Strong with you… the (design) Force is.

design force

We are not alone.  As designers, we are so fortunate for our resources… our mentors, our fellow designers, our contractors, our installers, our representatives and even our competition.

It is impossible to be experts in every area and we don’t have to be.  We may be the face of the project but we couldn’t succeed without the ‘force’ behind us.  We rely on our relationships, our communities and our resources for project success and those successes are products of all of us.

(Solid) Legs to Stand On

359a2e39ba67d1eb9af4a8f4960135f9
Photo Credit: Pinterest

The relationships we build throughout our design careers are pillars of project navigation.  We are guided by expert sources and we can take pride in the (design) force we have organically created, ‘step by step’ along the way.

We (designers) truly are jacks of all trades (masters of none).  It would be impossible for us to have the answers to everything, but what we do have are the resources to find the (design) solutions we need.

Every project is different and we are constantly learning as we go.  New technologies are available to us daily and we have the ‘tools’ we need at our fingertips.  Resources to provide the research so we move in the right direction for us so that our time is spent where it is most useful – creation.

Design “Favors”

toolA previous Director of Architecture of mine once told me that “You don’t have to know everything, but it is imperative you know how to manage it”.  This has resonated deeply with me throughout my career.  There have been times I have felt out of my comfort zone for sure.  Times that I have come across an issue that I had no historic precedence to use as guidance.  But in times of anxiety, as I searched for solutions, what has provided me comfort is remembering I am not alone.  As we become experienced (project managers), our bandwidth expands.  Our bank of resources grows and relationships deepen.  Trust develops.

One thing that designers get a bad rap for is ego and some of them are certainly deserving of the title.  These ‘design’ narcissists are just assholes and there is no changing their personalities…  They love… Themselves.  It’s true, their end products have given them fame in the industry, and they have made a name for themselves based on good design (or luck, or affiliation) but they really are pricks and they carry that name in the design community too… and some of these assholes are even proud of it –

Our industry is incestuous (as is any industry) and our community “pool” is full of back scratchers, life guards on duty – not just crayons.  Our resources are willing to help.  They should be respected and appreciated for their immense design, product, trade, engineering knowledge (whatever it may be).  They are specialists.  And without them, we (designers) would be drowning.

303b8e0da05ae5a3f6df7acbfd259953
Photo Credit: Pinterest

#STRONG

One of the best things about a career in design truly is this community… I have never met more beautiful people (with the exception of the assholes).  Not only are they full of creativity and design intellect, but they are also gracious, humble and kind.  They teach me every day… and boy do I have a lot to learn.  They make me proud.  Proud of my roots, proud of my passage, proud of my product and proud of my wings.

So, to the #STRONG, as you continue to design your master plans, be as humble as your force… for they are a force to be reckoned with… and I am eager to continue to reckon with them…

and I.AM. (forever) grateful to them for making me believe in (the opposite):

4e7cd901508b6afd35699493715d0ccc
Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

 

 

Advertisements

The (design) Palate?

IMG_3529

As designers, we have a distinct palate for design just like master chefs do for food…

We discussed early on that  safe design is ensured via strong concept, but where does palette play a role in this?

Palette vs. Palate

No, I’m not talking about astute taste buds here, though there was many a restaurant design whose concept has insinuated both palate, palette and (per the above concept) sex appeal… For this discussion though, let us focus on color… palette.

Color palette can be defined as the range of colors used by an artist (designer in this ‘sense’) to harmonize space and enhance the overarching concept.  In design, color is generally a secondary exploration along with pattern, texture, scale (etc).  Color does have meaning.  Color should have intent.  And color even (and perhaps most importantly) has psychological implications.

Color by Feng Shui

feng-shui-colour-wheel
Photo Credit: Know

In Las Vegas Casino design, we would often bring a feng shui consultant on board.  (For Suzie), feng shui is the Chinese art of determining the most propitious design and orientation of space and elements so that maximum harmony is achieved.  The relationship between the flow of chi, the environment, and the end user is scientifically established.  Proper and intentional orientation is believed to bring good fortune and to eliminate bad luck.

Luck be a Lady (tonight?)

3da699a24971fd28b2caa5184b470a84Since Las Vegas is a city of chance (and hopefully luck) and so many high rollers are of Chinese decent, it was imperative to have high-profile casino and game room layouts, concepts and FFE selections reviewed by a feng shui specialist.  Though I learned quickly about favorable orientation, each time I selected a new material finish and presented it, I would find something ‘unacceptable’… some materiality that carried ‘bad omen’.  For example, in one of the high roller table game suites, a custom light fixture had been designed that contained facets of antique mirror.  This was unacceptable to our specialist because the glass was believed to house improper spirits that could not escape the room due to the unclarity of the reflective surface.  The antique-ness is also believed to cause the feeling of distortion or disorientation and to the gamer looking for luck, this created unease immediately.

5ac5aaa9e882bcd7399045dd2b2d461c
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Back to palette… in this same project, a custom carpet had been proposed that had hues of blue.  In feng shui, blue is representational of water.  The same unease that presented itself in the antique mirror arose in blue flooring (any blue flooring).  This idea of ‘walking on water’ was not admirable in the Eastern culture.  Again, it manifested feelings of nervousness, unease and even fears of sinking or drowning.  Needless to say… it was eliminated (and never presented for this application again!).

Seeing the Full Spectrum

 

d6f221994edbdcd7d317445e0ccb56bf
Photo Credit: Pinterest

These examples are extreme and specific.  They were not taken lightly in casino floor design because the industry relies on their high rollers for extreme gaming revenue; however, color palette and theory is just as important in other realms of hospitality, health care and education design for impact both psychological and by affiliation.

 

Hospitality

The amazing freedom that comes with hospitality design is that the end user groups’ (the tourists) only expectation is to be WOWED.  It doesn’t (really) matter if the color palette in their hotel room or dinner venue is their preference or if they would ever put it in their homes.  And really, they shouldn’t desire to.  They are on vacation, escaping their realities, escaping normalcy.  They “allow,” expect and accept experiences that they never would warrant entering through their own front doors.  So, designing typical guest rooms?  5-Star Restaurants? Nightclubs?  With intent, the sky’s the limit.  Too pink?  Sorry gentlemen… luck be a lady? (maybe you’ll have some)… after all, it’s only for a few nights (at least that’s what she said).

Health Care

Health care design is about as specific as it gets.  Materials with anti-microbial properties, ease of cleanability and high PSI ratings are imperative and priority.  After all, the focus is patient care and that means designing for (the unspoken) body fluid and function that will inevitably ‘happen’ in the space.  So where does color fit in?  Colors in hospitals are often soft and muted, and most commonly in hues of pale green.  This is intentional.  Not only are pastel tones calming for care facilities, but these greenish color ranges actually make a sickly (greenish) patient look less sickly (green).  Against pale tones, patients look less pale…  There is significant perceived psychological impact that they look better than they feel and their psyche is intended to embrace that.  Mind over matter, with intent!

Education

As children enter pre-school and early education environments, they are often surrounded by colors in the primary spectrum.  These colors are early learning devises and identifiers.  They help to serve as introduction to color affiliation and understanding.

As children advance in school (at least by junior high), color selection in educational facilities is generally mandated by maintenance and often established by athletics – hooray for my nemesis – school colors (I just got sickly green)!  Go (AWAY) Big Blue – your logo should be reserved for the basketball court.

Color On… Point.

00b77e5261f49e80b131a18ccc8806a8

What I want to point out here is that (as a general rule), color is not a concept.  There is often confusion (and disagreement) here and it has been a very frustrating struggle for me with other ‘designers’ in my past.  Color is an additive, a supplement, a trend.  Color is not an idea.  Color supports an idea.  So, Please (designers) PLEASE don’t mistake it for one… and if you do… we never met, seriously, get the f*ck out of my herd.

a8258c03e0c6465715f57666df8f49c4
Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

Cannonball… (by design)

When we (designers) tell people what we do for a living, the response generally is that they think it is SO glamorous.  There is no ‘common’ understanding of what it (design practice) actually entails.  To those we are designing for, it is seemingly luxurious.  OK, it is true, end products are… ostensibly.  But “getting there” is no easy feat.

8440231786_f7fbd0018d_bI often asked myself when I was designing for hotel resorts in Las Vegas, “Where do I go from here”?  In the resort industry, I was (knowingly) fortunate for padded budgets, custom demands and exposure to the most exquisite finish materials available domestically and internationally.  So HOW, just how would I leave Las Vegas?  Afterall, no bigger (design) splash could be made than the cannonballs (that were expected) I executed there!  Right…?

Warning – No Lifeguard On Duty

life gard
Photo Credit: Pinterest

When I made the switch from hospitality design to education, I quickly learned – I myself had to become educated!  The design principles remained the same; however, expectations were ‘different’.

Higher Education design is less about the size of the splash and more about the ripples…  End users aren’t consumed with ROI like hospitality.  They are more interested in function and frankly the placement of their pencil drawers.  They should be (to some extent) as these end user groups are focused on the investment in the minds of the future.  Their ‘ROI’ is long-term – graduating capable adults who will be active working contributors to society.

My challenge in this new role has been educating the end user to understand function does not equal design sacrifice.  They are entitled to both.  Higher ed ‘historically’ has the impression that ‘stark’ and mundane equals ‘cheap’.  It has taken time (and project turnovers on campus) to provide new ‘historical’ precedence… to help end users (and even my bosses) realize that ugly and thoughtless design costs the same as aesthetically pleasing intentional specifications that tell a story… their story.

It has been so frustrating to me coming from the aesthetic demands of the hospitality sector to see that the end user in the higher education realm doesn’t realize their ‘functional’ environments can be more than a 30/30 off white box (these are PhD’s correct?).  But, why would they?  They are researching the mating habits of moths or the interaction of children with ‘real’ objects or the assumed date of the next economic downturn.  More important than the creation of the built environment?  No, equality relevant  (though I loathe moths).  What I realized though was that they weren’t being listened to.  They had no design guidance.  They had no idea that pattern and interest has the same price tag as solid and lifeless.  They had no lifeguard… yet here I was (am) – on duty.

You Have to Learn to Float to Avoid Sinking

2Baby steps (for both myself and the end users)…  Before you jump off the deep end, you (end users) need to understand that someone is there extending their arms – me (you, designers).  This is our job.  This is our obligation.  This is our duty.  This is our (design) value.

Our purpose is to guide users through the process.  We are obligated to assist them in establishing intent.  We need to unearth their purpose for the function of their spaces so that there are no surprises at occupancy.  We need to ask questions and we need to learn what questions to ask.  We need to become experts at gathering information in scope discussions so that everyone that leaves the following design reviews can buy in to the architectural interpretation.  We need to gain trust… trust via baby steps.

With Trust, Comes Freedom

1Once your end user realizes you are working for them, you gain (design) leverage.  They will let go.  They will trust you to make decisions they are unable to visualize based on your (design) credibility.  Based on your interpretation of their information – the feasibility of their needs on paper.  They gain trust via the reasons you have drawn out that they are unable to have something they requested.  They will buy in on code issues and requirements when you can walk them through the space limitations.

Once they can see that hey – this gal (or guy) may actually know what she is talking about, they will begin to trust and most importantly, they will give you artistic freedom.  Freedom to make decisions that they can’t fully visualize (without them).

Slippery when “Wet”

a88555fda20aeddf17ca316c26949dbf
Photo Credit: Pinterest

This process can be exhausting.  There are days I wake up and wonder what I continue to fight for (especially if a 30/30 off-white box is globally ‘acceptable’).  But the truth is, I am fighting for the splash.  I (we, designers) make a difference.  If money is being spent on new facilities or existing renovations we need to make it count.  Sure (higher ed) your research equipment needs to be upgraded, but guess what, so does your learning environment.  I will get your equipment integrated (coordinated with HVAC, electrical, clearance requirements etc) I promise.  Trust me.  But I will also change the way students feel in the space.  And I promise, the psychological impact that will have will be equally comparable to the equipment upgrades in the data output.

So, (designers).  Continue to fight.  Have comfort in knowing You’re on Duty.  Gain Trust and Trust Yourself.  And in moments of (design) weakness, get out of the water for a minute and…

3

 

The Glass Slipper… (by design)

ab294841cf521b9a50c994010aa520ca
Photo Credit: Pinterest

“If the shoe fits, wear it!”… one of the most challenging tasks we face in design can be equated to Cinderella’s Glass slipper… chair selection.

We are supposed to be designing universally.  Creating functional spaces that are adaptable and suitable for any user regardless of height, silhouette or disability.But the truth is users themselves (as created) are not universal.  The beauty of the human race is variety (in fact, I hear variety may even be deemed the spice of life – wink).

With that said, variety doesn’t conform to a single profile, shoe size or sit.  Chair selection and specificity whether custom or classic is deeply underestimated… and deeply personal.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All!

too hot
Photo Credit: Pinterest

OS… right!  Maybe if you are a handbag… even then it’s disputable.  End users are particular and rightly so.  They hand us (designers) their money, trust and reigns to their brand identity creation for the duration of a project from conception to completion.

They are entitled to play Goldilocks.  To push us to specify or to design a chair that is “just right”.  They want to stand out (just like we all do).  They want something different.  They want something specific and they want to be universal.

The patron’s comfort is of highest value to them.  They want to tell them their story while they sit.  Their story may be rated for 20 minutes, six courses of five-star dining or ten- hour study sessions, but it is theirs.  And the intent is to provide the patron, the visitor, the tourist, the student with the level of comfort (in a chair) necessary to achieve purpose.

Fit for Glass?

820633fcd4f6f2c97848f35bdfc9a2fa
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Designing venues in Las Vegas, was all about the chair.  We received sample after sample at the design center for the resorts for every project, for every property and it was nearly laughable.  As I continue to design, now for higher education, my desk space remains congested with ‘samples’.

Not only are chairs personal, but they are also palpable.  Seating is something (in the design process) that is tangible.

Unlike what is hard to envision coming together for those nonvisionary (by design), chairs can be touched, turned over, experienced and criticized prior to approval and we don’t have to wait for them to install (unlike interior environments) before it happens.

 

The Proverbial Butt…?

Prototypes and sampling for seating are absolutely necessary.  It’s really all about the “butt” test.  Seating can’t be evaluated by a CAD drawing or a spec sheet.  It must be sat in.  It must be understood as it was intended to be used.  Adjustments to custom designs must be made and retested.  Samples that don’t make the cut must be reselected.  It is a process.  Butt, it is really all about the ass.

So designers… continue to keep your ass and the asses you may be accommodating and designing for in line.  And, (in the interim), please, (Goldilocks)… have a seat.

0458bd5ea8a9914ec4367ca8749b7dee
Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

 

The (design) Rabbit Hole.

6ed350306acd7eac321b7b11d26d3de9
Photo Credit: Pinterest

“It’s just the basement”.  That’s nice.  Is someone occupying “just the basement”?  Does function happen in “just the basement”?  One of my biggest frustrations as a designer is the mentality of those who believe there are areas of a project unworthy of design.  “Just the basement” is bullshit.  “Just the basement” is a copout.  “Just the basement” doesn’t just look like you ran out of money, it looks like you ran out of ideas.  It looks… like you are ignorant (by design).

The basement is important… to someone… to some function… to me.  Design doesn’t stop because of deemed ‘unvalue’ or seemingly aesthetic badness.  The experience continues… in the basement.  The basement may be a space where ideas are formed.  Inventions are made.  Illnesses are cured.  Operations are happening. The basement may be the most valuable space in a building yet it isn’t ‘good’ enough (for the naive) to have intentional light shed on it?

 

The “hole” Titanic sank.

83fc35cc695da03826b23521d7c321bd
Photo Credit: Pinterest

If you can recall from the history of the Titanic, the “hole” ship sank.  Not just the steerage deck.  Bourgeoisie finishes and pretentious mentalities when right down with steerage to the ocean floor… Design is ‘hole’istic.  Not compartmentalized.

All parts of space whether being built new or undergoing renovation can make an impact.  And though front of house finishes may differ in price point from back of house finishes, no less thought should be applied to their (eventual) application.  ‘Stark’ can still be impactful.  Void too, when intention is given.

 

From (T)HERE

8b8911511ade8a95ed1b42a25c971537
Photo Credit: Pinterest

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Correct, but the line shouldn’t be ‘forgotten’ (by design).

Circulation is an architectural struggle… especially for the end users.  Though necessary for egress, circulation frustrates because it eats up square footage… square footage that is deemed ‘useless’ and ‘invaluable’ (except for circulating).

As designers, we need to see circulation as opportunity.  One of the (forgotten) tricks in our diverse toolbox is the compression/expansion tool and it shouldn’t still be so shiny… We need to use the travel space between space as design opportunity to WOW.  To surprise and to add value to the journey.  As our users circulate, they experience.

Corridors (staircases? elevators?…) are a perfect opportunity for this experience.  Often, as designers, we use tricks to quiet the traveler.  We darken the run (with intentional finish selection), dim the lighting, space the emphasis.  We use asymmetry to guide.  See – design so complicated, it is ‘seemingly’ simple.  This compression is a moment.  A moment that will lead to another moment of expansion into OPEN.  And each of these moments should be designed to be experienced.

Don’t Follow the White Rabbit… Lead Her

So, designers… next time you are designing the path to the rabbit hole (or to the basement)… think about how to better design the experience for your user getting (t)here…

9ecc7f960178de568b8829910936d90a
Photo Credit: Pinterest

“Load” Bearing…(by design).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“We can open this up… it isn’t ‘load’ bearing”.  Thanks to HGTeaV this saying has become nearly slang (in the design world).  Hearing it gives me a “header”ache.

Open concept is a design trend of today.  We see it in residential applications as well as commercial spaces.

This new idea of flexible environments, whether they be private homes, educational environments or even corporate workspaces speaks to the collaboration trends in our social world today and design must follow suit. What was once compartmentalized (by design) is now OPEN, it is now social, multifunctional and unpretentious.

If you are beginning with a clean slate, OPEN is “easy”.  What was built intentionally to be OPEN (concept) would never have been exposed to segmentation… so these environments are flexible, casual and adaptable from conception.  The challenge is refurbishing an interior that was intended for separation and making it “OPEN”able.

A Force to be Reckoned With

0ed16cc714174359e189d8e0600b9fd5
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Starting from the top of a structure, weight presses downward as well as outward.  The purpose of a “load” bearing wall is to support these weights and transfer it safely from the top (of a structure) to the foundation.  Calculations for “load” take space, materiality, height, content and connections into account.  It is not necessary to make all walls “load” bearing when few can handle the “job”.

The shell of a structure (the exterior walls) are obviously “load” bearing since we have already discussed that weight presses down as well as out, but in reality, there are few interior walls that need to carry the burden of the distribution… and the ones that do are strategically placed and conformed to (if you had the right consultants there at project kick off).

If (Interior) Walls Could Talk?

333341669d2f51d9d5f9671691d39dd8
Photo Credit: Pinterest

As designers, much of our careers are spent refurbishing.  Revamping spaces is challenging.  There are times we have the capacity in the project to demo to the structure, but we don’t always get that luxury.  So, what if the (design) build isn’t ‘new’ and we have constraints, within (existing) structure that we know will remain… but the interior still aches to be OPEN?

How do we manage it?  To accomplish it, must our only option be demolishing interior walls?  One problem.  Aren’t walls kinda important?  Walls have two kinds of purpose.  The first type is space segregation.  These walls are nothing more that partitions.  They are objects of function, of hierarchy, of ‘real'(e)state.  They could be replaced by curtains or FFE or… void.  The second type of wall is intense.  It is what we have refered to above as “load” bearing.  Like the shell, this type of wall supports the weight of a structure on the inside.  These are the walls you may want to remove, but cannot be torn down without jeopardizing structural integrity.

Let what has to remain, re-exist and build ‘new’ around it

127e85fb6d9a60ca23dafb92a8333e32
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Converting compartmentalized spaces into OPEN spaces can be dramatic… by design.  It isn’t just demoing walls, repositioning HVAC, and integrating electrical.

As designers, we must be sensitive to the fact that demolition of non-structure may also be removal of sentiment… breaking down what once was… transformation of original intent.

For our end users, who sometimes have to be led to OPEN, they aren’t able to truly visualize transformation until it is a pile of demolished material on the floor.  And sometimes, as much as we understand, we (as designers) have to see it there too… no longer in the shape of its original intent.  But in the end, designing OPEN will bear new light, new meaning, and new form.

So (designers), keep the structure of what can’t be changed and challenge yourselves to create new and beautiful and epic around it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Uncommon’… (by design)

Ecole-e-Afrodite-Driade
Photo Credit: Boca Do Lobo

“It’s just furniture”.  Oh, is it?  This phrase could not frustrate me more.  I came from a hospitality background where there was a great understanding of the complexity of FFE (furniture, fixtures and equipment – for Suzie’s clarification).

In the hotel business, everything is custom.  Every venue operator wanted something no one else had.  Something that hadn’t been seen before.  Something ‘uncommon’.

You don’t find ‘uncommon’ in a vignette on the showroom floor at RC Willey.  ‘Uncommon’ has to be created.  ‘Uncommon’ has to be designed.  Interior design isn’t about filling a box with ‘furniture’ and lamps and carpet.  The environment is reactionary because the elements are custom, not common.  They are designed along with the environment… simultaneously… they too are part of the vision.

Sorry, it’s Proprietary

cfeb62fc23be63e0acaecf8adde56bf5At the resort design department, we would often receive requests from tourists asking where they could get the chair they sat in in venue ‘x’ or the nightstand from their hotel room.  The response, was… you can’t.  These items are custom.  The design is proprietary.  It’s one of a kind.

Design isn’t about collecting and arranging.  Design is about vision and creation.  In all elements.

These elements began on trace paper just as our space allocations did.  They developed into CAD paste-ups for CD issuance.  They were approved via shop drawing and often traveled by boat through customs to their final design destination so your ‘tourist’ (end user) could slam their vacation cocktail on top of them before closing their black out shades (which were also proprietary) for the evening.

Scroll and Order?

48b9e0917ab47fe551891c2014d9d545
Photo Credit: Rebel Circus

“I saw that on Pinterest”, “I saw that on HGTeaV“… That’s nice.

The fight we, design professionals, continue to face is in this day and age, is that everyone (including these ‘tourists’) is a designer.  They’re not.  They’re naive.  They didn’t study brick and mortar and they certainly never “erected” it.

They study scroll and order.  They can’t envision design until they see it… and then all they do is purchase and replicate (and maybe change the wall color).

They are clueless and they should be provided stickers as ‘freebies’ with their Wayfair orders so they can continue to decorate… or at least a hand signal (from design professionals) at check out.

(Design) Energy is measured in Kelvin

IMG_2989It is exhausting to constantly defend our worth as designers.  Bur, the reality is, the Suzie’s of the world won’t ever be in our shoes nor do we want to invite her to wear them.  Our design shoes actually have to meet OSHA requirements.  Hers do not.

We need to save our energy and frustrations (for those who erect nothing but middle fingers in this industry)… for our projects.  For this energy is far more useful implemented there, with intent.

 

Visual call to action:

3f66bfcf6cc896bbf7feeaad4bf9f6a5
Photo Credit: Pinterest