The Maker's Quest

A Podcast exploring the journey of making things and living a creative life

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Developing Design Ideas – Ep5

Developing Design Ideas – Ep5

In this episode, we talk about developing new design ideas and how we present them to our clients.

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Podcast Transcription

00:00:00:05 – 00:00:01:13

Greg Porter

I am Greg Porter.

 

00:00:01:18 – 00:00:04:24

Brian Benham

And I’m Brian Benham, and you’re listening to the Maker’s Quest podcast.

 

00:00:05:10 – 00:00:24:07

Greg Porter

And today we’re discussing developing new design ideas So, Brian, as you’re as clients approach you and you’re asked to come up with new designs for them, how how do you start to generate the ideas that are going to become your final piece?

 

00:00:25:02 – 00:00:50:16

Brian Benham

Well, that all kind of depends on the client. Some clients have an idea of what they already want, and some clients kind of tell me, hey, you have full artistic license to go do whatever you want. We just want it to fit in this space right here. So I usually start out by just asking a lot of questions to the client about what kind of use they like, what kind of words they like, just to kind of get the conversation rolling.

 

00:00:51:06 – 00:01:02:02

Greg Porter

So start out with a little bit of general preference, I’m guessing. Do you visit a lot of the houses or buildings that your furniture or that your designs are going to go into?

 

00:01:02:06 – 00:01:24:19

Brian Benham

Absolutely. If they are here locally, I will go to their house so I can kind of see what kind of detail they have. Like this morning I was in a house and they want a sideboard built for their dining room and they live in a Tudor style home. So I was kind of looking at the architecture of the home, what type of buildings they’re there, what kind of wood is there, what kind of stain has on it.

 

00:01:24:19 – 00:01:43:03

Brian Benham

And then also the age of the wood, because I want it to blend in with the surrounding elements of the house. So if the woodwork is kind of rustic or beat up a little bit, then I’m going to present to the client like, hey, maybe we try to mimic some of that distressing in the piece of furniture itself.

 

00:01:43:06 – 00:02:01:08

Brian Benham

So it’s really just kind of a walk through the house to see what their current style is and how they decorate their house. And then, of course, if the client is in a different state or someplace where I can’t go and visit, I will do like a zoom call and then they can pan their phone around and say, Hey, we’re thinking about sitting here.

 

00:02:01:08 – 00:02:07:00

Brian Benham

And we could talk about those same kind of things through the Zoom call and just having them move their phone through the space.

 

00:02:07:09 – 00:02:33:23

Greg Porter

So so kind of gathering a little bit of data both about the surroundings and then about the people themselves. So how much how much information do you solicit from your clients in terms of the questions that you ask and you know, how much your design is based on? I guess their taste and their desire. And how much of it is you saying this is what I think fits?

 

00:02:34:08 – 00:02:56:03

Brian Benham

It’s a kind of a 5050 split to start out with. Once I kind of get a feel for what the client is after and their design tastes, and then I’ll kind of pull from my own thoughts, processes and my own design experiences is to see what’s going to fit with their design. And sometimes I’ll, I’ll walk into their house and they won’t really have an idea of what they want.

 

00:02:56:03 – 00:03:13:20

Brian Benham

And, but I’ll immediately think like, oh, I have this design idea in the back of my head that’s been brewing for a while. I’m going to present that because I think it will fit in their space really well, even though they haven’t come out to life with that or come to the realization that that that’s what they need or want.

 

00:03:14:10 – 00:03:37:20

Greg Porter

And I would imagine, you know, I don’t know your clients personally and I don’t know how all of them come to you, but I would assume most of the people who come to you have at least some understanding of what’s in your portfolio and what you’ve done for other, you know, in past projects. How how much of that weighs on, hey, I saw this piece you did.

 

00:03:38:05 – 00:03:51:09

Greg Porter

I’d like something similar to that or I saw this piece, but that’s totally not my style. Can you do something this way? How? I guess how much do you do you use your past portfolio to generate ideas for new projects?

 

00:03:51:15 – 00:04:11:21

Brian Benham

That happens from time to time. I just kind of used that past portfolio work on a project that I just finished up where I designed a media shelf for a client, and I pulled some design ideas for this segmented ring that goes into the center of the media shelf from a desk that I had built a few months ago.

 

00:04:12:00 – 00:04:27:15

Brian Benham

And the client that ordered the shelf didn’t ever see the desk that I built a few months ago, because when I first started designing it, that’s what I was building in the shop. So that’s kind of what was in my mind at the time. So I was like, Wow, it’d be cool to redo this because I really like how this looks.

 

00:04:27:15 – 00:04:52:04

Brian Benham

I’d like to iterate on that design idea. And so then I, I pitched it to that client to see if they liked it. And then once we got talking about it, I realized that if we made a few design changes that it would even fit better with their design. They were really into smashed trophy from a Super Mario Brothers, and that Smash Trophy Trophy has a very distinguished, are not distinguished.

 

00:04:52:04 – 00:04:53:03

Brian Benham

What am I trying to say?

 

00:04:53:13 – 00:04:54:03

Greg Porter

A distinct.

 

00:04:54:09 – 00:05:19:18

Brian Benham

Distinct? Yes. A very distinct shape to it that was very similar to the segmented ring. And so we, we redesigned it a little bit to make it fit to look kind of like that trophy. Now, if you didn’t know anything about the Smash Brothers are sorry about Super Mario Brothers or the smashed trophy, you’d probably never realize that that’s what that kind of looks like because it also look like this piece of geometric art.

 

00:05:20:07 – 00:05:32:00

Brian Benham

But if you’re into Super Mario Brothers and you know that the client’s into Super Mario Brothers, like if you’re friends with them and you walk in and you’re like, oh, my gosh, there’s there’s the smashed trophy hidden in this design.

 

00:05:34:06 – 00:06:00:18

Greg Porter

It’s interesting to think of how you can inject. I guess the way I’d say it, it’s a little bit of an abstract nod to something your your client may be into, but rather than, you know, having a Super Mario Brothers logo or Luigi’s face on something. Right. That’s, that’s to beat him over the head, right? When you can abstractly kind of weave it into the language of the piece that you’re working on.

 

00:06:00:18 – 00:06:10:14

Greg Porter

And that that to me is a total different level of mastery in terms of design and being able to hide something in there that only people on the inside will recognize.

 

00:06:10:14 – 00:06:11:17

Brian Benham

A little Easter egg.

 

00:06:12:13 – 00:06:14:01

Greg Porter

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

 

00:06:14:02 – 00:06:36:03

Brian Benham

Yeah. That kind of reminds me. There was a show on I think it was Animal Planet probably a decade ago where these guys built custom aquariums and they made really beautiful aquariums. But as soon as they got their TV show, they of course, needed views and likes to keep all the advertisers happy. So they would go to celebrities homes and build them a custom aquarium for the celebrity home.

 

00:06:36:03 – 00:06:52:10

Brian Benham

And so whatever the celebrity was like, they did this one for a baseball player. And so basically they encased epoxy or a case, a baseball in epoxy and sunk it in the bottom of a aquarium. And I thought, wow, how hokey is that? That’s so, so dumb. Like it could have been something subtle or a little bit more abstract.

 

00:06:52:17 – 00:06:54:23

Brian Benham

To pull pull the design out or something.

 

00:06:55:13 – 00:07:18:15

Greg Porter

Yeah. I think one of my professors in in college Katz, I’m trying to think of his name. It’s not coming to me right away. But he told me one time, one time after, you know, it was it was during the design phase of a project. So the project wasn’t turned in and and Barry Newton was his name, Professor Newton.

 

00:07:19:09 – 00:07:40:15

Greg Porter

And he looked at me and he said, is British and he said, Greg, let me tell you, there’s, there’s a fine line between stylish and cheesy. And, and that stuck with me because it’s absolutely true. You can, you can cross that line. And kitsch is OK, right. To a certain extent in, in some design. In others it’s not.

 

00:07:40:15 – 00:08:09:20

Greg Porter

But but you can cross that cheese line in a hurry and it can really ruin what other what would otherwise be a really good piece. But then there’s like I say, I think there’s a mastery with some designers being able to really just delicately weave in a concept abstractly into a piece. And, and it really takes it to a new level because again, it’s not something that’s going to hit people over the head when they see it.

 

00:08:09:20 – 00:08:26:11

Greg Porter

They’re not going to like you said, you look at it and think, oh, there’s the smashed trophy from Mario Brothers. They’re going to look at it. And I’ll that’s a really cool geometric thing. But somebody who really knows that person and knows they’re into the Mario Brothers or whatever video games it is that they’ll be able to identify that.

 

00:08:26:11 – 00:08:28:23

Greg Porter

And so that was really cool to be able to work that in there.

 

00:08:29:21 – 00:08:53:11

Brian Benham

Yeah. And I’ve had people find things in my work that I didn’t even think about or I just whatever related to them. A few years ago, I built a bench that I carved a rock through and then it had and so the rock was one of the legs and it came through the top of the, the bench and it had this sweeping arc that held up the other side of the bench.

 

00:08:53:22 – 00:09:04:21

Brian Benham

And both of those elements came from my past bridge work experience but someone that was really into what’s the movie that has Gandalf?

 

00:09:05:19 – 00:09:06:14

Greg Porter

Oh, Lord of the Rings.

 

00:09:06:14 – 00:09:27:23

Brian Benham

Yes, Lord of the Rings. Yes. They’re really into Lord of the Rings. And they’re like, Oh, that looks likes the scene. And Lord of the Rings at whatever. I’m not really into Lord of the Rings. I can’t tell you the city, the hidden city, of whatever, you know, but people see things that you wouldn’t even think about just just from connecting their own dots in their own lives.

 

00:09:28:16 – 00:10:01:16

Greg Porter

Absolutely. It’s it’s interesting, you know, and along those same lines, we work in the world of architecture. We work in several different view planes right we work in planning a lot because that’s how we talk about the way rooms are organized on a flat plane. But then we also work in elevation and sometimes in section and it’s interesting, sometimes when you take a look at a building or at a design from a different angle or from a different viewpoint, the geometry that will start to lay itself out.

 

00:10:01:22 – 00:10:24:24

Greg Porter

And as a designer, being able to recognize that and either capitalize on it or minimalize it. Right, or minimize it. And just just that ability to say, hey, wait a minute, this could be interpreted as, you know, something weird and the only time you’ll see it is if you were in an airplane flying over, which is pretty rare, but people still see it and fire plans and other things that we do.

 

00:10:24:24 – 00:10:33:11

Greg Porter

So it does become important, but it is interesting how often weird geometries will pop up inside of those types of drawings.

 

00:10:34:05 – 00:10:55:07

Brian Benham

Yeah. So in your architecture business, you shared with me a rendering a few days ago of a floor plan that you designed. Is does that really help walk the client through that design or how does that help develop designers? That’s something that’s done as the final presentation. Like this is what it’s going to look like.

 

00:10:56:13 – 00:11:22:11

Greg Porter

Yeah, we we do different things at different points and it’s all very project specific and client specific. So the way I like to think about the work that we do on the architecture side of things is very much it’s a communication of different sorts, right? There’s a language that we all speak, which is English, which is pretty simple.

 

00:11:22:19 – 00:11:49:02

Greg Porter

There’s a language that I speak, which is architecture, which contract to speak it. Other architects, engineers and consultants along the way speak that language, but most clients do not speak the language of architecture so we have to find those bridge pieces to help us communicate that. And we look at our, you know, plan drawings, elevations, perspective, drawings as communication tools.

 

00:11:49:02 – 00:12:26:24

Greg Porter

But renderings are are very universal in terms of language. People can look at a rendering and immediately understand almost everything there is to know about that design without you having to say a single word. And depending on the client’s level of sophistication, sophistication in their experience, really, if if a client if this is their first building and they don’t really you know, they didn’t have drafting class in high school or, you know, some of those things that a lot of people have, you have to communicate in a very we we kind of kid and we say you have to you have to make it kitty puppy.

 

00:12:27:22 – 00:12:49:14

Greg Porter

You have to make things very simple. And, you know, sometimes that can be a lot of work to simplify communication like that. And so sometimes those plans are appropriate very early on. A lot of times it’s later on. We have to also present to not just an individual client, but I work for a lot of public school districts.

 

00:12:49:14 – 00:13:16:14

Greg Porter

And so we have to communicate to entire school communities at the same time. So you might have two or three, 400 people in an audience where you’re presenting something along the lines of of your school design and so being able to level the playing field and communicate to all those people at the same time efficiently sometimes predicates spending a lot of time making really pretty pictures.

 

00:13:17:09 – 00:13:31:17

Greg Porter

And I’m trying to remember the project that I sent to you, too, to speak directly to what those images were and I only say that because I handle seemingly hundreds of images a week sometimes send them to various people.

 

00:13:32:01 – 00:13:40:01

Brian Benham

So. Well, let’s back up a little bit. So when you start a new with a new client, where is your where’s your starting point for the design?

 

00:13:40:20 – 00:14:07:06

Greg Porter

Yeah. So we the way I like to say it is we start with a blank slate for every project. We erase the whiteboard and start over with a white piece of paper. And to some people, that can be the scariest thing in the world because there’s no answers there yet. And I would tell you, it’s better to start with that white piece of paper because my firm does all education or education adjacent projects.

 

00:14:07:08 – 00:14:29:19

Greg Porter

It’s the only work we do. We don’t do retail, we don’t do hospitality, we don’t do medical facilities, we do education. So we’re experts in that because because we do so much of it, we’re we’re really good at it. We know it backwards and forwards. And for some people, that causes them or gives them permission to just hit the copy and paste button over and over.

 

00:14:29:19 – 00:14:55:17

Greg Porter

You can make a lot of money doing that. And our philosophy has always been to put those plans in the drawer once we finished them and to start from scratch every time. Now, we bring a level of expertize. It’s not like there’s nothing known there, but what we want to do is tailor every design to the client, to their students, to their staff, to the way they’re going to teach and educate their students.

 

00:14:56:03 – 00:15:08:14

Greg Porter

And I don’t want to go off on too large of a tangent, but to me as a designer, you have to be incredibly confident in your skills to show up with a blank piece of paper and say, We’re going to make this a building today.

 

00:15:08:14 – 00:15:27:09

Brian Benham

Yeah. Or anything that you do. I mean, just just like this podcast, every time we hit record, there’s a little bit of like, all right, we got to kind of feel out to get the conversation going. And then once we get the conversation going, it’s scary. We are everything just kind of gets going. And I think that’s really a hard thing to do.

 

00:15:27:09 – 00:15:54:02

Brian Benham

Even with every client I speak to, is to get the conversation going and like they, they have an expectation of me, I have an expectation of them, and we don’t know what our expectations are until we start talking about it. So so once you got your your conversation going and you have some things laid out from the from the client, some ideas of what they want and how they work and how they do, what’s your next what’s your next step?

 

00:15:54:02 – 00:16:03:21

Brian Benham

Do you start designing the structure first or do you start designing the what’s the word I’m looking for? Like the interiors, the color palette, the that kind of stuff?

 

00:16:04:12 – 00:16:35:01

Greg Porter

We we tend to go I would almost call it formulaic, but that’s that’s really not it’s not fair. Building design is not a formula by any stretch. There’s so it’s such a complex process, but there are phases to it where you start to build detail. And the way the way we always explain it is you have to bring everything up to the same level of incompleteness and then move to the next thing and bring everything up to the same level of incompleteness.

 

00:16:35:07 – 00:17:00:11

Greg Porter

So I would tell you the process we use, we call it co-create that’s a word that we trademarked and it means that we try and pull out of the client all the information and they become one of the creators of the building. And again, they don’t speak architecture we do, but we ask them all the questions in English and all the questions in their education, language and pull out of that as much as we can.

 

00:17:00:11 – 00:17:28:14

Greg Porter

And then we use our expertize to push that into architectural form. And we start out essentially what we try to do is we try and group like things or group uses and purposes, and then we start to look at the circulation through a building and how it works. And then we start to ask ourselves how some of those functions start to overlap and interact with one another.

 

00:17:29:01 – 00:18:06:06

Greg Porter

And that’s this space where I think we can be creative. It’s all just everybody went to school, so everybody understands classrooms and corridors and where the principal’s office is. But there’s another layer once you get beyond those things where you can find these really cool I would call them collaborative areas, multi-use areas, flexible areas, areas that can be used for more than one thing simply by reorienting a room, moving a piece of furniture in and out, closing a wall, doing anything like that.

 

00:18:07:07 – 00:18:30:14

Greg Porter

That’s that’s kind of our next step is, is looking at the function and purpose of everything. Once we’ve got we shake out all the pieces, right? I need 15 classrooms. I need 17 toilets for boys. I need 17 toilets for girls, right? Like that Excel spreadsheet of all the things I need in your world that might be, you know, if I’m building a desk, I need a belly drawer.

 

00:18:30:14 – 00:18:48:09

Greg Porter

I need space for some hanging files. I need space for, you know, something else, right? People people who have you build them. A desk could go to OfficeMax and maybe find a desk that kind of works, but they want you to build one that looks the way they want it and functions the way they want it. Right?

 

00:18:48:15 – 00:19:14:15

Brian Benham

Right. Yeah. So like the desk client that I built a couple of months ago, his main thing was that he wanted a center drawer that he could put pencils and rulers and things because that was like his main thing. He had his iPad or whatever, iPod or I whatever. I’m not a Mac user, so I can’t tell you all the things, but it was a notebook and a notebook or whatever and that.

 

00:19:14:15 – 00:19:34:09

Brian Benham

So it didn’t need any kind of special hardware for computer cards or anything like that. But his main thing was that he takes a lot of notes while he’s on conference calls. So he wanted a spot for his notepad and his pens right there in the desk. And then he wanted at least one file for most. Everything’s on the Internet now.

 

00:19:34:23 – 00:19:51:11

Brian Benham

But at least one file drawer. And then the rest of the drawers could just be for storage of clutter or whatever, whatever he wants. So that was my starting point I needed at least to be big enough for one file drawer and a center drawer. And then we built the design around that.

 

00:19:52:11 – 00:20:12:04

Greg Porter

So that would be we would call that programing. That’s our very first step, that Excel spreadsheet. How many square feet? What what are the uses? What does it need to be close to? And then we lay out generally a floor plan. Sometimes it’s a three dimensional kind of cube stacking of how do those spaces relate to each other?

 

00:20:12:04 – 00:20:32:22

Greg Porter

Well, here’s three classrooms they’re going to be second grade. Here’s three classrooms that are going to be third grade. Here’s three classrooms is they’re going to be fourth grade. Do we do we want them on three floors? So it’s second grade, second grade, second grade, or do we want them all next to one another? And that starts to give us what I would call a amassing form of the building.

 

00:20:33:07 – 00:20:55:08

Greg Porter

So that will create this bizarre three dimensional blob of stuff. That’s when. So that would be like schematic design well, here’s how we’re going to walk around these classrooms. Here’s how we’re going to do this. Here’s where admin is, here’s where the public comes in and, you know, here’s where kids eat and go to the gym class. Then we do what’s called design development.

 

00:20:55:16 – 00:21:17:19

Greg Porter

And design development is where we go in and we really start to look at, OK, do these classrooms have doors between them? Do there, you know, is there a teaching wall? Does it face the corridor? You know, the long side of the room? The short side of the room is the room square or rectangular or is it, you know, more trapezoid, all because of the way the sound needs to flow in this room.

 

00:21:18:02 – 00:21:36:22

Greg Porter

Is there an overhead door so that, you know, big spaces can join little spaces? Those types of things are the design and development. And that’s also where we pick out all the colors for the building, all the textures in the carpets. Do we need walk off mat? Do we need, you know, tile in this place? Because there’s going to be a sink.

 

00:21:37:24 – 00:21:58:06

Greg Porter

Is there school identity, big graphics, all of those types of design moves get done in design development from the exterior of the building. You know, is there going to be a canopy outside? OK, if there is, is it going to be stucco? Is it going to be steel panels? Is it going to be, you know, some other crazy translucent thing that lights up at night and has the school mascot on it?

 

00:21:58:14 – 00:22:25:07

Greg Porter

And what we like to say is we like to have most of the decisions, 90% plus of the decisions in the design made at the end of design and development. So that’s that’s that phase. And then the last phase of the project from a design perspective is construction documents. And that’s where we go in and actually detail down to the not built type of level of how all of these things go together.

 

00:22:25:14 – 00:22:49:11

Greg Porter

So I would tell you, you know, the, the cool architecture that you see, most of that coolness is developed in schematic design. That’s where you’re coming up with what is the general concept of the building. But then during design, development, that’s, you know, what is it actually made out of, what color is it actually going to be? And then construction documents is how in the world is this thing going to get held up?

 

00:22:49:20 – 00:23:08:08

Greg Porter

How big is the beam inside? How what size bolts are going to be used to fasten that beam together? You know, all of those little details of it needs to be heated and cooled. What are the vents look like? Where are they, how big and so forth. So and that that doesn’t just involve architects. It involves a lot of engineers.

 

00:23:08:08 – 00:23:34:12

Greg Porter

So structural, mechanical, plumbing electrical. They say that twice electrical, mechanical, plumbing, those all go together. And, you know, sometimes civil engineers, acoustic engineers, there’s there’s a lot of people involved in that design process. So interestingly enough, I mean, the the big contrast here, Brian, is I work in a team of maybe 20 people sometimes. So the pressure’s off a little bit when it comes to design ideas.

 

00:23:34:12 – 00:23:39:00

Greg Porter

You can look around the room and say, who else who else thinks that there should be something different here?

 

00:23:39:06 – 00:23:48:08

Brian Benham

Yeah. There. So now how do you present that? Those color palettes and those things, those textures and all that to the client?

 

00:23:49:02 – 00:24:13:21

Greg Porter

Yeah. We do it a few different ways. Interestingly enough, like I said, we try and we not try. We bring the clients along the entire process. We don’t disappear design a building and come back to them. The design is very conversational. It’s a back and forth, equal parts them, equal parts, us. Obviously we’re putting in the horsepower here to generate what this thing looks like, but they’re there at every turn.

 

00:24:14:08 – 00:24:36:00

Greg Porter

And so we present back to them. You know, sometimes it’s a sketch that we do by hand if it’s if it’s that type of project. And then other times it’s those 3D renderings we mentioned earlier. But when it comes to finishes and things like that, we will bring in piles of samples. I mean, sometimes, you know, it’s too huge or three huge tote bags full of stuff.

 

00:24:36:10 – 00:25:03:24

Greg Porter

And we usually put together multiple concepts for let’s call it an interior finish, schematic design or design development presentation. And we’ll have mood boards. You mentioned that word before we hopped on here. We’ll have mood boards that say, hey, you know, here’s a really tranquil theme that we think, you know, sort of plays off maybe some of the colors of the environment outside of the school, right?

 

00:25:04:05 – 00:25:24:24

Greg Porter

This is the very agricultural type of area rural schools so we’re using some colors of the crops. We’re using some things that we see in nature around here. Or here’s one that we think is is really hip and it’s bright colors. And we want the kids to get excited about being a school or, you know, here’s another one that plays off the school mascot colors or something like that.

 

00:25:25:08 – 00:25:47:08

Greg Porter

So we’ll usually give them I’ll call it three options in most cases of and it’s usually I like to I like to call it we try and hit one in the fairway. Right. Get one that we know they’ll like. And then we try and go either side of that a little bit. Like I say, crazy. But we go outside of the norm to kind of push the limits to see if that’s where they want to go.

 

00:25:47:19 – 00:26:02:16

Greg Porter

And if they don’t want to go there, we show them a mood board. They just like, Whoa, that is way too crazy. Our kids will be jumping out, you know, out of their desks and off the walls and everything else. If we paint at these bright primary colors, we’d like something a little more subtle, a little more adult.

 

00:26:02:16 – 00:26:28:23

Greg Porter

And obviously, as you as you go from very primal school education to middle school to high school, the color palettes, the finishes become a little bit more refined, a little more adult and not quite as I don’t know I don’t know if I’d say crazy, but, you know, kindergartners got to be able to find their way to the classroom a lot of times that’s through color.

 

00:26:29:06 – 00:26:48:24

Greg Porter

So I’m in the yellow corridor. I’m in the yellow hallway where you’re going to paint a lot of things yellow. If you’re in the yellow hallway, you partners walking around. Right. So back to your initial question. How do you present those things? That’s how we do it. So we’ll take photos of all the samples, put them in the boards, organize them into into stacks of things.

 

00:26:48:24 – 00:27:16:14

Greg Porter

So there’s multiple fabrics that might go on the furniture. If there’s multiple laminate finishes that might go on the case work or different types of solid surface or window treatments that we might have paint colors, all of those kind of things. They stack on these on these mood boards that we share and we share those back. And usually there are some very strong opinions from the staff when it comes to those things.

 

00:27:17:01 – 00:27:27:16

Greg Porter

You know, they’ve got to live and work in those environments. So we need to make sure that it’s it meets their needs and doesn’t it doesn’t become an annoyance that it’s something that supports what they’re trying to do.

 

00:27:28:07 – 00:28:06:03

Brian Benham

Yeah. So I go about it very similar, but at a much smaller scale since I’m designing one piece of furniture I think that a good example was a few years ago, I designed a bar cart for a client that was a mining engineer and they wanted this cart to kind of represent their mining engineer. And I didn’t want it to be cheesy, like the baseball in the pocket at the bottom of the aquarium example I mentioned earlier but I went out to the mining museum here in Colorado and I took pictures of mining carts and to kind of get a feel for what they look like and how they were constructed.

 

00:28:06:03 – 00:28:25:18

Brian Benham

So I could build something that actually looked or resembled like this bar cart. And so I took things of the texture how much rust it was where points where you could see where people had grabbed on to that lever or onto the cart to push it or whatever to operate it. And the rivets, what did the rivets look like?

 

00:28:26:07 – 00:28:51:22

Brian Benham

And then just the overall proportions. And I discovered that mining carts are very ugly in their proportions. They’re designed to hold lots of things, not wine. So I had to redesign the proportions. But then I took all those little pictures and then I sent it to the client and then asked them, you know, what they thought about those pictures and what if they liked a lot of rust or if they wanted to be look like it was a brand new cart.

 

00:28:52:04 – 00:29:12:08

Brian Benham

If they like the rivets. And then from there, I would make stain samples for the wood of the aged wood if it was if it was black or grayed out, and also sent them over a rivet that I would use in the cart to make sure that they like the shape of the river and the texturing on that rivet for them to approve.

 

00:29:12:08 – 00:29:20:19

Brian Benham

But that was after the initial pictures that I sent, just so that we’re not wasting a whole bunch of time to kind of narrow down the field a little bit.

 

00:29:21:24 – 00:29:51:15

Greg Porter

Well, it’s is interesting. You mentioned that, you know, getting inspiration from something either a client mentions or that you see in real life. One of the things that we do as a studio that I’ve always done personally and I’ve seen in several studios that I visited has been inspiration boards. And it’s really interesting to see when you visit a designer’s workstation, what they have on their inspiration board.

 

00:29:51:15 – 00:30:34:10

Greg Porter

You know, some people I’m remembering back to when I started my career, if you remember the iMac that came out that looked like almost a piece of candy and how revolutionary that was in computer design. You know, up to that point, everything was very angular and or orthotic, orthotic, orthogonal. Yeah. And and really utilitarian. It was like the case around the monitor was only as big as it needed to be to enclose that big proton beam or whatever the hell that thing is that the shot, the picture, you know, but all of a sudden the designers at Apple said, Oh, we’re going to do this iMac.

 

00:30:34:10 – 00:31:06:09

Greg Porter

And, and how many people had images like that on their inspiration boards? Because that was the language that everybody wanted to speak in this, you know, injection molded plastic, colorful, cool, translucent thing but I can tell you on my inspiration boards, I almost always have a few cool cars that are out because I think the lines and the way that car designers approach, form and shape, it has to be aerodynamic.

 

00:31:06:09 – 00:31:27:00

Greg Porter

It has to be functional. It has to look cool. It has to reflect light a certain way that makes sure I look at certain parts of the vehicle and then I I always call the headlights the window to the soul. They’re just like eyeballs, right? When you when you look at the headlights to a car, how much you see and and the same can be true about buildings.

 

00:31:27:00 – 00:31:52:11

Greg Porter

When you look in the front door, that can be the window into the building. So but it’s interesting, again, when you visit designers from all different types of industrial designers to car designers to airplane designers, building designers, you name it. And you take a look at those inspiration boards, the type of photos that’ll be on there. And of course, I always have some cool architecture that’s on there.

 

00:31:53:10 – 00:32:19:22

Greg Porter

But then there’s usually shoes that I think are cool or clothes that I think are cool, you know, new trends in in whatever it is. And part of it is staying up with just what designers are doing. But then it’s also texture and its color and how things are put together. I think all of those things when you’re generating new design ideas, those are things to draw from.

 

00:32:20:04 – 00:32:47:01

Greg Porter

I’ve seen a crash. One of my guilty pleasures. Brian used to be watching Project Runway where it’s clothing designers, right, in a competition. But one of the pieces that I that still sticks with me today, one of the contestants made a dress that was based off the Chrysler Center in New York. And it was such a cool way to abstract a piece of clothing.

 

00:32:47:09 – 00:32:59:17

Greg Porter

And that stuck with me as a designer that you can get inspiration from anywhere for anything you just have to be able to, in your mind, abstract it to the thing that you’re trying to build.

 

00:33:00:17 – 00:33:12:02

Brian Benham

Yeah, I would have never thought that Project Runway would have been a guilty pleasure because I thought for like the week in Car Show or something like that would have been.

 

00:33:12:24 – 00:33:36:24

Greg Porter

Well, let’s be perfectly clear. I’ll watch Horsepower TV all day long, but every once in a while and, and, and, you know, to kind of dove deeper into that one, one of the big reasons I watched Project Runway is because of Tim Gunn, who was he was a professor at Algaes I can’t remember the name of the design school.

 

00:33:37:16 – 00:34:01:17

Greg Porter

It’s escaping me now. But his ability to criticize design is second to none. He has such a fast eye for what’s right with something and what’s wrong with something. And I learned from him watching him criticize, work, how to dissect a design in the quickest amount of time possible. And it’s it’s a skill that you have to develop over time.

 

00:34:01:23 – 00:34:04:14

Greg Porter

And he is second to none yeah.

 

00:34:04:14 – 00:34:24:22

Brian Benham

Critical critical feedback is very important when you’re designing things. If you design in a vacuum, you’re not pulling in any kind of anybody else’s opinion. And it’s it’s going to probably be a flat design. It’s not really going to pop as much as it could. I could see Project Runway being something that would also help keep your design.

 

00:34:24:22 – 00:34:34:14

Brian Benham

I current like these are the current styles or are constantly challenging it because there’s always some new fancy dress that’s over the top or whatever.

 

00:34:35:03 – 00:34:58:08

Greg Porter

Yeah. And it wasn’t, you know, I didn’t watch it for the fashion. That’s, that’s not what I was in it for. It was, it was the different construction techniques in the and the different problem solving, and it’s popping into my mind. Tim Gunn was a professor at Parsons was the school that he was a professor at. But yeah, I mean, I think, you know, as a designer you can learn from anything and you have to be open and receptive to that.

 

00:34:58:14 – 00:35:11:14

Greg Porter

Again, most people would not believe that was one of my guilty pleasures if I missed it. I didn’t cry or anything like that, but I did think there was a lot to glean from that criticism that I saw on the TV show. For sure.

 

00:35:12:05 – 00:35:19:21

Brian Benham

Some something helpful to push your challenge, your design thinking, I guess, would be a good way to put the the reason for the interest in it.

 

00:35:20:15 – 00:35:21:11

Greg Porter

Yeah, for sure.

 

00:35:21:11 – 00:35:51:06

Brian Benham

Solutely So I have another question for it. I want to kind of go back a little bit back to the architecture, designing the schools. A while ago, I was watching something on or maybe I was reading an article, but this city was did a study where they would paint have street artists, paint walls in the city or in alleyways where there is a lot of crime or a lot of graffiti to try to deter people from graffiti on it.

 

00:35:51:06 – 00:36:23:08

Brian Benham

Because maybe, maybe one graffiti artist would paint over another graffiti artist stuff. They’d show them a little bit of respect and also to get people to come into these other areas that had fallen in disrespect. And I can’t think of the word I’m thinking of disrepair of the city. And they found that these murals in these areas of these cities in these alleyways did deter a lot of not only graffiti artists, but also crime like the crime level in those areas went down.

 

00:36:23:15 – 00:36:34:01

Brian Benham

So when you’re designing a school, do you pick colors to try to spur creative thinking or a learning environment, that kind of thing?

 

00:36:35:01 – 00:37:06:24

Greg Porter

Yeah, interestingly enough, there are when we look at how the brain develops and we start there. One of the partners that I have at work, she’s the Ph.D. in education, and she’s also an architect. So she has a very deep understanding of brain development and what that means for her, for that the student and what it means for the designer to try and support that development.

 

00:37:07:11 – 00:37:42:10

Greg Porter

So yes, there are certain ages where we’re trying to encourage sensory exploration, so we’re trying to put in front of the students colors, textures, things that feel different, that are weighted different, whether that’s the carpet they’re walking on, whether that’s the colors on the wall or the things that they can touch as they go by. I mean, everybody remembers in grade school having some masonry block wall and running your finger in the crack of the way long, right?

 

00:37:42:19 – 00:38:10:17

Greg Porter

Yeah. And and that is as strange as that seems to think about it. That’s part of the development of your brain is taking in that sensory information and being able to process it into into some other level of understanding and it’s the reason as adults were drawn to spaces, right? There’s the clean white box, dry wall that we all walk into on a daily basis.

 

00:38:10:17 – 00:38:39:09

Greg Porter

Right. And it’s, you know, I’m in it now and and we’ve all walked into that room that has I’m going to say wood paneling, but I don’t mean the stuff from the seventies and eighties, I mean real wood paneling with texture, whether that’s gloss or whether that’s rough and or, you know, corrugated metal or whatever it is and how much how much more we enjoy being in those spaces because they’re not antiseptic.

 

00:38:39:09 – 00:39:05:00

Greg Porter

And that that all goes back to those memories that we formed as young kids in school. There are also, I mentioned earlier, you know, we don’t want to go too crazy with the colors in some areas because if you do, it does it brings an energy level up. But when you look at color at a gymnasium or an aquatic center in a high school, you want those kids amped.

 

00:39:05:24 – 00:39:30:06

Greg Porter

So you don’t want to be putting powder blue on the wall. You want to be putting bright red or whatever it is. You want those energetic colors and you want those really bold graphics to stand out. And when I say graphics, that can be, you know, a logo or printed thing, but it can also be I think, again, we’ve all experienced you know, the cafeteria with the racing stripes around it, right?

 

00:39:30:19 – 00:40:00:03

Greg Porter

We’ve all been in that weird 1970s or eighties decorated space, but you can make these really bold architectural moves that maybe there’s pie plasters on a wall that are really bold colors that sink back into, you know, a field that’s very neutral and those bold colors become a graphic. So it’s, it’s the architecture being expressed as the graphic and some of those things absolutely are very intentional.

 

00:40:00:22 – 00:40:23:08

Greg Porter

And others, you know, sometimes there’s a hey, we only have the budgeted to do it accent color and in every room on one wall. So it’s going to be white and fill in the blank. And sometimes we let the teachers pick those colors and sometimes we let students pack those colors. I feel like in the construction process, paint is about the cheapest part of the whole thing.

 

00:40:23:16 – 00:40:30:21

Greg Porter

So let’s have fun with the color if we can and and if it’s a poor choice, we can always change it. And it’s not that expensive.

 

00:40:30:24 – 00:40:55:14

Brian Benham

Yeah, that’s a pretty cheap way out. There is a study done where interrogation rooms or booking rooms where the police would bring people the book they painted, I can’t remember what color it was. Maybe it was like a light purple or something. And they put them in this room to to calm them down before they booked them or process them because then they’re more docile to, to be processed out.

 

00:40:56:05 – 00:41:09:06

Brian Benham

Yeah, there’s all kinds of studies. I’ve gone down weird rabbit holes. Like, if you’re really into math as part of your job, you’d want low ceilings but if you’re really into creativity, you want really high ceilings. So.

 

00:41:09:16 – 00:41:35:22

Greg Porter

Yeah, and, and there’s absolutely I mean, one of the, one of the subgroups that we design for are our kids with special needs. And special needs is a very broad scope it can be physical special needs, it can be mental special needs, it can be developmental special needs. So this person learns at a different rate and needs a different environment.

 

00:41:36:10 – 00:42:12:09

Greg Porter

And what’s really interesting about some of those students and the design that we have to do is some students have issues with contrast. So large contrast can actually create physical barriers for them. So if you can imagine in floor tile that there’s a white field and then there’s a really dark blue inset navy in the middle of this big floor area, and they will have physical issues crossing those contrast barriers.

 

00:42:12:19 – 00:42:35:21

Greg Porter

And so we get into looking at spaces, what the student body is going to be like and making sure that the finishes that we’ve designed for those subgroups are appropriate and that they’re not going to create barriers that don’t need to be there is it’s very simple to to avoid those types of things. But if you don’t know about them, you can put up barriers for people.

 

00:42:35:21 – 00:42:40:10

Greg Porter

And it’s, it’s, it’s another layer of sensitivity as a designer we have to be aware of.

 

00:42:40:23 – 00:43:07:08

Brian Benham

Yeah. That’s not even necessarily special needs. I think a lot of us are stopped by barriers. I know talking to a lot of other makers, there’s always a barrier. If it’s behind a drawer or a door in a cabinet, the tool that I need, it’s like I don’t want I’m going to use this one. That’s not as good as that one because I don’t want to have to go through that mental anguish of opening that door to get that tool.

 

00:43:07:08 – 00:43:24:07

Brian Benham

And it’s like, I feel like I’m crazy, but I totally have that problem too. Like, Oh, I’ll just use this instead because I don’t like so I’m building a shot cabinets right now that will have no doors. They’re all just going to be each tool is going to be right there accessible, or at least the ones that I use the most.

 

00:43:24:14 – 00:43:29:16

Greg Porter

I think Adam Savage had the quote, Drawers are where tools go to die.

 

00:43:30:01 – 00:43:35:01

Brian Benham

Yeah, I think so. He has something that’s called the first order of retrieval, I think is what he calls it.

 

00:43:35:01 – 00:43:56:08

Greg Porter

But yeah, I watched a video where he made this a I think it was a A-frame cart that had like thousands of pliers and screwdrivers. It’s like every, every hand tool that you could ever want was was on this big thing. And it seemed that to me was overwhelming because it would it would be tough to locate those favorites.

 

00:43:56:08 – 00:44:22:01

Greg Porter

Right. Like it could get mixed in. But I can I can totally I I have toolboxes in my garage, and the top drawer of those toolboxes is very useful. The other drawers, not so much. I would much rather have and I do have a lot of my tools, my my open ended, closed in wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, those types of things are all out.

 

00:44:22:05 – 00:44:46:20

Greg Porter

Where I can just reach and grab them rather than having to dig through a drawer to get them. Yeah, well, that’s that’s a little bit off topic in terms of generating design ideas. Or how do you iterate? But I guess kind of thinking, think it through a little bit. Brian, is there any other big thing that you do during your design process to help generate those new ideas?

 

00:44:48:04 – 00:45:15:24

Brian Benham

Oh, I think we’ve pretty well covered most of the basic things. So I interrogate the client as best I can to to pull out as much information from them. And then also just just small talk to I was at a client’s house a few weeks ago and she had this little bird sitting in the windowsill and I’m designing some floating shelves and things for this room and a few other pieces.

 

00:45:15:24 – 00:45:38:01

Brian Benham

But I was measuring the windows and she just jokingly said, Oh, make sure you get the Buddha in your drawing. And I was like, OK. So I found a Buddha drawing on the SketchUp 3D Warehouse, and I set it in the windowsill and sent it, and I built I labeled it Buddha for scale. And she just thought that was I think that’s like one of the things that really closed the deal.

 

00:45:38:01 – 00:45:56:04

Brian Benham

Like, the show’s paying attention to the things that I’m talking about and willing to joke with me. And so, yeah, so those kind of those kind of things just making small talk to get to know your client and what they, what they like and what their personality is kind of really helps find your way into your design and into your presentations.

 

00:45:56:16 – 00:46:08:09

Brian Benham

And then my other big thing is just iterating on past experiences and tooling and skills that I’ve developed and then try to move them to the next level to push myself to try something new.

 

00:46:08:12 – 00:46:46:20

Greg Porter

Yeah, I, I would agree. I think, I think for me the last one that you said is take all of that experience that you’ve had and every time you touch the next thing, try and make it one better than the last. Yeah, for sure. You know, when you look at your entire life’s work and you count the projects that you’ve been able to work on and it’s not that many and you know, maybe it’s a couple hundred and, you know, being able to, to consistently ratchet it up, you know, by the time you get to project two or 300 or 400 or however many it is for you, the fact that that number 400 is

 

00:46:46:20 – 00:46:55:02

Greg Porter

going to be 400 steps is an improvement above number one I think is such a cool thing that we get to do as designers.

 

00:46:55:02 – 00:47:17:01

Brian Benham

Yeah. And design isn’t, isn’t easy. So many people ask me what my design process is and my process is really just a whole bunch of failures until I feel like I finally got one right, I can just sit there and draw now that doesn’t look right. I’ll try another idea and I’ll draw it out now that doesn’t look right and just keep doing that until something hits or till the client says, I like that one.

 

00:47:17:01 – 00:47:31:17

Brian Benham

And then you’re like, OK, I finally have a direction to go, but there’s no real process of of an easy way just to, like, stamp it out, right? It’s just there’s always just a process of failure until one of them hits.

 

00:47:32:13 – 00:47:57:01

Greg Porter

Yeah. I mean, you’ve mentioned that there’s no there’s no process to stamp them out. I have met designers who try and and have that formula. And almost every person I’ve ever seen do that is is not good because they’re not pushing themselves. Right. They’re going back to the same thing that worked before in my work a time or two or three or four.

 

00:47:57:08 – 00:48:05:22

Greg Porter

But at some point, you’re going to run out of, you know, run that that well out of water and it’s going to go dry for you and you’ll have nowhere else to turn.

 

00:48:07:01 – 00:48:31:24

Brian Benham

Yeah. Or the people that design for maximizing profit. I’m sure you see in the architecture industry, all of the houses that are all the same. There’s a a show on Netflix, I think it’s called Weed, but the theme song starts out little boxes on the hillside little boxes all the same little boxes made of ticky tacky. They’re all the same.

 

00:48:32:09 – 00:49:01:05

Brian Benham

Is that I think that’s something like the lyrics of that. So yeah, if it’s still on Netflix, it was a great show, but the theme song was the best part of the show for me, just because I related to that thinking, Yeah, that’s so true. When I drive down the street and all the houses are all designed the same and they had their little process to make them slightly different, like this one will have a brick facade, this one will have green ship, lap tape or half lap type facade.

 

00:49:01:05 – 00:49:11:03

Brian Benham

This one will have siding t111 on it. And but it’s the same exact thing. It’s just a different put different clothes on it, put different color makeup on it.

 

00:49:11:18 – 00:49:38:24

Greg Porter

Yeah, yeah. Now we see a lot of that yeah. Yeah. Oh, at one point in my career, I helped an architect do prototype Taco Bell. Woo! I had that was a money generator, but it was it would eat your soul nothing against Taco Bell. But, man, once you’ve done one, that’s enough. You don’t need to do 50 of them.

 

00:49:39:06 – 00:49:44:07

Brian Benham

You just need to make that formula fit the fit, the space, the site plan, huh?

 

00:49:44:16 – 00:50:11:15

Greg Porter

That’s exactly it. We have this many square feet. We need this many cars to stack and start now. So anyway, well, well, cool. It was great discussing how we generate design ideas. I think each one of us do it slightly different, but there’s definitely a lot of overlap in terms of how how you get started and then how you develop those ideas in the final pieces.

 

00:50:12:05 – 00:50:15:17

Brian Benham

Yeah, absolutely. So should we end it here for this evening?

 

00:50:16:07 – 00:50:16:22

Greg Porter

Yeah.

 

00:50:17:04 – 00:50:27:01

Brian Benham

All right. I’m Brian Benham, and you can find me, right? Brian Benham, AECOM has links to all my YouTube channels and Instagrams and all of that. And you are?

 

00:50:27:17 – 00:50:36:08

Greg Porter

I am Greg Porter. You can find my information at Greg’s Garage. KC Dot com or Skyscraper Guitars dot com.

 

00:50:36:20 – 00:50:45:10

Brian Benham

All right. And if you can’t remember all of that, just go to the Makers Quest dot com our website for our podcasts and we’ll have all those links there for you.

 

 

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