Seven Transformative Laws of Design

In the 36 short years that I've been on this earth I have always designed. Wether it be a LEGO house, a kitchen, or a logo, design is an essential part of my RNA and pulses this blood hotter and more rapid than anything I have ever known. It may be that a grandfather was an extreme home builder, that a grandmother is an amazing seamstress/textile expert, or that my mother is a passionate floral designer, but it is quite simple that none of them planned their skilled crafts, and neither did I. It is clear that I have a pre-disposed genetic set of conditions toward design and I always thought I'd be an architect, or a painter. I guess I'm a little of both because design is everything.

Being a designer comes with a great responsibility and a large part of that responsibility is to trust my instincts. I always explain to my clients that design is apart of my blood, I may not know exactly why I do things a certain way, or, that I can not quite verbalize and explain it, but I do know that it is right. Not quite being able to define my natural design process led me to think harder about how I move and flow through a concept. I am pretty rapid and am usually able to have the space completely designed within the first 5 minutes of entering. That can be a challenge when a client has a set idea of how they envision their space. I needed to find a way to quickly define my instincts.

For me, the process of design has evolved into seven points - or what I call Transformative Laws. These laws are not absolute in any way, shape, or form, but they are a more solid approach to how I process and am effected by sets of limitation.

Seven Transformative Laws of Design

  1. Safety before function and form - If the design is unsafe, they is completely no point to designing it. There are some planning guidelines out there, even building code requirements, but ultimately safety of the user is top priority and it's is important to adapt and accommodate needs and requirements in order to achieve the desired outcome. Detaching the designer-self from form immediately allows greater practice of safety, followed by function, and lastly, finished with form.
  2. Style and price are symbiotic, what you do to one affects the other - It's a simple concept, but it's quite often forgotten in the excitement of a new project. Keeping a list of project goals handy allows us to quickly remember why we are always embarking on this process to begin with, and, with that, it is always important to see how a change in material will impact the budget. Cheaper is cheap, expensive just is, middle satisfies both.
  3. Compromises in the design do not mean sacrifices to the design, they mean customized -  We have changed how we operate in our decision making process when it comes to design. Most of of decisions are based upon an egotistical idea of how something must be planned because we have become highly influenced by media, information, and novices claiming to be experts. Creating a set of conditions not only limits the designer, it limits the outcome. Moving away from limited mind-sets will allow for a more creative, customized space.
  4. Be free to explore all of the options, choose to be unlimited - There are a plethora of customizable options within standard but let's not agonize and draw out decisions because there's no sense debating everything - the project will never start or end. There are really only ever two clear options in every decision. Choosing to be unlimited allows us to be open to more ideas, become democratic about the functions, and determine what those two choices really are.
  5. Sustainability is available to you at every step in the design process - It is unfortunate that we were so limited in the past and we are limiting our future, but we can change that. It's important to really look at all aspects of a product or material and most designs can be executed from products made within 100 miles of your home. It's not easy, because we've globalized our manufacturing processes, but there are bigger and better elements at play. Be aware of green-washing, employee conditions and hazardous processes, carbon foot-prints in processing and shipping, out-gassing materials, and maintenance after installation. Be neighbourly.
  6. A well planned design achieves the desired intentions - Since the advent of HGTV and the internet, everyone is a designer. I beg to differ. Without the technical know-how and skills, working from no plan means there is no direction and your desired outcome is lost in the pattern of unlimited on-the-fly decisions that can confuse and complicate everything. Design is no exception to the successful party planner. Write a list, map it out, and execute the plan.
  7. Relationships build the most meaningful design - We live in a disconnected, multi-tasking world that distances us further and further from each other. This doesn't work for design. To achieve a successful concept all parties need to relate to each other, the product, and the use. Be specific, be authentic, about how and what preferences are and convey that information to each other so that all can relate and understand.

I've refined these ideas and concepts over time, and it's is just another list after all. Take it or leave it. None of this is required to take verbatim, because each of you will have a different understanding of applies and perhaps some of the words can change, but you are at liberty to move things around for you. Overall, the Seven Laws work.

For designers who think are more laws, well, frankly, I had a hard enough time getting to seven let alone adding more. Many of the subtleties of the design process can not be explained with a list, but they can actually be a tool for you to work with a client.

For the client who has no idea what I'm saying or what it all means, then I suggest to look for a qualified designer you can work with. Would you let the person down the street, who likes to fix up old cars, do the scheduled maintenance on your 2011 Prius? What about the person who was good at math in high school, would they be doing your business accounting? The answer to both of these is - No. Design is the same, and it can not be done with a cracker-jack box education or by watching HGTV. The best designers are trained, make mistakes, freely admit them, and use everything they've got because it has made them stronger, better, more suited to you.