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Design on the Run

The other night as I meticulously laid out my pre-race paraphernalia on the dinning room table, a familiar sensation hit me. It felt like the night before a final review or a big client presentation. 

A festive almost religious like rhythm and movement comes to mind. Picking out the right running clothes, the socks, the race number, the power gels, the good luck charms, uploading the right playlist. 

Until running my fourth big run, I never realized how much the design process and long distance running have in common. 

Pre-race layout
Pre-race layout

I always worked while listening to music, a beat to which I would carefully glue the model pieces in their right place, or hand draw the envisioned elevations. When I look at past work, I will always know which tune I was listening to at that time. Every race I go to I have a playlist ready for the rhythm needed for that part of the run, the warm up music will be different than the one for running up that very long hill. Design projects will have the same process of warming up (brainstorming, sketching, etc.), the long and tedious main course of the run (building, permits, fixing mistakes), and finally the dash to the finish line. 

Long distance running requires training and careful planning. Good design does too. I miss having that process followed to a T. The haphazard approach people have to the design process creates for a lot of contention and costly mistakes. It's almost akin to a 5K runner suddenly asked to run the Boston Marathon over night. The damage that can happen to the runner is clear. The same is true for the design process, there is a careful methodology to it, and when short cuts are made in that process, spaces seem incomplete or just don't look or feel right. 

The most successful, and rewarding projects I have been a part of, are the ones when I'm allowed in on the 'warm up' phase. From the point of helping decide which space will work better for a new office, and its growing team; to running up the hills of painful budget decision making, and exciting new spatial moments, which in my heart I know will make for the best working environment for that team. 

Office kitchen lounge in the making
Office kitchen lounge in the making

And like with running, going all the way up to the finish line, when every fiber of my being is dead-on focused on getting it done right and on time, (the counter top edges should be mitered, the layout of the flooring, and the thermostat should not be in the middle of the feature wall...) one foot after the other. 


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