Deprecated: Array and string offset access syntax with curly braces is deprecated in /www/wp-content/plugins/astra-addon/admin/bsf-core/auto-update/admin-functions.php on line 11 My Design Thinking Process – Boggs Bench

My Design Thinking Process

I received this question in episode 2 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:

What is your design thinking process? Do you think only in comfort or aesthetics, and is sustainability a part of your process?

This really opens up a huge arena that I think by itself would fill a book, but briefly, the design process that I use is pretty organic and I would call it fairly holistic in that there’s not any one thing separated out from it. It’s easier to talk about this from a chair standpoint. Tables and desks are a lot simpler. There’s more of an aesthetic focus. The structure is a lot easier to address because the demands are not nearly as high as the demands in a chair, but in a chair, I do start every design working over a framework that I know, that has the basic lines that ensure comfort and a floor design. You know, the way the chair attaches or connects to the floor, that base has to be big enough and that’s a starting point for playing around with whatever lines I want to add to create a different feel.

This really opens up a huge arena that I think by itself would fill a book, but briefly, the design process that I use is pretty organic and I would call it fairly holistic in that there’s not any one thing separated out from it. It’s easier to talk about this from a chair standpoint. Tables and desks are a lot simpler. There’s more of an aesthetic focus. The structure is a lot easier to address because the demands are not nearly as high as the demands in a chair, but in a chair, I do start every design working over a framework that I know, that has the basic lines that ensure comfort and a floor design. You know, the way the chair attaches or connects to the floor, that base has to be big enough and that’s a starting point for playing around with whatever lines I want to add to create a different feel.

My chair designs generally are not client-driven, they’re things that I just find. They come to me, and when they do I try to catch them, and I’ll catch them by sketching, usually gesture drawings, and they don’t have much to do with joinery, they don’t have much to do with structure. They will follow my own sense of comfort lines, but initially, the idea is to capture a feeling that I’m feeling when I take the design in or when an idea comes to me. There’s something in there that I want to capture. It’s not a specific line. It’s not a specific idea. It’s not joinery. It’s just this vague sense of something, and gesture drawings are for me, a real helpful way of finding my way through that fog and as I start to refine the form a little bit, then I can make sense of joinery which is the engineering or structure of the process, the strength of the process or the piece, but the comfort is something that I was able to capture years ago in a format or a formula that is not longer something I have to search for. It’s something that we use the same form in every piece.

I think that if you start out a design with a structure or if you start a design out just with comfort in mind, or at least, when that is my process, I more often get stuck. I find myself sort of boxed into a corner that I can’t get out of. It’s when I let go of everything and just let lines flow and play around with one thing, set it aside, play around with another and eventually sort of feel my way through to find something that feels like it’s going to work. But the most important thing for me, whichever aspect I’m working with at any moment, is to keep it as a listening process rather than a thinking process. By that I mean, creativity is not something that comes from us. It’s something that happens in our lives or it’s something that comes to us or through us, but we don’t generate it, and if we think we’re generating it, we’re not going to be allowing really good creativity to happen, so that’s the key. Whatever problem with it or whatever aspect of it you are focusing on in any moment, keeping it fluid, keeping it open and keeping it a listening process, I think is the key to making something really beautiful and something that feels natural.

Every design that I do, I try to make it a natural design, and by that I mean, it’s inspired by nature, it is inspired by the tree itself, and every tree is designed structurally, beautifully. The structure, the need for the tree to receive nutrients, all of those things are incorporated in a way that’s beautiful. They’re not compromising each other. The need for structure doesn’t compromise the beauty. The need for getting nutrition up the stems don’t compromise anything else, so I don’t think there’s any reason why comfort or strength or aesthetics has to compromise any other aspect of a chair design. I don’t think a chair needs to look like a tree, but I think it needs to look naturally like a chair, so that everything flows together and works and makes sense, and I think you’re more likely to come about a design where all of that does work together, if you listen more than think in the process.

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