How to become a great designer?

When I was young, I used to spend much of my time reading about great architects and designers. I wanted to become a great designer and therefore, I really wanted to find a way to get there. Preferably a shortcut.

Firstly, I read several written by and about Le Corbusier who I am still a fan of many years after my study. I read all his 5 principles of modern architecture. Soon later, I discovered Louis Kahn and was so deeply touched by his essays about the design process. One of his books is still on my bookshelf today.

Later on, Peter Zumthor with his two books Thinking Architecture  and Atmosphere did steal my heart and a lot of my time too. His writing is easy to read, he tries to include many things that influence his design from art, painting to more mundane things like the kitchen of his mother, the handle of his old house.

I also lost a good time reading Norman Foster, David Chipperfield, Alvaro Siza, Steven Holl. ….But the way is still unclear for me! How to become a great designer? Can anyone give me a clear answer and recipe? The below paragraph is explaining how Louis Kahn tried to give us his answer.  He actually loved to answer big questions, to solve big issues.

From my own experience, after more than 20 years on this journey, I believe there is no common way or shortcut to becoming great designers. But all great designers have something in common. They solve Great Problems. Problems are in the way of many people. So, I truly believe that Finding a great Challenge, asking great questions, the questions that change the lives of millions is the first and maybe most important key to becoming memorable designers. Solutions to a Great Problem will come naturally if you stay focus and fully committed to it.

In short, the key to becoming a Great Designer is to Find Great….


Minh Nguyen
Ps. With my Asian background which was greatly influenced by Zen philosophy, I have to add something else to this question. Namely, I did enjoin the Search itself. I did enjoin all the books I read mentioned above. I did enjoin the journey I was on. And sometimes, I have to admit, I did forget which destination I am heading to. Becoming a great architect is good, but Enjoining what you do, I think is more important!
The text used for my interactive graph is from this article on Louis Kahn’s approach to design on Arch20