Artist and Engineer: 5 Commands of Design
Continuing our discussion on the 5 Commandments of Being a Design Professional, we come to commandment number 3: You must be an artist and an engineer.
Designers are creative, artistic people. That is how they create the beautiful spaces around them. In order to stay relevant and to satisfy that creative urge, each project is different. At IMI, we are continually pushing the envelop of what has been done and what can be done. We know what we want to see and now we have to find a way to make that happen. That is where the engineering side needs to kick in. I always tell my staff that we are not experts on cabinetry or lighting and we need to leave it up to the contractor and subs to provide a means by which a certain aesthetic design goal can be accomplished. That is only partially true, though.
The official documentation does need to come from them. That is a legal and insurance thing that is for an entirely different article. But, what does need to come from designers is a clear idea of what you want to see. If you are designing a large scale custom art piece that is going to completely fill a section of the hall and you want the office door that is in that section of all to not interrupt the art piece you have to design how to fit a functioning door inside a painted canvas. No problem! Right? Right.
It is not expected that you will know the exact name of the type of hinge that needs to be used or the cuts and methods used by the millwork subs to make the door. But it is expected that you will know which way you want the door to swing, is it a standard hinge or a pivot door, will the canvas be recessed into the door or set on top of it. All of these things are required by you in order to convey the mechanical and functional details of your design to those who will streamline it and bring it in to reality. It is inevitable that there will be some back and forth and things may be adjusted but you have to come up with the starting point. It’s your design! You should be able to explain every detail from start to finish.
One of the best ways to get hands-on, real life experience with the engineering aspect of design is to volunteer on construction projects such as Habitat for Humanity or other non-profit organizations working in the field. They are always looking for people to help and there is no better way to learn than to do. The statement that you are a creative artist only goes so far when you have promised your clients an amazing, revolutionary design and can’t convey the mechanics of it to the people who need to build it. Having the ability to think and work as an engineer when the time requires it only adds to your value as a designer and gives you another tool in your tool box in working with integrity by accomplishing what you say you will do.