FAQ you

Alicia VelazquezComment

dear designer: are you questioning enough?

photo © Timothy Soar

photo © Timothy Soar

I realized through years of practice that there is often a dissociation between how architects believe design affects people, and how people actually feel, and end up reacting to it. 

Do you stop to realize how different it feels standing in a doctor's waiting room or in nature? What are the material elements that compose each particular atmosphere? How and why do they arouse distinct feelings? Even though they are difficult to verbalize, materiality brings huge differences in how we perceive, receive and welcome - or not - being in the place. 

Is it the combination of materials? Their color? Texture? Scent? Can one "killer" material make the experience pleasurable or unbearable?

Here are some basic questions to test your sense-ability as designer

  • Do you try enough?

Do you record how each material, color and form affects your own body? How often are you accepting preconceived ideas on materiality perception?
(Here's my invitation to) 
Action: touch everything you encounter: hug walls and posts, touch textures, expand your sensorial recording beyond the visual. Observe, experience, collect, record and document how materials and textures make you feel.

  • Do you repeat yourself?

Do you dare to test new material combinations? It is not just about knowing what are the newest materials in the market, as sometimes engaging textures come from very familiar objects. 
Action: be playful with your material samples, and go "material hunting". Try mixing, pairing, manipulating, shifting, twisting, allow materials to "speak".

  • Do you test? 

Do you wonder why the materiality of a certain place seems to engage while others don't? How much time do you spend testing the places you design (or others design), to understand the effects in your own person, body and perception? 
Action: move around with eager eyes, open your ears and your skin. Identify (soft) differences.

  • Who do you design for? 

Are you designing for yourself, for your users or for your peers? Is your ego pushing for solutions?  
Action: when posting an idea, stop shortly to ask yourself: whom is this for?

  • Do you ask?

Do you ever ask people how do they feel in the places that you design, and why? How often do you observe how people react to places? 
Action: if you know your (future) user, ask, listen, talk to him/her. if you don't, you may study similar personalities, position yourself in their skin, try to feel what they would like to feel when being there.


Questioning is a first step to understanding our current reality, and pursuing a new, expanded reality.