With the new year just beginning, many of my Tumblr followers will be starting a new semester in architecture or design school. I thought it would be an appropriate time to address another myth and legend that can distract and derail students from their academic goals. The first installment of the series dealt with the myth that every project in architecture school has a grand purpose and challenged students to find a balance between quantity and quality by aligning their tasks with an ultimate goal.
Myth #2: Architecture school teaches students how to design.
The second myth is more of a half-truth than a misconception. While it is true that students will learn about the design process and should walk away with the ability to design effectively, this is only a result of a broader lesson. The real lesson learned in a college of architecture is a method of thinking, not designing. The ultimate and underlying goal of a design education is to equip students with an analytic mind. A design education can be useful to a wide range of disciplines because students learn how to ask questions, how to analyze a situation and pull out the important information, and how to apply the knowledge and resources they have to any given circumstance or problem. The ability to dig deep, investigate, and think critically about the implications and ramifications of a decision is highly valuable. Once a student understands the methods of proper analysis, they will be an asset to any project – design or otherwise – with their ability to analyze, evaluate and solve problems.
Design is the result of good analysis and problem solving. The best designers understand when further evaluation is needed and when an acceptable solution has been reached. The best designers also know to push themselves, to ask lots of questions and to allow the design to unfold before them. They understand that design is not a prescribed method, but rather a result of a process.
This semester, try focusing less on ‘design’ and more on process of thought. What questions do you need to ask to arrive at the answers that will inform the design? Start there and watch your design unfold.