(design) Contraception


Now that I have your attention…

You wouldn’t have (hopefully) jumped into your dating life without “preparation,” or if you did, you (again hopefully) learned from it quickly… so why would design be instituted with any less thought?  The term Concept was borrowed from Late Latin conceptus, from Latin concipere “to take in, conceive, receive.”  The original meaning of the verb conceive was to take sperm into the womb, and by a later extension of meaning, to take an idea into the mind.  In this post, we will be talking about the later meaning (permission to bow out here).

Concept-first design (as I like to call it) is all about knowing what your design’s purpose is and how it’ll achieve that purpose before you start designing.  The concept of the design is the central idea around which the whole project revolves.  It is the platform for the visual groundwork that all design elements will project from.  It provides PURPOSE and REASON: It is your (design) “goalie” – your line of defense throughout the process.

Let’s look at an example from my design past to help you understand the value in concept.

Project: Bourbon Restaurant Refurbishment

Location: Detroit, MI

Project Cost: $1,114,000

6,168 sq. ft.

The request from the owner/operator here was to appeal first to the demographic.  The client was local (for the most part) and the new upscale menu had to sell itself by landing in an atmosphere that seemed unpretentious and inviting.  Unlike its Las Vegas counterpart, the idea of GLAM was something that was seen as “stuffy” in this marketplace.

Where to Start

My initial thoughts began with what appealed to me about the City of Detroit.  What did I know about it?  What did I think natives there were proud of?  This region was certainly best known as the center of the automobile industry and headquartered by the “Big Three.”  It is a major port on the Detroit River and the only international wildlife preserve in North America (uniquely located in the heart of a major metropolitan area). Bam! – concept.  How architecturally interesting could this juxtaposition of industrial materials meeting nature play out?  How could they be introduced and understood in a social environment?  How could they be perceived as inviting?  How would my story be told through design? What would be my “Plan B” if my initial plan failed?

Thinking Made Visual  

Now let’s play by the design “rules of attraction.”  To sell this (or any) design concept it must be transformed into visual material that can be understood by the client.  Setting the “mood” is the ticket to receiving the “first impression” rose.  In this case, a visual storyboard (also known as a “mood” board) that exemplified my concept was used as a springboard into the architectural and design content.

Bourbon Steakhouse

Visual “Thought” here:

(image  1) An aerial map of the Detroit region (image 2) A night shot of the automotive and city line concepts (image 3) A vintage image of the Detroit skyline (image 4) A close up of a Ford truck (image 5) Blades of grass – depicting a “preservation” and (image 6) An architectural representation of Motor city

With a strong foundation (concept) built, it is time to develop fundamental (design) relationship(s)…

“Would you accept this rose?”  (translation: Would you approve this concept?)

Reply “yes” or “no” and follow my next post to find if my initial design contraception failed and “Plan B” was necessary for new merit.


Seeking (design) Wisdom in the HOW

It is 10:59 pm March 15, 2014 in Nevada’s own city of lights.  The 12 foot entry doors to one of Sin City’s most popular nightclubs are impaled by a revolving line up of spring breakers.  The decibel of their energy level is combated by the dynamic lighting and sound effects from inside the club.  The anticipation of entry is almost palpable where I stand observing in my dark, clock-less corner of the second floor mezzanine.  I clutch my clipboard hoping nobody will notice the overly dressed mother of a 10-month-old doing “research” for her next interior architectural remodel project as they swarm inside…

The reason for subjecting myself to this late-night insanity? (while simultaneously crossing my fingers that my infant’s current dose of teething medication would be enough to keep her asleep until I got home):  Seeking the HOW.

How it works

(photo credit pinterest)

The formula for good design is simple: a bit of creativity, a bit of curiosity and as much wisdom as possible.  While the basic design principles (which will be discussed as part of this site’s content) have been ingrained in me since my very first Introduction to Architecture course, experience has confirmed that, “The understanding of the function of design does not happen behind a desk… it has to be witnessed in the actual context of its use.” -J. Erickson

Innovative design solutions are not a result of a balanced design toolkit, but an implementation of empathy and “satis-function.”  The value of such innovation is pivotal: by making wisdom a key part of design, design can be made a key part of business.

Seeking (design wisdom in) the HOW