The Architecture of Living – Simplifying 2013

It’s incredible how one minute you can be floundering around, dazed and confused and the next minute your email inbox presents you with all the answers. OK, maybe not all the answers but at least a better way to tackle the problems.

I subscribe to a Design Leaders blog on LinkedIn and although I don’t remember signing up for it, I’m quite sure at some stage I did. Seeing as I don’t recall a lot from late 2010 onwards, this is more than likely a possibility. Tim Brown is the CEO and President of IDEO (see their ‘about’ page here – – they’re pretty amazing!) and just before Christmas, an email announcing his blog entry entitled “5 Ways to Begin Designing Your Life in 2013” landed in my inbox. I remember reading it [utterly enraptured at the time and thinking it was going to change my life] but typical me saved it as a bookmark and forgot all about it. I came across the ‘not yet deleted’ email from Dec 20 today as I was filing everything and it was one of those moments when I know the universe intervened. Yes, the universe stuff that I don’t actually believe in came through with the goods for me today.

I was (very) ready to throw in the towel on a big part of my life. Not standard practice for me, as anyone who knows me will tell you. But the following points from Tim’s blog made me look at it all in a different way and realise that all is not lost. Sometimes you just need a ‘systems thinking’ approach for dealing with the crap that ails you! The link to that blog entry is also posted so all credit goes to Tim, just in case any of you thought I was smart enough to come up with this on my own 🙂

Tim Brown’s Design Thinking Blog –

Design Thinking For Living:

1. Be optimistic, collaborative, and generative.
There’s something wonderfully gratifying about creating something new, whether it’s an award-winning design or a home-cooked meal.

2. Think of life as a prototype.
Conduct experiments, make discoveries, change as needed. Any process can be re-examined and tweaked. Look for opportunities to turn a process into a project with a tangible outcome.

3. Don’t ask “what?” ask “why?”
Instead of accepting a given constraint, ask whether this is the right problem to be solving.

4. Demand divergent options.
Don’t settle for the first good idea that comes to mind or seize on the first promising solution presented to you. Explore divergent options—and then set a deadline so you know when to move on.

5. Once a day, deeply observe the ordinary.
Make it a rule that at least once a day you will stop and take a second look at some ordinary situation that you would normally look at only once (or not at all). Get out in the world and be inspired by people.

This advice isn’t just for designers. It’s for everyone… a way of observing, questioning and simplifying. I will apply these principals to my current major challenge and see if Tim is on the money…

And this brings me to my next ‘challenge’ for 2013. I realised – after having a series of mini-breakdowns (in private) and spreading myself far too thin over too many projects in 2012 – that this year coming, I have to simplify. This post is mainly for the Archi kids, a number of whom I gave project assistance to throughout the year.

Before anyone gets uppity, I LOVE helping you guys. You have no idea how much happiness it brings me to be able to share my knowledge with you and watch as you synthesize, iterate and brainstorm your way to producing some incredible projects. What I can’t do this year is spend all my free time helping different people at different times – or helping people all through the night. Yes, we’re a rare breed leading up to project deadline… fueled by caffeine, sugar and the looming threat of doing diabolically badly in a final Crit, we will stay awake for days to ensure we have what it takes to get through. Oh, and we’re usually perfectionists. Never a good combination.

But this year, my loves, we’re going to get smarter. Oh yes.

Sometimes ideas just fall out of my head onto the page. Seriously. That’s what actually happens. I’ll draw a small, insignificant symbol or something and the next minute I’m sketching and writing as if my life depends on it. Sometimes the ideas are amazing. Other times, mmmm… not so much. But everything is a starting point and that’s what this idea is; so it goes without saying that I want as much feedback as possible from you guys as to how to make it work. I came up with this on that plane on the way to Canberra… the guy sitting next to me was trying to get a good look at what I was doing. I feel certain it made as much sense to him as it will to you when you see the sketches below. haha.

Firstly, I know nothing about web design. But apparently downloading Adobe Muse, DreamWeaver and Fireworks has made me think that I can make this project happen. I’m operating under a completely false sense of bravado but that’s fine for now… [apparently] anyone who can use Illustrator or Photoshop should be able to work these programs. We shall see, Adobe. We shall see.

So the idea is this… we only get, on average, about 10-15 minutes ‘one on one’ time with our tutors PER WEEK. Some of us not even that. For the most part, we’re left wondering if our ideas have any merit whatsoever. Some, as we find out on final crit day, do not. What I want to do this year, instead of helping everyone individually, is build a website that will allow all of us to come together at set times per week. This will be especially useful for those who can’t make it into uni on a particular day. The aim is to spend a few hours a week critiquing each others work, bantering around ideas and in general, complaining about the project and the powers that be. lol.



As per the sketches (or scribbles) above, I’ve envisioned that the site itself will be built to look like a plan view of the studio tables (but in a more simplified, stylised and utterly cool way) and each person who applies (and is accepted) to join the online crit group has their own place at the table. In front of them will be a sketchbook and from that sketchbook, I want to create a hyperlink to 2 other pages for each student. From the left hand page, I want it to link to another page where the student has (prior to the start of the session) uploaded his or her working ideas. On that same page, I want to be able to have an interactive chat window where all the other students can give feedback on those ideas in real time, possibly even uploading their own sketches ‘Instagram’ style to explain (to the student being critiqued) what words sometimes cannot.

If this proves to be too ‘high-tech’ – as I suspect it will – I want each student in the online tute group to be able to post a comment into a section for the student being critiqued to review in real time – maybe even just like a blog comments section. Whilst one person is learning, we’re all learning. You’ve just got to be aware enough to keep your eyes and ears open. I think I will make it a rule of belonging to the online tutorial that each person has to post at least one comment on all the other students’ work – that way everyone is contributing equally and getting equal help. We’re not there to milk other people’s ideas – we’re there to share our own and assist others. You’ve got to give in order to get!!

As for the right hand page, I want this to be a link to an online portfolio for each student. Hopefully something that they can direct a future employer to, where their work is showcased and also to serve as inspiration for others.

There may be other linked pages from the main page to architecture and design blogs etc. as further inspiration.

In a nutshell, that’s the plan. The only thing stopping me is a complete lack of knowledge regarding web design, graphics and code and a complete lack of $$$$$$.

So I’m asking anyone out there – if you feel like taking pity on some poor students and helping me get this up and running, that would be so incredibly amazing. I can’t pay you with anything other than gratitude (or, in the future, some architectural design assistance) … but this idea would, I’m sure, simplify and streamline what I was doing into a far more manageable, time-saving bundle.

I love what I can contribute to the learning of all my uni friends and I get so much back from helping… but I just know that this year I need to also make steps towards putting myself and my health first 🙂




14 thoughts on “The Architecture of Living – Simplifying 2013

  1. Pingback: reblogged: The Architecture of Living – Simplifying 2013 | r | one studio architecture

  2. #3 and #4 are so so important. I just watched a movie called Zero Dark Thirty (about the hunt for/capture of Bin Laden) and the parts about bureaucratic habits preventing creative thought made me think of both my own life and the business world in general. I’m not a big fan of Apple (little too much hype for me) but Steve Jobs exhortation to constantly Think Different is at it’s core one of the best pieces of advice out there.

    And I doubt you know nothing about web design, the technical aspects may be new to you but the rest is stuff you have a depth of knowledge about. That’s that mantra, “It’s like anything else” which helps you to remember your expertise in one area can and does matter to other areas in your life. I like your thinking, and being the “information architect” of your life is a great idea.

  3. Thanks Joe 🙂 I really want to see ZDT and also Silver Lining Playbook but I don’t think they’ve been released here yet! I’ll get back to your last email asap… I’m just having a small bout of insomnia that seems to be ruining my mojo 😛

  4. Pingback: Arch-eStudio Is Underway…!! | Little Miss Curious Does Architecture, Life, Love & Other Stuff

  5. Interesting idea Leah, you could use dreamweaver to create a WordPress theme and have WordPress plugins do the coding for you for allowing multiple users, forums, feedback etc. otherswise you’d have to create a site that would basically run off a database, then you will need hosting etc. Having a plan view with each student represented is good, but how will you put everyone there if you have 30ppl, i know you said you’d add a table to accomodate more students, how is that going to effect the site. You probably won’t want to spend most of your time doing site admin. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good idea, just keep in mind you don’t want it to take up all your time

    • I have no idea what you just said. Lol. I’m clueless with this stuff. I think i get the general gist though. I don’t suppose you’d want to lend me an hour sometime to discuss?!? 🙂

      • That would be so amazing! Maybe we could just meet for coffee one day (my shout) and you could talk me through what I need to do 🙂 will text you my new number. I sent out a mass text when I got it but some ppl did and done ppl didn’t. Yup, that’s how awesome I am with tech stuff. Lol

    • Thanks gorgeous girl! I’m glad you think it’s a good idea – I was starting to wonder if it was all a bit crazy but I think, given that we’re spread all over the city, that this will bring us some cohesiveness 🙂 can’t wait to see you next week. I’ve missed you like the devil!! Xx

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