In this blog post, I will go over some of the best and most common design philosophies you might want to use, believe in, or will encounter. As an architect or future architect, it matters to take into serious consideration your design philosophy as it can affect your concept, user experience, and overall design.
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When it comes to design philosophies, you can surely make your own but if you’re someone who lacks experience ie. still a student or a junior architect, you can check out the following philosophies for inspiration.
1| “Form Follows Function” by Louis H. Sullivan
This is one of my favourite design philosophies. I think it’s very direct and focuses on the essentials. This philosophy is often misunderstood as stripping off unnecessary design or using basic forms, but what it really means is that whatever the form or the exterior is, it should reflect the functions or the activities taking place inside.
Frank Lloyd Wright expanded its meaning by quoting it as “form and function are one” meaning the design starts from within, going outward.
This is the philosophy I actually used for my thesis. If you’re interested in knowing more about what my thesis was, feel free to comment down below!
2| “The details are not the details. They make the design.” by Charles Eames
I think this doesn’t need to be explained any further but I’d like to say that the details really affect the whole of the design! There’s been a lot of instances where small changes I made in designs made drastic improvements. If you’re struggling with your design, try to focus on the details and see the difference.
3| “Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” by Joe Sparano
Joe Sparano isn’t an architect but is a graphic designer. I placed his quote here because I thought this to be fitting as well for architecture. As architects and or future architects, we give priority to the experience of the users and this may not always be “visible”.
4| “Life is chaotic. Buildings should Reflect it.” by Frank Gehry
This design philosophy speaks of deconstructivism – designs that go against all traditions and building them in accordance to your own vision.
One of the most famous works of Frank Gehry applying this philosophy is the Guggenheim Museum, a truly radical design.
If you’re interested in learning more about architecture through Frank Gehry himself, check out his masterclass through this link!
5| “To provide meaningful architecture is not to parody history, but to articulate it.” by Daniel Libeskind
Libeskind, an American architect, designer, and artist, is famous for his works such as the Jewish Museum un Berlin, Denver Art Museum’s extension in the U.S., and the Imperial War Museum in England.
As an architectural theorist and professor, he decided to follow this philosophy of his to represent the past, showing the horror of history while integrating it with hope for a better tomorrow. He wants to understand the bast and assimilate it.
Similar to Frank Gehry, his philosophy speaks of deconstructivism by designing from the brokenness of human experience.
6| “Anything that exists only to satisfy the ego of the designer must be eliminated.” by Eric Reiss
Eric Reiss is an architecture theorist, consultant, and author. As Jakob Nielsen, a web consultant, explained it simply, “designers are not users.” We shouldn’t design for ourselves but instead for the user.
This is personally why I didn’t quite like The Fountainhead, which speaks much of following what you want only, as an architect. As architects and future architects, our clients’ wants are our priority over our own ego.
7| “Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product.” by Jonathan Ive
Jonathan Ive is a designer of Apple who worked on the iPod, iPhone, and iPad designs. He told CNET that in their products, they aim to “leave you with the sense that that’s the only possible solution that makes sense.” He mentioned that they don’t want the design to get in the way, bringing simplicity and clarity – but that is more than just “clearing up space”.
I placed this as a design philosophy as I think that it can be of use in architecture as well. By designing something that only covers the essential but does it so delicately and through well thought-out details, simple but good designs can be achieved.
Just as what you’ll always here in the field of architecture, everything should have a purpose.
8| “All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.” by Frank Lloyd Wright
It is no surprise that Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the well-known and important architects of the 20th century. My interpretation for his philosophy is that deep consideration for human values should be present and thought as basic or necessary architectural values. Anything else that fails to consider the human experience should not be valuable.
This may include all considerations your designs affect, that’s not limited to the users alone.
9| “A design isn’t finished until someone is using it.” by Brenda Laurel
Brenda Laurel is a researcher and a video game designer. Similar to the other philosophies mentioned, it brings importance to how users use our designs.
10| “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” by Frank Gehry
Something about my previous professor in History of Architecture class hit me. He said that he believes “Architecture serves as documents of time” and that meant whenever we design, we shouldn’t just merely replicate something of the past especially if we’re in the modern era.
I thought what he said is somehow related to this design philosophy by Frank Gehry. To be able to design in the now yet last for a long time I think is a true achievement for an architect. Future generations can learn from it. It would sound pathetic to study historical structures that only replicated its own past. The structures we studied in our History of Architecture were all true to themselves and spoke of their time.
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