architecture blog

Idea Sources, Idea Places

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 @ 11:04 AM

While many of our ideas are generated in the office during design sessions, great ideas often come from unconventional sources and in non-professional settings.

Here are some of my favorite idea sources and places:

While trying to sleep

You're in bed, frustrated, trying to sleep while your mind churns out ideas. Are they all good ideas? No, but some of them may be genius. Genius because you're too tired to see that they will probably fail. When fully conscious you may dismiss these ideas before they reach their potential.

The Shower (or bath)

You've showered many times before. The routine is clear. Your hair practically washes itself. So this frees you up for some quality thinking - no distractions and no other people (unless you're lucky). Think of it as a warm-water-idea-isolation-chamber.

The Inexperienced

My first few years out of architecture school, I knew little of how buildings are really built. This led me to try outlandish things that a more experienced designer would reject because it wasn't the norm. Many firms thrive this way. Young, fresh ideas balanced with older and more experienced professionals to keep things in check.

Although I've since gained experience, I still like to step into that naiveté every once in a while.

People Outside Your Industry

Most of my friends work outside of the architecture world. They keep me in check. When I tell them what I'm up to, they're quick to point out what doesn't make sense to them about my industry. These industry shortcomings so ignored within the profession are so obvious to outsiders.  Are these opportunities?


Up to a certain age, kids don't care what peoplethink of them. They will play in the middle of a department store as if no one is around. Imagine if you could think like that for just aminute, forgetting what people may think of your crazy idea.

Just Walking Around

I live in Los Angeles. It's not known as a walking city, but that doesn't stop me. Walking speed allows me to take things in - not just the buildings, but how people interact with the city. A ten minute walk can yield many ideas for how the city can be improved and, surprisingly, what is already working.

Long Solo Drive

Not the kind in traffic. The open highway, headed to a destination kind. Ideas can flow here just like the shower example, except without the warm water.


Do you have any favorite sources or places for ideas?

Tags: Inspiration, Architectual Practice, architecture resources