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How to successfully implement your ideas in interior architecture and design

When you start to think about any project in spatial design you should undertake extensive research to determine the best possible conclusion for all parties involved. You must examine the context your design is located in, determine the personality and character of your client – what will make them happy? – and undertake a survey of the proposed site to give you more of an idea of the shape and scale of the project you are about to undertake.

All the knowledge you accumulate is essential for building a solid foundation from which your design concept will grow.

Extensive planning is always important, however, any creative process requires a certain amount of free thinking and a good design concept can come from absolutely anywhere. For example, the inspiration for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is said to have come from a crumpled piece of paper.

You should, at the start of your project, put the planning and research to the back of your mind and let your imagination inspire your creativity.

Idea Generation

Generating good ideas is one the most important parts of the design process. Without a good idea at the beginning the whole process is unlikely to succeed and there is little point in continuing.

Free-thinking is very important for all designers as some of the best ideas occur by accident. A good example is the invention post-it note, stumbled upon when a chemist invented a weak glue when aiming to design a very strong one.

There are lots of techniques for generating ideas such as mind-mapping. A few of the more unusual ideas are listed below:

Cut Up Technique

Artists from the Dadaist movement of the 1920s, as well as author William S. Burroughs and pop star David Bowie, would cut up their lyrics and collage them back together again, in order to create interesting juxtapositions. The poet T.S. Elliot is said to have incorporated words from newspaper articles into his poetry. An element of randomness is brought to the idea generation process from these techniques.


Similarly, creative writing students are sometimes asked to insert random objects into their stories – artichokes being a popular choice. As mentioned in the introduction, acclaimed architect Frank Gehry supposedly screwed up paper in an effort to find inspiration for his iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

The above techniques require the mind of the designer to wander freely. Idea generation is often improved with lateral thinking leading to unexpected yet wholly appropriate ideas. Sometimes it is useful to think of the worst possible solution for a creative problem. This tends to, if nothing else, pint you in the right direction and gives you a basis for scrutinising your subsequent ideas.

Idea Generation as part of a Team

Generating ideas as part of a team is very effective because all of our minds operate in different ways. Your idea might seem obvious to you but when presented to others you may be surprised by their reaction. When coming up with ideas it is good practice to bounce them off other people. Be prepared to follow your idea as it takes unexpected twists and turns.

Concept Drawings

Concept drawing is the starting point of putting your interior architecture and design solution onto paper. It is very closely linked to the idea generation process. Drawing helps you to focus your ideas and can even inspire further creative thinking. Great concept drawings should contain the beginning of an idea which can be further refined through a series of drawing which eventually lead to formal technical drawings that are ready for construction to begin. Frank Gehry places high value on concept drawings as displayed in the sketches on his website’s homepage.

Preliminary sketches for the Panama Puente de Vida Museo | © Frank O. Gehry

From this sketch it seems that Frank Gehry generates ideas by freely drawing with his research put to the back of his mind.

The difference between concept drawing and idea generation is that drawing are a stage further on in that they are the beginnings of producing something tangible. They come closer to turning an idea into reality.

Below is a selection of drawings from the design of a retail, café and lounge space by a design studio. You will notice the progression of the idea from the sketches on the left to the sketches on the right. As the design moves forward the 2D plan begins to inform the 3D sketches and vice-versa. Notice the tape measure, the reality of the dimensions of the space is always on the designers mind.

Sketches from Contagious

Concept sketches inevitably become a form of communication between the architect and the client. At this point they should not still be informing the process of idea generation but should offer as much insight as possible into what the final outcome will be. The sketch below is ready to be shown to the client and has:

Perspective: creating a clearer indication of 3D form

Figures: a sense of scale of the design

Colour: lighting and materials are introduced

Shadows: Emphasising the atmosphere (in this case dark and dramatic)

Text: communicating further specific details

Photography: putting the design into the real world for the client


Maturation Space Drawing by Paula Murray for Contagious

Developing the Concept
After discussing the project with the client from the preliminary sketches you will be in a stronger position to start consolidating your ideas. Begin to edit and add details to your ideas that you are happy with and that will inform the final design.
Keep in mind that you can change your mind about your idea at any point of the design process.  Interior architects often make a mistake in persisting with ideas that are no longer relevant to the final design.

Concept Editing
Interior Architects, along with all creatives, must be prepared to disregard there ideas that are of no use anymore – even the very best ones.
By the editing stage your free thinking is done and your professional judgement comes into play. Highlight the strongest ideas and get rid of the weakest. Be ruthless; your design will be better for it. If you can describe a concept concisely and clearly it is often a good indication that it is strong idea; if not, it is likely to be weak.
The Sectional Plan

After you have weeded out all you weak ideas you must create a neat plan draw to scale. Take some time over this as it is invaluable to have at this stage. In the drawing below, despite it being hand-drawn, it is to drawn to scale and in proportion. There is space between the object and the walls for people to move around in. A scale drawing is important as it leads you on to your next logical step – a sectional drawing.

These drawings are a big step away from the free-thinking of the ideas generation stage and they allow you to begin to test how your ideas work logically in the real world. They tell you what you have to work with by showing how much space you actually have available.

Notice how much detail this plan gives the user in terms of size, scale and circulation space.
The Axonometric Sketch

Bringing your plan to life is the axonometric sketch. This articulates the space in a way which allows it to be easily perceived for closer inspection.

From creative idea generation to your design in the real world, these steps will help you turn your creative musings into a reality.

This tutorial is adapted from material found on the BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design course. Find out more about this course…

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