How Designers Think2 min read

We are starting the Design portion of the curriculum here at SAMS, and to kick things off we had an orientation to the topic of Design by some of the members of Populous, a global design practice with an office in Kansas City. Populous, among other things, was responsible for the LiveStrong Stadium here in Kansas City that is now home to the MLS team KC Sporting.

The intent of the brief was to explain the process of how they take a project from a vague concept to the delivery of an actual building. The process is no doubt different for every project – different owner personalities, different goals, conditions, timelines, budgets, etc. As has been mentioned before this year to us, there is no silver bullet solution that can be applied uniformly to every circumstance.

What I appreciated was their passion for the process. When starting a project, there are so many things which are unknown and the skill is in taking all your experience up to that point and establishing a common framework with which to proceed. They seemed to enjoy the challenge of the process.

Some takeaways:

  • Design is intellectually informed decision-making.
  • “Everything in the world must have design or the human mind rejects it. But in addition it must have purpose or the human conscience shies away from it.” John Steinbeck
  • “Form follows function” Louis Sullivan
  • On handing projects off to another member or team: it is important for the receiver to have the history and context, as much as possible, when taking over a project. The genesis of a project typically has an idea which all subsequent ideas are derived from. If the new team does not understand this context, the project can easily move away from its foundation.
  • Cast your intellectual net wide. If design is about connecting all the correct dots, you need to make sure you have a lot of potential dots with which to connect. If your education and experience is very narrow, your pool of ‘dots’ will be limited as will your solutions.

The title of this post is also the title of a book Im currently reading, “How Designers Think” by Bryan Lawson. Photo taken from