But First, A Pin-Up
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
(no, not the sexy photoshoot kind)
1. noun - a poster showing a famous person or sex symbol, designed to be displayed on a wall.
2. modifier - designed to be hung from a wall
3. noun - a peer critique of architectural or other design plans.
Most people hear ‘pin-up’ and think immediately of pin-up models - scantily clad, if clad in anything at all. Which made it all the more hilarious and confusing when I started telling my family and friends that I was going to be doing a pin-up at work. Cue the confused stares.
What I’m actually referring to is a pin-up presentation. They are a regular occurrence throughout a design process to invite feedback from peers. You pin your floor plans and renderings up, to give other people the opportunity to poke holes in your design, pick up on mistakes you might have missed, offer new ideas, and generally give you lots of constructive criticism. That way, what you take to the client has already had the benefit of multiple eyes picking it apart and figuring out any potential problems areas.
Architects and designers do these presentations all the time both in school and in the professional world. I, however, with no true design training or experience, was putting myself through the gauntlet for the first time. Suffice it to say, I SERIOUSLY overprepared. I spent maybe 4 hours putting together my slides explaining background on tiny houses, why I was pursuing this idea, what I wanted in my home, adding imagery of projects that inspired me, readjusting my 3D model views for the millionth time, etc. etc. ad nauseum. I even got out a tape measure and marked out the size of my house on the conference room floor (and yes, the layout for my house actually fits inside our conference room!).
Once the meeting got started, I was probably talking for 20-30 minutes of my one-hour long meeting slot before I even put my floor plan up on the screen. Granted, I was VERY nervous so I was probably trying to put off what I assumed was the inevitable - a room full of professional architects and interior designers just politely smiling and nodding at their nutso marketing coordinator standing at the front of the room pretending to be a designer. Of course, my imagination had just gotten the better of me. I work with some of the nicest people in the world, and I had been very upfront about my lack of experience so that expectations would be set LOW.
And the result? The meeting was AMAZING. Everyone had engaging questions, interesting ideas, and were overwhelmingly complimentary about the research and work I’d done. A few even got out some trace paper to sketch additional storage design ideas over my floor plans, pointed out that I could save space in my living area by having my front door swing out instead of in, and how to fix some placement issues I was struggling with for storage in the main room and bathroom.
As with almost any large venture (getting a pet, having a kid, buying a house, moving across the country, looking for a new job), when you start talking to someone about it, whether they know you well or not, they will have opinions. Generally, lots of them. A pin-up presentation is a well structured format to fill people in on what you’re doing, point out areas you are struggling with, and gather more constructive criticism than you’ll likely need. I have the benefit of working with people who design efficient and productive spaces on a daily basis, and they have been more than willing to offer whatever help I need.
If you are embarking on a design project, it’s a great idea to pick a date and time to invite your friends, family, co-workers, or peers to get a sneak peek at what you’re doing, and open the door for their thoughts and suggestions. Or host a few! Just pull out your sketchpad and show them your layout. Or be an overachiever (like me) and include history about tiny houses and zoning policies, discuss your design aesthetic and inspirations, then show them what you’ve created. This is also a great strategy if you're trying to pitch the idea of a tiny house to a spouse or family member - give them the opportunity to learn, have questions answered, and give feedback!
A pin-up presentation can be as formal or as informal as you like. When talking about tiny houses, there tend to be a LOT of questions, so I front-loaded my presentation with some basic information about the tiny house movement to get some of that out of the way. I welcomed questions throughout, but wasn't afraid to say 'hold onto that questions, I'll answer that in a few minutes!' then focused on why I chose to pursue this project, some key concerns I had to keep in mind like storage and budget, and only then did I start walking through my floor plan. I also included lots of precedent imagery of houses and design inspiration I liked, just to give people an idea of my design aesthetic.
If you are planning a pin-up, or even if you just want to show your hand-drawn sketch to a few people, I would keep these points in mind:
- Early on in your presentation, speak about why this project is important to you, it will help put your audience in your shoes!
- If there are big factors to consider: budget, sleeping space for kids, road-worthiness, environmental impact, etc., make sure to hit on those as well, so people can offer you suggestions tailored to your exact needs.
- Precedent imagery is super helpful to give people an idea of your personal design aesthetic.
- Most importantly, keep an open mind! You don't need to use every suggestion or idea, but accept each one with gratitude and then decide later which ones you want to incorporate. The more you shoot down ideas outright, the less feedback you'll end up getting.
I was worried I was going to have to somehow qualify my choices to anyone I spoke to about the project. But almost every person I’ve discussed my design with has offered me something new, something I hadn’t thought about before.
Why open this door, though? You’ve done your research and have accounted for everything you’ll need. YOU know your project best. But that doesn’t mean some outside perspective - even from those not indoctrinated into the tiny living lifestyle - can’t do you some good. I was worried I was going to have to somehow qualify my choices to anyone I spoke to about the project. But almost every person I’ve discussed my design with has offered me something new, something I hadn’t thought about before. By being open to suggestions, I’ve gotten to tour tiny houses I never would have seen, made my floor plan more efficient, saved hundreds of dollars by ordering appliances and fixtures through little-known websites, and overall, welcomed my community into my design process. It might have been scary to have willingly opened myself up to any amount of criticism, but it has already paid me back in spades, and it might just do the same for you.