The Design Should be Theirs, Not Mine

Best Teaching Methods & Techniques Santa Monica
The Design Should be Theirs, Not Mine

by Abeer Sweis
Aug 16, 2018
I love teaching. I realized I loved teaching while working part time in my college design Mac lab. I really enjoyed helping people figure out how to do something, and doing my own learning in the process.

Since that college experience I have taught at various colleges and universities everything from software, to design, to business strategy classes. Regardless of the subject, the stimulation from learning and discovering is contagious and I always find myself energized and inspired by my student’s enthusiasm, creativity and drive.

We could be doing the same project every year, but each year the new set of students bring a new set of ideas and perspectives. I find it fascinating to watch their concepts unfold; it is like seeing new and amazing wheels be reinvented every term.

For me teaching is really coaching and leading people to self-discovery. My style of teaching is by engaging my students with questions and coaching them through the thought process to their best possible answer. I want their design to be theirs, not mine. This is the same style we use when working with our clients at SweisKloss. The client’s desires and preferences are reflected in the design so that the design we create is not the designer’s but the client’s.

Currently I teach one or two courses a year in the Masters of Interior Architecture Program, a joint Cal Poly Pomona and UCLA Extension Degree. In this course the students are asked to imagine they have a client who hires them to design a space for their business in a building I identify. They are asked to start with a concept. It is through this big picture that the details will come into place.

The first step is the research phase. The students must come up with the business type, name and logo. They create their client’s persona and what is important to them, and determine what image, mood and atmosphere the client wants to convey. The student researches the building type, the neighborhood, the target market, and any technical requirements needed for the business.

The next step is the schematic design. Planning the space, creating a floor plan, determining flow, creating 3-dimensional images. The last step is the design development where the student details the various areas of the project such as offices, kitchens, reception areas. It is in this last step that materials and furniture are selected, lighting and plumbing fixtures are chosen and paint colors are picked.

This project allows the students to try out new ideas and to move their concept forward through the process as if it were a real project. My goals for my students are the same as my goals with my clients. Help them to make educated decisions, so that they are confident in the end product.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of keeping in touch with my students, the privilege of having hired many of my students, and the honor of continuing to be a mentor and advisor to them long after the course has ended.
Abeer Sweis