Research into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’), led me to develop my Hierarchy of Design.

Briefly, Maslow suggests we have five stages of needs.  Working from the bottom level of his pyramid, these needs should more or less be satisfied before we move on to satisfy the next level and so on until we reach the top level, where we grow.

I saw an immediate connection between my design process and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.
Hierarch of Design by Cathy Jack Coupland

My process for Design is based on this triangle.

Work does not magically appear.  My design process, has a set pattern and rhythm.  It’s comforting, I know where I’m going and what I need to do to achieve that desired outcome.

I truly believe design is not difficult.  I have practiced and honed this, so I know it works.  Perhaps people will be surprised I have work at they top of my pyramid, taking up the least amount of space.  But for me, work is the easy part.  My design process hinges on Passion, Research and Design.

Let me explain My Hierarchy of Design….

Passion: an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.

This is the first stage of my design process and is given prominence on my Hierarchy triangle as it’s so important.  When I look at other artist’s work, I want to see and feel their passion.  I want that passion to show in my work also.  So what is passion and what can I do to help develop it?  It’s very simple.  I do what I love.  I follow my heart.  I have lots of interests which all feed into my passion somehow.  That passion flows through my design process at all times and is supported by inspiration, motivation and consistency.

‘I love what I do and I do what I love’.  It’s simple and it works.

I’ll use one of my all time favourite works, ‘My Country My Way’, below, to help describe my process.  Listen to Dorothea Mackellar recite her iconic Australian poem, My Country.

My Country My Way by Cathy Jack Coupland

My Country My Way, inspired by Dorothea Mackellar’s moving Australian poem, My Country.

Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative.

I love words, books, Australian poetry, contemporary art, art history, colour, music, dance, fashion, architecture – the list is endless, but I must be moved by something to want to design.  I learnt the poem ‘My Country’ in primary school.  The words transported me then and still do now.  Being country born and bred, Dorothea’s words resonated with me.  I remember drought, fire and flood; the beauty as well as the harshness.  Quick, simple sketches were drawn while on the Manly ferry, using short passages from the poem to tap into those childhood memories.  Here are the lines I used for inspiration: I love a sunburnt country; Of drought and flooding rain; I love her jewel-sea; The drumming of an army, the steady soaking rain; Land of the Rainbow Gold; The filmy veil of greenness.  Can you see them?


My Country My Way by Cathy Jack Coupland (Detail)

‘My Country My Way’ detail.

Motivation: desire or willingness to do something.

Inspiration motivates me like nothing else will.  You know that feeling when it doesn’t matter how difficult something is, if you’re inspired, you just need to do it.  So you do.  Inspiration is a powerful tool and I use it.  I must have worked on the drawn design for My Country My Way for at least three to four weeks.  It lay on our lounge room floor, where I walked by it every day.  I needed to ‘see’ the design come to life and day by day it did.  It was a slow process as the work was large, but I knew that daily growth was motivating me.  It was exciting.  I knew I could do it if I kept at it.

Consistency: the quality of achieving a level of performance which does not vary greatly in quality over time.

I use routine to achieve consistency in my work practice.  Routine means I don’t have to think, I just do.  I would not have been able to achieve what I wanted in this work if I hadn’t worked on it consistently.  Yes, there were problems, but I knew they could be resolved somehow.  Problem solving is a huge part of the design process.  I rubbed out an awful lot.  I used every little design trick I knew.  But in the end, it was a matter of knowing I would work on my design that day and the next until I had it the way I wanted.  There were days when it was hard because the design wasn’t working, but I persisted.  There’s no way I could have put that design away to only work on it every now and then.  The momentum created by inspiration, motivation and consistency would have disappeared!  Momentum is another power tool I use.  Read my post about one of my favourite books, ‘Momentum’ by Australian author, Michael McQueen.

My Country My Way by Cathy Jack Coupland (Back of Work)

Working on this daily motivated me to keep going and keep pushing myself. (My Country My Way – back of work)

I use passion, inspiration, motivation and consistency daily.  Next week I’ll write about research, learning and education.