[ WARNING ] This blog post may require audience participation!

In the practice of architecture, “perspective” is a word we throw around a lot when discussing renderings, but in the midst to rushing to get that perfect 3D view to the client, we often fail to think about WHO that perspective might belong to. Who is looking at this scene we’ve so painstakingly modeled and photoshopped? How will they see it? How will they feel about it? What will it evoke in them?

We know how we feel about a space we’ve designed, mostly because we spend hours upon hours looking at it from every angle, but the client/user may react or interpret the space in a completely different fashion. Our memories, past experiences, personal preferences and even cultural differences have a huge effect on how we perceive the world around us.

In an effort to illustrate this concept, I asked [ THREE ] coworkers to draw [ THREE ] simple, everyday things (a balloon, a hat and a tower) from memory. They were not allowed to use the internet (no Google searching “cool hats”) or other resources, and they were limited to a 4”x4” piece of paper.

NOTE: Want to play along? Grab [ THREE ] pieces of paper and sketch the [ THREE ] items from YOUR perspective before scrolling down!

This is what came back to me:

Sketches courtesy of Jessica Steele-Hardin

Sketches courtesy of Ian Reves

Sketches courtesy of Wood Dennis

While the words given are clearly personified in each drawing, the artists portrayed the common items in completely different ways:

[ A Balloon ] can be a party (birthday, anniversary, baby shower, etc.) balloon, a hot air balloon, a balloon animal, helium-filled, deflated, attached to a string, round, heart-shaped, Darth Vader-shaped, etc.
[ A Hat ] can be a fedora, a stetson, a top hat, a sombrero, a bicycle helmet, a baseball cap, a hard hat, a ski cap, on somebody’s head, hanging on a hat rack, in a box, flying through the air, worn down and holey, decked out with feathers, made of any material imaginable, etc.
[ A Tower ] can hold water for a small town, serve as a landmark for a big city, provide a view, enclose an elevator, entrap a princess under a spell, be composed of stone or steel or playing cards, etc.

Taking it one step further, we can see that, not only were the items themselves different, but they are drawn at different scales, at different locations upon the 4”x4” paper, with different shading methods (or none at all), with context and without, and even from different viewing angles.

Herein lies the beauty, and excitement, of perspective.

And so, whether you are modeling a building, picking finishes for a house, decorating a cake or planning an event for a client, take a moment to stop and imagine what you are designing from your client’s perspective.

[ Postscript ] For the record, not ALL architects sketch as beautifully as my obliging coworker participants- here is what I drew: