8 things successful and effective designers do

A great magician never reveals his secrets, but a successful and effective designer (and design firm) does.
Successful Architect and Designer (4)

The secret of a good and successful designer is their design process.

Now, we all have our different ways to break down a large project into manageable tasks. Our methods are personal, which makes it the best approach to any problem or challenge.

If you think your ways aren’t effective, it’s time for a change. We’re going to share the things that successful designer do during their design process. These are the habits that make a strong foundation for good design:

1. Your design has a story.

Designers interview the client during a face-to-face consultation. This is the time for you to know the client and understand their needs.

Great designers use the information they conceptualise a narrative called parti.

This parti you created is your main concept or a central theme. It helps you organise your thoughts. With it, you design a home that enriches the experience of the homeowner. And when you feel lost, your parti pushes you back in track and guides you to the finish line.

These ideas come from the requests os the client. (e.g. “I want you to maximise the view.”, “I want the right natural lighting.” etc.) Listen to their story and pay attention to the details they have provided. Once you understand what they want, you will know how to deal with the problems along the way, no matter how big or small it is. 

2. You take risks to do something unique.

Your job as a designer leans towards the creative field. You rethink, reimagine, and reinvent ways to design a structure. There are times when you have to take a leap of faith and trust in your design.

Do not be afraid to do something out of the ordinary, whether you’re designing a breathtaking building or a small apartment. All your work counts. As the famous Jim Rohn once said:

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”

3. You mind the little details

Homes and buildings are complicated. Designers guide you and provide solutions so you can build them properly. If you don’t sweat the details, the builders will find it hard to understand how the materials come together in a structure. This might lead to confusion, misunderstanding, or worse — errors.

Also, an exceptional designer creates a harmonious family of details. You use various materials, textures, colours, and finishes that work together and unify the design. This matter because it engages the client on a daily basis.

4. You can simplify something complicated.

In Superdraft, we train our designers to eliminate unnecessary design and focus on the essentials. We believe that a good designer must be able to edit down his/her design. If one complex element doesn’t have a function, its necessity should be questioned. It must be simplified, if necessary.

“Simple designs are stronger. We believe that less is more.”

Here are our personal tips:

  • Use natural shapes. These look beautiful, cost less, and built fast.
  • Limit yourself with two to three building materials. Use a variety of colours, textures, and finishes.
  • Go for simple trims or none at all.
  • If possible, stick with two to three window sizes. One for large, small, and medium openings.
  • If possible, avoid concealing the joints. Expose these connections to cut costs and create more character.

5. You keep everything organized.

A successful designer keeps everything in order at every level. Work is easier when your thoughts aren’t cluttered. Organize yours by creating a hierarchy. Decide on the most important thing/s and work around it.

For us, the three most important factors in a design project are the site, the client, and their budget. One factor always affects the other, which makes it hard to prioritise one over the other.  

For new homes, we pledge to put the building site first. We tell the client about the dominant views and site features they have. Then, we work with their budget and their brief around it later on.

For renovations, we start with identifying a structure lacks. Then, we develop a design that addresses those deficiencies. 

6. You know how to repeat design elements.

Repeating common thematic elements empowers the design when used in the right way. It helps establish order and makes the design more visually interesting. 

As home designers, we have three repetition methods: repetition, patterns, and rhythm.

Repetition is simply recurring a single element many times in a design. (e.g. joists/rafter of your pergola, walkway made of square concrete pavers)

A pattern is a seamless repetition of designs that work in concert with another other. (e.g. your decorative wallpaper).

Rhythm, on the other hand, is the interval between those repeated elements which create a sense of movement. We use five different kinds of rhythm in design.

  • Random rhythm has no regular spacing. (e.g. pebbles on the garden)
  • Regular rhythm follows the same spacing over and over again. It looks like a series of vertical or horizontal lines. (e.g. erected columns and beams)
  • Alternating rhythm is interesting because it follows a 1-2-1-2-1-2 sequence. It could be thick-thin-thick, wide-narrow-wide, or a black-white-black pattern. (e.g. fence made of Corten metal, chess board inspired wall or flooring)
  • Flowing rhythm mimics nature. It has bends and curves that move gently and continuously. This is commonly used in the shape of the structure and the landscape around it. (e.g curved roof or wall)
  • Progressive rhythm shows the movement through gradually changing one characteristic of a motif as we repeat it. (e.g. round and square steps of the stairs)

The cardinal rule of repetition is that it takes a minimum of three of anything to see the outcome. Anything more than three would be chaotic and confusing.

7. You break the rules.

Yup! Perhaps the best test of a successful designer is his/her ability to break the rules and get away with it.

Look at the client’s design brief as his/her minimum expectation on the structure. The client uses this to communicate his/her requests and standards.

A successful designer won’t just follow. If the request seems impossible, offer a better design solution. Discuss the suggestion, ask questions, and negotiate with the client. Let them see the unexpected value of your work.

The design brief is sometimes meant to be broken in order to design and build a home that functions better and stands out from the neighbourhood.  

Note: Many designers who once broke the rules have won design competitions and have been recognised by award-giving bodies. You could be the next one. 

8. Your design engages the senses.

Finally, a great designer’s work appeals to our five senses. Gone are the days when beautiful is enough. Our built environment must be much more pleasing.

We’re in an era when people want to experience design. You should consider shielding unwanted noise or smell from the outside. Think about the feel of cool concrete and warm wood on one’s feet. Contemplate on light and shadow. Mull over the sun’s position all day for a year or the direction of the wind. Evaluate all these factors and think of how you can use them to enhance the structure. 

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