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Interior Design: Reflecting on your work

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

As tutors, I realise we ask you to reflect on your work and your feedback a lot. Thinking back on my own experience, being asked to reflect on my own work was often the last thing I wanted to add to my constantly growing to do list as a student. 

However, it quickly became apparent that this idea of reflecting on one’s work is actually something I’d need to do for the rest of my career as a designer. In reality, deeply considering your own work, doesn’t give you something extra and unuseful to do. In reality, it makes your next project better (and sometimes easier!), and the one after that, even better (and even easier!). The cumulative effects of consistently reflecting on your work gives you the opportunity to make you more effective and more efficient in your own design process.

What do we mean by reflection

So if you’re all for easier and better design work, what do we actually mean by reflecting?

reflection noun (THOUGHT)

serious and careful thought

Cambridge Dictionary. 2022. Reflection. [online] Available at: <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/reflection> [Accessed 27 May 2022].

Holding a figurative mirror up to something, be it a design, a drawing, your own process, your own design proposals, means you can examine it and give it serious thought. This level of consideration is something that is hard to do when you’re in the middle of the process. 

But afterwards, when you can view the work from a different perspective, you actually have an opportunity to actually assess your own work, what went well, what went wrong, and what you would do differently next time. 

How do you reflect

All creatives benefit from reflecting on their work. OCA’s own assessment guidance asks all students to consider questions like: What were your expectations at the start of your unit? How have you responded to tutor feedback? What hurdles have you faced, and how have you responded? What do you think you have learned as a whole?

For interior design tasks, projects, and proposals, it can be helpful to set out some more specific questions. Think about what you were asked to do (this can apply to both coursework and future professional work!) and what questions will be most beneficial in considering your work. 

Here’s some starter questions I like to use to consider design work:

  • What was the brief and to what level of success does the outcome meet this brief?
  • What was a relatively easy part of the process? Why? 
  • What was a relatively challenging part of the process? Why? 
  • How does the communication of the design work compared to what I’m imagining in my head? Did/do people understand it? 
    • Could I have made more technical drawings, better technical drawings, or different technical drawings? How?
    • Could I have made more visualisations, better visualisations, or different visualisations? How?
    • Could I have better explained the process? How?
  • What’s the best part of the design proposal? What’s the worst part of the design proposal? Why? 
  • How can I repeat my successes and improve upon my weaknesses?

Think about how you could structure questions to make the process of reflecting on your work easy and straightforward.

I also recommend students to keep in mind that while reflection is all about serious thought, don’t overthink it. Reflection is all about your opinions and your conclusions based on your work. There’s no right answer, nor is there a wrong answer besides ‘no answer’.

Even a simple pros and cons list of a project, followed by a list of what you’d do next time, can be an incredibly helpful and beneficial means of reflecting. This is because it means you’re articulating specifically how to make progress in your own design practice.

Why is reflection so important

I’ve witnessed award-winning spatial designers standing within their own designs, identifying details and features that they wish they had considered differently. Or earlier ideas they wish they had fought harder for. Or ideas they wish they had refined further. Or drawings they wish had been clearer to make the outcome more exact-to-the-vision. 

Now there’s a fine line between a healthy critical review of your own work and an unhealthy one – so don’t criticise your own work to the point you can’t recognise its strengths!

But simply looking at your work and thinking about what could have been done to make it better is how you’ll be able to make those changes or adjustments within the process of the next project. An effective reflection of your work can lead to your future work to: 

  • Being more considerate and empathetic designs fit for purpose
  • Having more efficient and effective design processes
  • Having more efficient and effective communications
  • Creating more time and energy to devote to developing and iterating creative solutions
  • Allowing more time and energy to devote to improving existing skills and developing new ones 

All that to say, I promise reflection is not an unnecessary addition to your to-do list. 

In many ways, it can be one of the most important things you do as both a student and a professional designer. It enables you to continue to grow and develop both as a creative and professional. 

So what questions will you be asking yourself, the next time you reflect? 

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Posted by author: Audrey Bardwell
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