I’ve always been fascinated by the work of graphic designers. Even more so than poets, they are tasked with distilling critical information into a single perfect visual icon that speaks volumes. Do these individuals possess some special gift, a mysterious way of seeing the world like no one else?
In her new book Design the Life You Love, award-winning designer Ayse Birsel reveals a simple creative process to create a life you’ll love. It starts with deconstruction. Think of all the aspects of your life as building blocks; pull them apart, line them up (or juggle them if you want—Birsel wants you to be playful!) then look at what you have. Memories of summers on the beach; your love of classical music; your curiosity about how things work; your desire to help others: these are your raw materials. After a review and inventory of these resources and the weight they carry, you put them back together again in a shape and form that is pleasing to you. Life Reimagined asked Birsel, whose work is in the permanent collection of MOMA and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, to share her secrets. She offers 7 tips for non-artists to get busy designing a life they’ll love.
1. Draw something to jumpstart your right (creative) brain. Don’t fuss over it, and don’t worry about how it looks. Have fun!
2. Think about what makes up your life. List those building blocks. Include people, places, projects, things you love and things you want to avoid. This is your life, deconstructed.
3. Take a good look at your deconstructed life. Any insights? Is something missing or is there too much of something else? What are your life’s constraints? What are the obvious and subtle opportunities? Now that you see what comprises your life, you can make a quick analysis of where you are today. It’s the beginning of your blueprint.
4. Gather Inspiration. This is the fun part. Think of people who’ve influenced and inspired you in some way. List their names and write their qualities. These will remind you of your values as you think creatively about your life.
5. Think of a metaphor for your life as it is today, then think of a metaphor for your life tomorrow. (Google “life metaphors” if you’re stuck.) Your metaphors will continue to tickle the creative part of your brain to help you think differently about your life.
6. Now make some choices. Decide what you want your life to look like going forward. Too many options? If you could pick only three things, which would you choose? You can always change, even play with your choices, but distilling your life to its essentials is a wonderful way to focus on what matters to you.
7. Write yourself a letter about the life you want to love. You can use everything you’ve assembled from the first six steps—what you’ve learned from your heroes, what metaphors you chose, and your future goals—to express your vision.
See also: Doodle Your way to a Happier Life
Life, like a design problem, is full of constraints—time, money, location, age and circumstances. You can’t have everything, and if you want more out of life, you have to be creative about balancing what you want with what you need. By taking your life apart piece by piece, you’re better able to evaluate its content. From there, you can intelligently determine what to discard and what to keep, and design your life.
The purpose of this approach, says Birsel, is to create an original life that is coherent with who you are. “A life that feels like you, looks like you, that is you. It is using design process to think differently about life, imagining possibilities within given constraints, about taking risks, asking ‘what if’ questions to think anew, prototyping, testing and tinkering, and prototyping again, and maybe being rewarded for it with a life well lived.”
Our See It & Be It program can help you visualize and design your life.