you move your project along which in the end effect should strengthen your narrative. 

Try to understand what you are designing and what the purpose is. Understand your programme and understand what you want to focus on. If you are designing a pavilion you could focus on feeling and material or sound and light but if it’s a school you would consider functional learning spaces.

Always write out your priorities before setting out to do the work. Writing them out and pinning them up somewhere you can see them constantly helps you stay focused and can help contain your own self-doubt. Ultimately try your best to understand what you want to communicate. Designing is challenging and the more you do it and get experience in it, the better your design becomes. 

Recommended Reading:

A great reference for understanding design and describing it in a simple way is the Architecture: Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching, which covers precedents and simplifies the building to their form and context.

Halima Mohammed

This article was written by Halima Mohammed

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