March 10, 2014

To be a designer is to be vulnerable

In school, I had to learn how to come to terms with vulnerability – or at least say the least. But in some respects, learning how to not let self-doubt and what others think can help you design and explore freely without the external factors that burden us from reaching our fullest potential.

Last week, I went out to dinner with some friends in architecture school and engaged in a deep and introspective discussion about the design process and what makes a designer creative and effective. Some vulnerability was discussed because if you want to do good work, you have to fully involve yourself into the design process.  In any form of art, how can one produce good work if their heart and interests are not into it? Each design work needs to reflect who you are. Your voice has to express itself in your portfolio. Your work impacts what kind of firm will align with your personality and views.  

It is hard to summarize the discussion since it centered on many things, but I like to share one of the things I can relate to an overarching theme. It is to cope with vulnerability to harness your creativity. Talking to my friends gave me a chance to reflect on how we design and what our process is. This is where being comfortable to embrace vulnerability comes in: We might not work at our best because of anxiety and worry, the fear of failure, or not meeting our level of expectation. For example: It can be intimidating to present your work to a jury to be heavily critiqued on the work you poured your heart into. We might have these grand visions of what we want our project to become, but too scared to lift the pencil to manifest our design intent into a tangible medium. Everyone in the class is into a certain vogue and style in design that you are neither passionate nor good in – but you succumb to that trend. This can be applied to the software or technique you use... if it is not accepted you tend to join the status quo bandwagon.

Being vulnerable and confident in yourself means being willing to engage deeply in the design process. It might even mean being comfortable to learn by making mistakes and screwing up when your design might take a wrong turn. Eventually, those mistakes and different paths to making things are critical in your growth in becoming a better designer. I remember reading Matthew Friederick’s 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School and remember how the goal of a studio is to hone and improve your design process. There is value to gain from being process-oriented.    

As architecture students we have external pressure placed on us: professors, workload, grades, and expectations. On top of that, we ourselves place more stress through self-doubt and self-critique. All of that can create a barrier that hinders your ability to perform comfortably at your best. To get the most out of the design process is to not let those external factors impede your ability to design and play. You cannot let yourself hinder your effective path to getting to your design solution. You must break through that barrier to get to creative thinking and exploration in a design.

On a related's a good video by Brene Brown...she is known for her TED talks about vulnerability and shame. This video features a conference talk focused on designers. (Love the Roosevelt quote of the man in the arena)

Don't Compare Yourself to Others (Coming Soon)

1 comment:

  1. Great post Uly!

    Being vulnerable is also a very powerful way to connect with your audience when delivering a presentation.

    Everyone struggles, screws up and goes through self-doubt at some point, so don't be afraid to share this with your audience. And then show them how you overcame these difficulties and what you learned from the experience.

    It will show them that you are only human - just like them! - which will help them to relate to you, trust you and believe in what you're saying. And that's what good communication is all about!

    Keep up the great work :)