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Architect Lucy Humphrey on the importance of drawing, sketching and diagramming ideas

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We love the bold, beautiful design work of Sydney architect Lucy Humphrey.

Not only does she run her own architectural studio, she also co-founded a non-profit organisation called Archrival.

After training at the University of Sydney, Lucy has worked across the fields of architecture and design and was awarded the People’s Choice Award at the 2015 Sculpture by the Sea Aarhus in Denmark.

We had a chat with Lucy about what inspires her, as well as how she goes about her work and the importance of getting all the little details right – from ideation all the way through to logistical concerns like printing and copying.

Tell us about what you do creatively and how a typical work day may unfold for you?

“I run an architecture practice as Lucy Humphrey Studio, and a second non-profit design studio, Archrival, which works on experimental and multi-disciplinary projects focused on collaboration. I don’t have a typical work day or routine, thanks to these two offices and a diverse mix of projects ranging from concept furniture, to residential houses, commercial fit-outs and apartments, to site specific art and installation.

“As opportunities appear, different projects take priority depending on the design stage and external deadlines. My ideal day starts with an early morning beach swim, then I love getting out to the building site to see projects evolve, workshop solutions with builders, then back to the studio to spend time designing or documenting.”

What is the importance of printing and copying in your day to day work?

“For me, printing drawings for developing designs and presenting to clients is critical. It really is a key part of the design process to move between digital and physical drawings to discuss, mark up, take notes and create records.

“We choose recycled paper products and recycle any un-used prints by stapling them to make DIY sketchbooks in the studio.

“Copying is an important part of record keeping and client liaison when we’re going through formal building approvals or design submissions.”

What are some of principles of design that you adhere to and how do they influence your work across the variety of creative mediums you explore?

“I believe in the importance of drawing, sketching and diagramming ideas – it’s important to tease them out before going digital. I think we understand scale and have a better feeling for how our bodies fit in space when we draw – if things are rushed into CAD and 3D modelling, you risk losing some of the richness or sense of relationship to your body.

“There are slightly different approaches if I’m working on my art practice, but fundamentally I’m always thinking about the body, the site and experience. I’m also focused on concept based design, and having a strong idea or framework that shapes each project.”

Tell us about some of the indispensable tools you use to produce your work and any ‘secret’ tips for getting the most out of using them?

“Physical design tools are very important – it’s a romantic notion of having a creative ‘tool box’ like a painter, or inventor. I can’t live without chunky coloured pencils, black 0.4 Artline felt tip pens, Moleskine notebooks, A3 yellow trace, or my tape measure.

“The key is to keep them close at hand, and make a conscious effort to draw and write every day as it’s essential to refining your design approach, and ability to communicate abstract ideas in a way that can convince and inspire.

“Also, it’s recognised that collaboration, particularly between disciplines, will be key to solving the world’s increasingly complex problems.”

Where are some of the more unique places online and offline that you get your creative inspiration from?

“I frequently visit design sites such as dezeen.com or archdaily.com for news on projects, design festivals or competitions. I’m also enjoying my subscription to real-review.org, a small newsprint magazine which ‘pursues what it means to live today’.

“Offline, I get my inspiration from galleries, design bookstores and travel. I just finished a one month design residency in the Arctic, so have gained a lifetime of inspiration from my experiences there. Exploring landscapes and our experience of environments is becoming an important source of inspiration and focus in my practice.”

What trends have you noticed in your creative mediums that particular interest or excite you?

“I think the current trend towards smallness – small, strategic and fast projects – is exciting as it creates opportunity and accessibility. It’s easier and cheaper to make a small project and because they’re fast, they can be highly innovative and respond to current conditions.

“I’m inspired to see more projects with inherent environmental concerns that look to change behaviours – there’s a lot of fresh energy and enthusiasm about making things more practical, more sustainable, but also more livable and romantic.”

What advice would you pass on to aspiring creatives looking to break into your field?

“My advice is to find a mentor, and take creative risks. When starting a business or embarking on a new project venture, it can be intimidating to walk into the unknown or commit funds without knowing what the result will be.

“Without being reckless, I think it’s important to jump in, experiment and not overthink things – you have to proceed with conviction and courage, without necessarily knowing where you’re going to end up.”

If you’re an artist or aspiring creative, our friends at Officeworks have all the supplies you’ll need to really kickstart your career. And remember, with a wide range of print and copy services for students in secondary schools and tertiary education, you can also use Officeworks for all your printing and copying needs.