Repurposing Architecting Skills: Design as Decision Making

Design as Decision Making is the seventh in the series unpacking how architects might use their intrinsic architectural skills to not just to make architecture but to do better in their practice of architecture.

The design process is a decision making process but do architects make all their important decisions by design?

Effective decision making is a process. A process with clear steps and like design, the outcome of the decision is not guaranteed.

  • Effective decision making starts with a level of uncertainty.
  • In response to uncertainty options are generated. They might be obvious, risky, extreme, complex or any combination. Options aren’t actually risky until they’re taken. So important to put everything down.
  • An evaluation process of options follows. Assessing them in comparison to some boundaries or values that have been determined.
  • Feedback may be sought about various or all options, further informing the options and decision.
  • All information gathered is weighted to evaluate options via direct comparison, including all additional analysis of the conditions and context necessary.
  • An ultimate option and decision is then determined.

Sounds like design, right?

Design is a series of applied decisions.

As an architect you really should have all the tools that you need for a good decision making process. There are areas of divergence worthy of your curiosity…

For a design project typically there’s a client and there’s often a deadline, driving the process to conclusion. Without these drivers, some people can be paralysed by the decision making process and fail to make a decision. Not making a decision is still a decision.

Emotion should not be discounted in design and particularly in decision making. Making decisions objectively when emotional attachment is involved can be challenging. The design process has tactics for dispassion, it’s worth considering how they might also be brought into the decision making process. You don’t need to make decision alone, for example.

Decision making can be risky. The outcome is not guaranteed. The decision can only be based on the best possible data available at that moment in time. There are externalities that may be out of your control. Every decision involves some degree of risk.

It’s always worth asking as many questions as possible.

“To create one must first question everything.”

Eileen Gray

Start here.

Then begin on making an important decision.


Previous posts in the Repurposing Architecting Skills series

Designing PossibilityFail and IterateMemory and Research, Critical Thinking, Design as Improvisation, Assimilation of the Design Brief


Do you need support in making an important or difficult decision? Please feel free to drop me a line. I’m here to support you in building a better practice, forging better human and professional skills, and developing architectural leadership.


Image by Ben Lodge on Pexels [cropped]

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