Moments of joy happen at various points in the design process, and often for different reasons. They create a sort of built-in incentive, motivating us to continue working toward the best solution possible. On some level, the most rewarding of these moments vary from individual to individual, but I tend to think that the ones I most identify with are fairly universal and relatable to a majority of design professionals.
the joy of new & innovative solutions
As designers, we’re wired to notice things that other people take for granted—things like ergonomically designed products, effective spatial relations in the workplace, or anything we note as particularly artful and utilitarian. It’s one of the traits that led us to become designers in the first place, and it’s a reliable source of joy that remains important to us today.
One of the best places to take in this sort of inspiration every year is the SaloneSatellite exhibition at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Italy. Satellite is a showcase of young designers from around the world, many of whom are students, and explores concepts ranging from furniture design to cutting-edge fabrication. The pieces on display are typically prototypes, but many of the products go into production each year as a result of their presence at the show. I’ve personally been inspired by so many of the ideas found there, from reed-inspired motion-sensing lights from Japan and a spectacular copper-and-LED wall system from Chile, to ideas as unlikely as two-dimensional furniture. The possibilities on display are staggering, and for anyone in the design profession, the excitement that it creates is nothing short of infectious.
the joy of brainstorming & collaborating
In the same way that inspiration and joy result from the flood of ideas encountered at an event like SaloneSatellite, they often come into play early on in the design process when we discuss our ideas with other designers. By staying open to other people’s input and viewing their perspectives and experiences as the rich resources they are, we can reap the benefits of collaboration, which brings a distinct joy all its own.
Sometimes I find myself working away on a design, thinking that I’ve come up with a great solution, and then someone else will come along—it could be an intern, a partner, or even the client—and make a suggestion that introduces a twist on the idea, transforming it from really good to truly great. It can require a bit of an ego check if you’re the project lead, but for me, it’s the end result that matters, not whether or not I “own” the whole idea. Teamwork is a joyful experience not to be missed out on.
the joy of a completed
We design spaces with the best of intentions, employing our knowledge in conjunction with in-depth research and thoughtful decision-making. Through these tools, we can reasonably simulate and predict what the outcome of a project will be, but the true test of our success is seeing people inhabiting the spaces we’ve created—making them their own, and living and functioning in them as they were designed to be.
Does it ever get less exciting to see your design become a reality—to see the finished space populated and functioning just as you knew it could? Certainly not for me, it doesn’t. The ending of a major interiors project can certainly be reward enough, but it’s the joy that comes with seeing a space full of happy, productive, and collaborative people that keeps me energized through the years.
the joy of mentoring
Beyond the immediate creative process and all of its dynamics, there’s a special kind of reward to be had by embracing the opportunity to share what we’ve learned with the next generation of designers. We have a lot to offer through our years of experience and our many trials and errors. But it’s more than just cultivating a positive, altruistic vibe—more often than not, we learn as much or more from our students as we are able to teach them.
One of my favorite experiences with IIDA is Student Mentoring Week, in which students are paired up with industry professionals for a day of shadowing. There’s no better way to introduce a student to the professional design experience, and it’s a joy in itself to see the eagerness and agility with which their minds react to the working studio environment. With that said, in my experience, it's the mentor who gets the most out of the interaction. Being able to share what I know and seeing a student so greatly impacted by my work always leaves me with a renewed sense of hope about what design can accomplish.
The professional life of a designer is filled with rewarding opportunities of all sorts. We know these joys instinctively and through the work that we’ve accomplished since our own days as students.
It’s those moments of satisfaction, following a completed project or a productive collaborative session, that encourage us in our day-to-day work. We get inspired to see something new and breathtaking that nourishes our sense of possibility, and we chomp at the bit to design better than we have before. This is what the “joy of design” means to me, and it’s one of the main reasons I became a designer: to take that feeling and share it with the rest of the world around us.
IIDA President Felice L. Silverman, IIDA is president and a principal at Silverman Trykowski Associates Inc. in Boston. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950 or at [email protected].