Design Originality

Posted: April 22, 2015 by Chynniegal in Architecture, Design, Opinions
Tags: , , ,

Every Architect strives to produce an original design. How original can a design really be? I hear people say a design isn’t original and i always wonder what in this world is really original. Before i proceed, what is originality? Originality can be defined as the ability to think independently and creatively. Lets pick the word independently, i do not know of any Architect who thinks independently when designing. We are accustomed to doing a research of a project before designing, this is done during the conceptual stage, the actual design process – when you are trying to be creative. It is normal to pick one or two ideas from similar projects and introduce in the project you are working on. Quote-about-originalityThis happens also in the fashion industry, design features are seen re-occurring in the runway from different fashion designers. Even back in school of Architecture, it was compulsory to have case studies for every design project. You cant face a jury without having had a detailed analysis of your case study. This simply means you can’t design independently, so this brings me back to how original can ones concept/idea/design be?

We can NOT learn, we can’t help but gather information, we don’t live in a vacuum. As designers we collect resources; we digest them and learn from them, and then re-use them. This is the essence of being a designer. But do we have to be original too? – James Norton.


tumblr_m9i7usAHeU1rnvzfwo1_1280From the onset of Architecture, there has been a reuse of elements and characters even design features. I agree with those who say that Originality is just a cliche. For something to be original then it has to offer something that has never existed before and fulfills a need or want that has not yet been known. The pursuit of Originality can actually be detrimental to your design. What most Clients wants most at times is a wow design, a breath taking design. You would hardly see a client asking for something original, maybe something unique – yes. Most Clients go as far as telling you what they want in their project using already built projects as an example, or a picture of an existing project on the Internet. If something is truly original then surely it bears no relevance to what surrounds it or what has preceded it? In order for design to be functional and usable it has to fill a need or desire based on certain human factors. If something is designed that is truly original then a desire will have to be found for it. To invent something original you must then invent the need.


What we should be more concerned about is how creative we are. How have you been able to in-corporate a design idea/feature into your design without the feel of it being copied. Have you been able to use it better in your design. The word should be how innovative are you and not how original. Innovation – not originality – is the key. Innovation strives to make things new and push things forward in an ‘original’ way. Norman Foster buildings are innovative in form, structure and environmental control but still they are only buildings and buildings have been founded since the beginning of time from a desire to shelter, settle or farm.


Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to. – Jim Jarmusch.


Ref:, James Norton, Associate, MET studio design.


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