How to chose a Design Thesis Topic!
All you design students, it’s that time of the year again! The pressure is building up, and there are prime decisions to be taken. Whether you are an Architecture student, interior design, fashion or graphic design, end of semester project or thesis is a tough task to select. Challenging yourself with a suitable project and delivering it with equal finesse, is what your thesis is all about. Following factors can be considered while choosing a thesis topic:
Your thesis topic is a culmination of your design ideals and philosophies which you’ve picked up over the course of study. It needs to incorporate all the principles and design lessons learnt over the years. Thesis is also about projecting your individuality, and your distinctive design approach. Look for topics which stand out, where you think there’s a gap in information, which gives you a good balance between data which can be found, and information which you can decipher and put forth.
It is also a good option to go for a topic, you haven’t dealt with in the course so far. It gives you the chance to experiment, learn a lot about a new kind of design, and gives you an edge above your classmates.
However, don’t go all crazy with the different part. Its not necessary that a topic, if different, will guarantee a good score. Lots of work and research is required to achieve a good final product, and there should be no dearth of research material and case studies.
A good thesis deals with the shortcomings in society and tries to propose something that is relevant and a step forward. But relevance, is also subjective. For example, proposing a shopping mall in a tier 2 city like Nagpur or Nashik, where it is important to generate revenue, start retail and give the city a landmark, is a relevant topic. However, for a city like Gurgaon, a public piazza with lots of greens, perhaps a performing arts or a cultural centre would be a more appropriate choice.
While thinking of the topic, consider a place, or a time, and you can then zero in on the most relevant topics. A peace memorial in war struck countries, or Earthquake proof schools in Nepal would be a good pick. Interiors for low cost housing, sustainable interiors, designing for Mars City are topics worth exploring.
Do Urban forums interest you or private spaces? Do you like bold and daring design, or you are more inclined to simple minimalistic designs? What materials do you like to experiment with? What softwares are you good at? Is is possible to convey the design through the software you know how to best use? These are important self awareness questions you need to answer before choosing a topic. Sometimes, students get carried away with the thoughts and ideas in their brain, (which is a good thing), but then they are unable to deliver those thoughts on paper because of lack of software knowledge.
One needs to make a list of interests, ideas that you’ve got over the years, current affairs and needs of the world, future needs of the world, (if everyone designs for today, who will design for the future?) and what personally intrigues you in design.
Topics can also be selected on the basis of what you haven’t tried before and want to build up on. For example, if you think you lack knowledge of building services, you can consider a topic like a Hospital, where you’ll have plenty of scope to learn and incorporate building services. If you’ve never designed a building for a terraced or sloping site, you could consider that a challenge worth taking for your thesis. In the end, a thesis is about gaining confidence as a professional, and learning and overcoming all your fears before you step out in the real world.
Design is for the greater good. No matter what you design, it has to achieve something. What are your objectives? How do you want to contribute? How can your thesis make a difference? Does your research help a part of the world? Does your thesis use or innovate a new design methodology? Again, it is important to think about your context, and arrive at something which aims to not just impress the jury, but also plants an idea, that if this design were to be truly executed, it would bring about a certain change.
The aim of your design thesis, need not be complicated or out of world. It could be something very obvious, and very articulate. For example, a topic like devising a built structure to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, by proposing a sustainable design while actively using technology to reduce and control smog, is an aim everyone will relate to. It isn’t complicated, it isn’t something people haven’t thought about. But coming up with that topic in the form of your project is sure to win you brownie points.
5. REALITY CHECK
Thesis is the college’s way of preparing you for the real world. Enough dreamy designs, and more practical approach is appreciated. It’s a good idea, to think about your topic in a pragmatic way. Ask yourself questions like, would this project ever be given the green signal by the City Corporation? How much money would it require? Will there be any returns if it were to be actually built? Would a client accept this flaw? (FYI, if the answer to that question is no, then rework the design).
It is helpful, if you ask your thesis guide to play a couple of roles with you. Imagine him to be the one sanctioning money for your project i.e. the client. He can also be your structural engineer or services consultant. Try to keep all your thesis data, organized, in proper dated folders, like you would in an office. Try considering factors of cost, bylaws, how feasible would be services and furniture placement in the form you have designed, how much would be the carbon footprint of the building owing to the materials selected etc.
Now the thing about design is, everyone reacts to it differently. Take the feedback in a good, positive way. Work on your mistakes, and rework your design to rid it of any flaws, or silly impractical oversights. A design is never complete. You can make it better and better. Feedback and criticism isn’t given to discourage you, but to make you realize your blunders and correct them, so its important you take it constructively. Giving your thesis mentor, the role of a client (in your mind) helps a lot, because when a client gives suggestions, points out mistakes and says no to something, it is impossible to avoid rework on them.
Don’t be disheartened if you hear negative comments, try to positively understand what the problem is, analyse it and channel your energy into correcting those problems rather than dwelling on how biased the system is. Trust me, that doesn’t help.
7. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT!
Never convince yourself, that everything’s been done. There is nothing new for me to offer. The world is limitless, and there are infinite possibilities. It is the duty of every designer, to give the world something new, and you can never shrug that responsibility. Engage your mind in World documentaries, read texts online, watch the news, take a short trip, and ideas are sure to flood your brain.
Don’t limit yourself to available thesis documents, and tried and tested ideas. Go beyond what is already done, or put your own spin on something conventional, and you’re sure to win the jury over!
PRO TIPS FOR THESIS:
- Have faith in your design, passionately work towards making it a success and defend it strongly.
- Presenting your thesis in a legible, beautiful and comprehensible format is very important. Your design could be brilliant, but if you fail to convey it in a coherent easy and attractive way, it may just fall flat.
- Take care, to finish your work at the given deadlines, late work is never appreciated. You cant rush design or ideas, and starting at a very late hour, may result in a very bad output. You need to give yourself the time and mindframe to think and calculate, so work hard from day one, and don’t procrastinate.
- Don’t compete with other students, compete with yourself. It sounds difficult, but each person’s idea and design formulating technique is different. If you try to copy someone else’s thought, it might not sit in your thesis context and thus make it worse.
- Try building a good rapport with your thesis guide. You need to understand him/her, and vice versa. Don’t let negative thoughts enter your mind, they’re only going to affect your work.
- Take strategic, well planned breaks. Taking a power nap, can boost your energy when you resume work, or eating a favourite snack can charge you up. However, take care that the break doesn’t stretch on for hours.
- Read and research! Find out everything there is to know about your topic. Any question asked in the jury has to be met with an answer. If you let the panel feel, that you don’t know more about the topic than they do, you’ll be in for a hard grill.
- Reason your design. Every single dot and line on the sheets, has to have a meaning. Also, don’t be thick enough to miss the North Sign, (if you’re an architecture student) you’ll just be inviting trouble!
Hopefully, the tips above can help you decide a topic. Be brave and perserverent. Thesis is one of the most important projects you’ll do, and it will last a lifetime. So make it a good one! Best of Luck!
Author: Jamila Sidhpurwala
Jamila is one part artist, two parts foodie, and all parts traveler. She is a patron of good art and design and loves to immerse herself in books and music. Simplicity and minimalism is her motto as an architect. A writing enthusiast, she surrounds herself with all things creative. She actively shuns all “ists” and “isms” and firmly believes in a “no – label” world! She isn’t afraid to take risks, speak her mind, push forward and challenge preconceptions. She is currently pursuing Masters in Architecture at the University of Liechtenstein.