College of Architecture: Debunking Myths and Legends – part 2

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.

The Axis

The Axis

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.

Written by:

  • Test

  • Brinn Miracle


  • Anonymous

    Great article Brinn. College is much the same with most any subject. It teaches you how to think about the subject at hand as opposed to the subject itself. In the movie “The Paper Chase”, I always liked the line Professor Kingsfield says to his class on the first day of law school “You come here with a brain full of mush, and you leave here thinking like a lawyer”. He was talking about law but same thing with design.


    • Thanks, Doug. I agree, critical thinking and analysis is essential to every subject if we intend to do our best work.

  • Anonymous

    A great follow up to the last post. I have tried to be transparent in my studio and tell the students what the goals are in each project. It doesn’t click with everyone…many students get jaded quickly and the current professor is the fall guy.

    I was independent in school and didn’t let anything get in my way. Even if a professor didn’t like or agree with my solution, I had a set of values and tests to gauge my performance. I took my work to people I respected and used their feedback to guide my next moves. However I was usually confident as well because I put in the time and thought process you so eloquently explained. Arrogance is a front for not doing your homework whether you’re a student or professor.

    I think I may share both of these posts on my blog next week to welcome my students back. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your comments. It is encouraging to hear that you’re on board with the ideas, as I can often times run into opposition from the world of academia (specifically, professors who are too attached to a particular method of executing a project). I’d be honored if you shared these with your students. Best of luck to you all during the coming semester!

  • Going to college, and therefore graduating from college, isn’t about teaching people how to solve a particular problem or perform a certain task. Going to college is about learning how to learn so you can hopefully solve new problems.
    Not to hijack your site but I wrote on this very same topic in Aug/10 – our points are very similar and there is a pretty decent comment section.  It was titles “Are college grads ready for the working world? – you can find it here:

    • I completely agree. I remember hearing that by the time a student graduates, what they learned their freshman year will be outdated. If students only aim to learn to complete tasks, they won’t do very well after graduation.

      I haven’t gone through all your posts (there’s so many of them!), but I’ll be sure to check it out. I think there is an appetite for more articles like these, as so many students feel overwhelmed and frustrated, without an explanation as to why.

      Thanks for the comment!