I hate sitting on the sidelines watching others do what I want to be doing. I remember this happened to me once in high school when I was playing basketball. I was a good number six to a team of five, which is not a good place to be unless you are rotating quite a bit. But after working hard and overcoming some obstacles, I eventually moved away from the bench and took that fifth spot. I had the desire to get in the game (literally) and have influence with the rest of my team.
So how do we “get in the game” as it relates to design? This is an important question to consider, especially when looking at how much our market is shrinking and how few differentiators there are between qualified design firms. More than ever, design firms are depending on their designers to be MVPs—to create a fan base of colleagues and clients that turn to them because they are the best players in the industry. How can we be those players? In my experience, the below three points will get you there.
First, stop thinking about projects as just lines on paper, and instead imagine what the spaces are going to feel like when they’re built. Put yourself in the building and try to understand the quality of light, the pattern and texture of the materials, and the fine details that connect people at a human scale to the project. Transport yourself to the moment where you are walking through the building as a user or guest. What would you like to see? How would you like to feel? Too often we become emotionally detached from our own projects and we stop becoming personally invested in the outcome. We need to want an emotional response for ourselves first. That passion will then translate to the built environment you’re designing.
Second, become a connoisseur of good architecture and become influenced by the things around you. I’m not saying that your work should be a derivative of other good architecture; however, I think we can learn from the creative cues that are around us every day. Be open and take in all that is out there and then challenge yourself and your teams to incorporate that same level of design excellence in your work.
Finally, think legacy. The work that we build is part of our individual and collective legacies. Demand more. We all play a role in the design process, whether it is creating the initial idea or making that idea come to fruition. In each role, we need to make our mark. Be proud of the work you do.
So whether or not you are currently an MVP player in the world of design, take this post as encouragement. If you work hard and position yourself as team player who values, understands and pushes design, you’ll quickly get the chance to move from the bench into the game.