How Your Environment Can Help You Design Better

Your environments are an extension of you. They can mirror your emotional state, can prompt you toward your next activities, can calm you down when you need tranquility and can help you to socialize when you want interaction with other people. But how can you use the environments around you to actually help you design better? Can environments trigger behavior change that helps you to reach your goals — thus, helping you to achieve what you may not have otherwise accomplished?

Architecture Office
Image Credit: Photographee.eu | Fotolia

Everyday Memory that Inspires

Within the places that you frequent everyday (like your home or office), you keep items there that matter to you. These items often hold memory or aspirations that are very personal to you. If you think about it, even everyday items are within your environment because they help you to do things better. Just imagine writing with your favorite pen on a beautiful piece of paper…is that not inspirational to you? By surrounding yourself with meaningful items within your environment, you can actually better “visualize” your past successes and future accomplishments — and this will help you to work toward your goals, by taking action on them at just the right times. Be mindful of what goes into your environments because you see these items everyday, and these items can impact your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Use your surroundings to inspire you through “everyday memories” of the past and future to help uplift your inspiration, knowledge and design process.

Use Your Environment to Fuel Your Curiosity

I often help architects to be more innovative with their designs. And a great first step toward accomplishing this is to follow your curiosity and your drive toward experimentation. By using your environment to help fuel these activities, you will feel more inspired, motivated and compelled to explore your architecture from new dimensions.

For instance, what view do you have (if any) while working? Does it incorporate something beautiful and inspirational that uplifts and motivates you? Also, what items do you keep near your work area — amazing books, models, drawings, or even tools?

Environment as Incubator for Breakthrough Ideas

It is important for you to also have the “space” to work. While within the midst of a project, sometimes space becomes hard to find within your environment, but without space cleared for new ideas, new explorations and new design concepts —- how can you take on new challenges that lead toward great innovative breakthroughs?

Use your environments to fuel your curiosity, which in turn, fuels your drive toward innovation. And keep in mind that your environment is “teaching” you everyday as it reinforces what you love, do or have not changed. To make a positive change, alter or add to your environment to promote the habits, thoughts, emotions and behaviors you would like to achieve. This can affect aspects like your ability to generate new design ideas, or even the way you engage with your design process.

Your environment surrounds you. It mirrors you. It expands you. So, be sure to create a space where your ideas and designs can thrive. Wherever you are, your environment informs you — thus, you should capitalize upon this and help it help you to achieve your design aspirations.

Using Sensory Design to Compete Against Online Retail

With the dawning of online retail and the displacement or forced evolution of places like bookstores and malls, designers are beginning to use sensory design to win out (or at least stay in the running) against their online competitors. You see, such brick-and-mortar retail stores are tapping into what the senses can yield from design, to make shopping in their business a true experience. And this experience for the senses is what limits online retailers today.

As branding expert Martin Lindstrom points out:

“You can’t compete on volume, you can’t compete on prices because the online retailer will always win.” (1)

Sensory Design Retail
Image Credit: © radenmas | Fotolia

Shopping as a Destination Point

Of course, shopping has already been a place where one can meet up with friends, go to see new fashions or gadgets, and even simply do a quick run to the store to get that one missing item fast. But what else can brick-and-mortar stores do as they lose business to the online retailers that offer great discounts?

In this case, shopping becomes a destination or attraction, where shoppers go for the experience, the sense of place and the people. For instance, the super market Lowes Foods is doing just that. Complete with singing shows, kinetic signage and mini-stations for tasting and talking — shopping here becomes a unique experience that the online retailer cannot match in quite the same way. (1)

Next Steps for Online Retailers

Perhaps the online retail world can create new experiences of their own, albeit, the digital kind. As Amazon further tests such technologies as drones and one-day shipping, perhaps speed, price and “digital” experience will help online retailers to feed the senses in different ways.

Yet, it will be interesting to see how the brick-and-mortar businesses carve out their evolutionary path as digital retailers gain more and more momentum. Does this mean that brick-and-mortar stores will need a “digital” face as well? And does this mean that those brick-and-mortar businesses are being forced to evolve to bring even greater value for their customers who shop in person?

Different Kinds of Personalization

One could argue that the brick-and-mortar stores are more personalized — where the employees know you by name and where they know what you buy and can make great recommendations. Yet, online retails can do this too — not face-to-face, but with perhaps a bigger selection from which to bring you what merchandise you want and need.

Thus, brick-and-mortar businesses will need to excel with sensory design in different ways than online retailers. They need to offer what the digital world cannot — and perhaps this means offering a community, a unique experience and unparalleled products coming from a memorable brand.

The online retailers do different things best. Sometimes they compete, but other times they can be complimentary. As the battle between online and brick-and-mortar businesses continues, it will be interesting to see how each will evolve. Both must use sensory design — even if capitalizing upon it in different ways.

Reference:

(1) Yates, Kristina. Retail in the Digital Age: Chicken Dances and More. CNBC. July 11, 2014.

What Makes Poetic Architecture?

Poetics: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Poetics is that moment in architecture when elements yield more than the sum of their parts. But what does this really mean? What is it that gets “yielded”? It could be, perhaps, the way architecture is able to “touch” its occupants on deeper emotional or spiritual levels. It could also be the way architecture can convey beauty together with meaning that leaves one feeling more fulfilled.

Pantheon: Poetic Architecture
Image: © Boggy | Fotolia

In this article, I am encouraging you to think about what makes your work poetic. Is it the way you guide your occupants through, as they engage with your architectural features on their experiential journey? Or is it the way you use and play with light within your work, where you help occupants to experience it in new ways? Or is there a certain meaning conveyed through your work — where you use metaphor or symbolism to express a community or a culture’s sentiment?

Whatever the case, it helps when designing to think about how it may reach poetic heights. This will call for your architecture to do something more than serve core functional and aesthetic requirements. It will call for your design to “move” people through deeper beauty and/or meaning. So, what poetic message does your architecture convey? And does it help those who experience it in some way?

Poetic Architecture that Helps People

You can “touch” someone deeply with an architectural work to hopefully leave them off better than before they first experienced it. So, how does one bring value to occupants through poetics? Perhaps this means designing a memorial that serves to restore hope for a people. Or perhaps it means designing a place of worship to help reconnect a community. Whatever the case, it is good to think about how the poetics of your work will impact those whom it “touches”.

To help you with this — it is best to delve into what a person, community, or culture needs before you design. Understand how your built work can serve them as a valuable and needed asset to their lives. For example, by tying together a community’s need with the purpose behind your poetics, you can be more confident that its effects will be “felt” positively — as it helps the people with whom it engages. So, think about the value your architecture brings on multiple levels — yes, the functional and the aesthetic, but also, the poetic.