I was once involved in a big theatrical installation for a commercial brand in London. They'd overtaken and entire warehouse to showcase the reveal of their latest product.  

When you're involved in the making and production of these huge events, there's a lot to learn because you're dealing with real, phisical things. Usually, my role doesn't overflow into this stage of the design process, but I find that the combination of having the ability to visualise the real thing and seing it built, multiplies my understanding of so many other things.

In this case, amongst the other great things I learnt, one simple lesson stood out. As always I like to look at these lessons from many different points of views, so the lesson sticks. I learnt about the importance of dependencies.

Right in the middle of the building process, something went wrong, which created a knock on effect on the majority of the build. In theory nothing went wrong, but in reality it did. 

Two crucial elements of the design were misplaced by about a metre, which is big. The two elements had to be installed by to different contractors, who had to depend on each other to place the elements correctly. The first contractor regarded his element as not that important in the grand scheme of things, so he 'roughly' placed it and left the site. The second contractor had to depend on the first element in order place his element correctly. Of course if the first element is misplaced and is the point of reference for the second, the whole thing is wrong. 

This small error took us many painful hours to correct. So the moral of the lesson was, look out for the elements on which other elements depend on. In architecture, structural elements are often the main points of reference. I have heard many stories about deleted structural elements in the design process that lead to disasters.

Of course I can generalise on this point. Many things around us are pillars from which other things depend on, from design, to activities and even stories. So if in doubt, look for dependencies.


In conversation: The wise man

 Somewhere in London (2006)


*...yes but just telling people doesn't mean much. You need a whole philosophy behind what you say. It's important.

**So why do we have so many books on the same subject from different point of views? And what about TV and radio and stuff like that?

*You said you liked philosophy...

**Yeah only because it sounds good.

*Haha! Ok... Basically you use philosophy to convince yourself about the action you take. That's the simplest way I can put it. It doesn't replace your actions but it can seriously motivate you to do the right thing... You understand?

**Mmmm yeah I guess I can see what you mean.

*If you have a decision to make and you had a few courses of actions available to you to choose from, if you're guided by a sound philosophy you won't have a problem deciding which course of action to take. But if your philosophy isn't grounded on truth you will take a while to decide what to do, and you may even have to consult others for their opinions. That's when things get messy.

**...Do you use philosophy for everything you do then?

*Yeah of course. I'd like to think that I don't have to tell anybody what my philosophy of life is... They can just see it in the actions I take and the things I say.

*You're an artist, right?

**Mmmm more like a designer

* Same difference...Which means you conceive and make things, correct?

**Yeah you can say that

*Ok so you must have a philosophy for making beautiful things...

**See, that's where I get lost... I find it hard to make the connection between those two things. They sound like they belong to totally different realms of thought. Philosophy is for the 'wise'. Design is just design I guess.

*Right.... You can't make the connection... Ok let's try this... When you make something, you begin with an idea yeah?

**Yeah... usually more than one.

*Right, so amongst those ideas, isn't there usually one that is better than the others?

**Yeah usually there is.

*And how do you know that's the best idea?

**Well it's a mixture of my gut feeling and the requirements for the project I guess...

*Ok... So that, what you just said, is your philosophy when it come to making things.

**That's it?

*That it. It doesn't give you all the answers, but it's a guide to what decisions you make. Like a compass. And the more accurate your compass is, the better you become at making those decisions. It's not easy.

**Ok, I can understand that... And how do you make your compass more accurate?

*That should be obvious to you but we'll talk about that later. I need to head home young man! I'll see you later...

*Ok cool, see you later....