Architecture Profession post COVID

The Indispensable Importance of Experience

…So a patron of the arts walks into Picasso’s studio and requests a painting of a chicken.  The patron and the master artist come to an agreement and the patron leaves.  A month later, on the agreed date of completion, the patron returns only to find that the painting hasn’t even been started.  Concerned, the patron asks the artist why the painting isn’t finished, at which point Picasso picks up a brush, dips it into the paints on his palette and quickly but intentionally brushes several strokes onto a blank canvas that form the image of a chicken.  Picasso proudly hands the painting to the bewildered patron.  As the expression on the patron’s face turns from surprise to disappointment, Picasso opens a door to a back room and invites the patron in.  Once inside the room the patron finds himself amongst live chickens, dead chickens, whole chickens, parts of chickens, chicken legs hanging from the ceiling, chicken feet dissected on the countertop, every practical dissection and measurement of a chicken revealed before the patrons eyes.  Picasso folds his arms and focuses on the painting with admiration.  The patron has his epiphany and with a renewed sense of confidence he leaves with his painting and new perspective on the creation of art.

What an interesting story. I keep telling this story to colleagues, to friends and even to clients because it illustrates something understated yet fundamental about being a creative profession.
In the last few months Because of the COVID-19 situation, design firms (like so many others) are operating under work-from-home orders, and with an uncertain future, few are in a position to hire, even for temporary summer internship positions. The prospects of design students and recent grads securing professional experience in the near future are dubious.
For students and soon-to-be graduates, this presents a troubling and daunting future; and to professionals, this situation is no less disturbing.
It also provides a challenge for thinking creatively. If there is a single mindset to move forward with into these unprecedented times, it is to never let a good crisis go to waste.
for how to professionally navigate this crisis involves jumping ahead to the future: as we continue to wrestle with, and come to terms with COVID-19, design firms will re-establish collective operating patterns in one form or another.
While working together in offices and studios may never look the same, there will once again be new jobs available for recent graduates and interns. Resumes will be sent and received, interviews will be conducted, and positions will be filled.
While design grads and students compete for these positions, one thing is certain: employers are bound to ask -  how you weathered the quarantine, how you spent your time, and how you generally navigated this global situation. The question does not warrant a logistical answer, but one that illustrates how you problem solve and conduct yourself under challenging circumstances. Did you apply your creative analytical skills to the pandemic? Did you use this time to better your future professional prospects? Did you remain active and productive under the protocols of social distancing? Or did you sit on the couch eating and binge-watching Netflix?
The scarcest resource in a designer’s education is time, and very soon most students are going to have an uncomfortable abundance of it.

Lets think about the picasso story again, After a certain amount of time working at whatever it is that you do, you become an expert at it.  That time threshold varies between the individual, the profession and the circumstances, naturally.

Malcolm Gladwell’s theory is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert at it.  That figure can be applied and distributed in a number of different ways but the fact is this: those individuals who dedicate such time to an interest become experts at it.  While being an expert doesn’t always mean that you’re right, or better, it does develop a significant distinction that the non-experts don’t have.  Professional designers have an immense “back-room” of experience that they are drawing from on even the simplest of actions.  As architects, for instance, when we put pen to paper to draw a roof line we’ve thought through that roofline hundreds, maybe even thousands of times already.  That simple line is embedded with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge.

The point is two fold.  If you’re working toward that “ten thousand hours”, know that focusing on the day-to-day experience is imperative.
As a designer Don’t just go through the rounds to fulfill the requirements.
What you are doing each hour of each day will be the experience you rely on in the not so distant future.
It is what will make you an expert.
Enjoy it, master it.

If you’ve got that “ten thousand hours” under your belt already, operate with mastery and confidence.  This is not to say that all of us with the 10k experience shouldn’t be questioned and criticized.

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