The major reason for actively pushing the edge and leveling up your design skills is simply sustaining your competitive advantage and standing out in the crowd. Anyone can pick up design skills and use them to enrich their lives and those around them. Some of us may need to strengthen one area while others may need to do more. Regardless, here are some ways that can foil Design thinking.

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Bauhausto ourHouse©Open culture

Follow architecture blogs and read design books

With pouring information on social media, I think we all need to realize that setting aside some time to browse and get inspired is nothing to feel guilty about. It can kickstart and remind you why you’re doing what you are whether that be learning architecture or any other subject. Being able to understand drawings and have a deeper perception of what they mean will serve you in a variety of ways.

If you can allocate only ten minutes of quiet time to flick through a few pages at the end of each day, there is a host of fresh architectural literature out there to inspire. This can be anything from books to magazines, to online blogs. One of my favorite books is Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture. When it comes to “un-learning”, which I think is essential to becoming an architect, this book should be at the top of the pile. He was living through the changes of the Machine Age and was drawn to the naked truth of machine design. He wanted to create architecture that was as truthful to its use as a machine is to its use. A classic that should be on every architect’s shelf.

See the world through “design goggles”

Treat your ability to identify good design like a muscle. Like every muscle, you need to train it to make it stronger and better. Don’t think it’s something you need to be born with. You can learn it.

Every artist was first an amateur— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The rule is simple: browse design projects every day. Start your day by going through the most recent design showcases and examining the work of other talented and experienced architects. Study well-designed buildings and try to answer the question: “What makes it so good?” Focus on specific design elements (like site plans, climatic parameters, etc.) and compare them with other projects. Try to guess why the architect made certain decisions. At the end of this process, sketch your ideas as often as you can. Gather design inspiration and learn the stories behind them. I find that with design thinking, the first step is being able to intake information and digest it in various ways. Being able to analyze information is often the first step in the design thinking process.

Move out of your comfort Zone-Explore

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Design Jury 2018 ©BigMat

Best practice for keeping your skills fresh is to explore new topics. Dare to expand your knowledge. Go beyond the edges of your current expertise. You might question, why should you take the risk and try to sail unknownand dangerous waters? The calm harbor is a much safer place to stay. I have to agree indeed. Unfortunately, staying in the safety zone prevents you from gathering further knowledge.

What I suggest you is to break free from that “you have to specialize” and “find your niche” dogma. It doesn’t matter if you are an architecture major. If you like game designing or graphics, go ahead and learn more about it. If you want to improve your design skills, you have to do those things you are scared of doing. Take the bull by the horn, take up that project offer, learn that new thing, and dare to make mistakes. As you move out of your comfort zone, you will discover you are learning new things and improving your skills.

Participate /Start a side project

Doing the same thing over and over again in your nine-to-five job can lead to your skills getting stale and your enthusiasm waning. Keep up your motivation to learn new things by starting your side project. Learning a new design skill is always far easier if you need it to create a specific thing. Many architecture competitions are conceptual, and the winning designs are never actually constructed. They are a way to build your portfolio, and in a very real way to learn from your mistakes. These competitions are a chance to focus entirely on what you love about architecture; they are about the idea, and it is so crucial to broaden your vision.

Some firms and individuals are propelled to success simply for winning a competition. When she was 21 and still an undergrad, Maya Lin beat over 1,400 other submissions to win the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Remember: you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Bounce idea of others

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Creative-Problem-Solving ©balance careers

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. If you want to improve your design skills, you need to acknowledge this and become open to discussion with other architects. The magic happens when you are open to discussing and accepting others’ opinions. Receiving feedback on your projects gives you a chance to play around with ideas that may not be practical in your everyday office work. The experience though not a rosy one all the time, but will open you up to a lot of techniques you are not aware of. You’ll get to learn from the last person you expected, and that’s the joy of discussing with others.

All that being said, now it’s time for you to put all the information you’ve learned in this article into practice. So, read, study, work, shadow, explore and experiment. And, most importantly, have a lot of fun!


Sneha Kannan, a young architect, Interior designer based in Chennai. Her work involves creating spaces with strong visual and social identity. As an architectural writer and graphic designer in practice, she believes graduation is just a start to life. Developing a strong interest in aesthetics and management, she is working her way towards becoming a multi-faceted individual.