Advice from former CVA Scholarship recipient Taylor Medlin


Taylor Medlin is an architect and designer based out of Raleigh. He is also the recipient of the first incarnation of the CVA Scholarship! We recently caught up with him and asked him for some advice about how to make the most out of your arts education, how to take risks, and how to push yourself in your pursuit of a career in the arts. Read on to see what this talented artist and architect has to say!


One of the first things you learn in architecture school is how to take chances.  Without the possibility of failure there is no chance for true creativity.  My design education started at North Carolina State University and continued at UC Berkeley was a crash course in learning how to get out of my comfort zone.  For every good idea that makes its way into a final presentation there are at least ten bad ideas that preceded it.  As one professor once put it “If you’re not scared putting an idea out there it means you’re not pushing it far enough.”  Uncertainty is not only likely, but a sign that you’re taking risks and doing something you’re not familiar with.Those individuals with design backgrounds embrace the inevitability of failure as a necessary and fruitful part of the process of creation. 

A fear of failure usually starts with the fear of the blank page.  The dreaded white canvas with no paint yet applied.  To combat this, the development of one’s creative process is a cornerstone of most architecture educations.  Learning how to get to an answer is much more important than learning what the answer is.  Without a design process you would be starting from scratch every single time you begin a project, which indeed would be scary.  However, with a developed design process you begin from the same place every time, even though everything else such as the site, the client, and the parameters of the project has changed.  Rather than giving you the same result, a process allows open-ended creativity while minimizing the amount of time that you spent stuck on a problem (think writer’s block).  Each individual has a different way of designing that works for them, and a large portion of an education in the arts is devoted to figuring out exactly what works for you.  Trial and error, exploration, and experimentation are critical for figuring out a design process and something that is nurtured in creative disciplines.

Another focus of a design profession begins with understanding how to effectively communicate.  A majority of visual arts is, in no small surprise visual, but a large portion is also rooted in verbal communication.  A family member at the kitchen table, a client in a design meeting, or a person sharing the elevator will want to know what you are working on, and by suggestion, why is it important?  A great strength of having a design background is the experience in learning how to quickly and passionately explain your current project to a college or total stranger.  This skill does not just stop with your professional work but to all aspects of your life.  If you are enthusiastic and approach each problem with passion most people will reciprocate, adding their energies to the endeavors you deem important.

Lots can be learned in an architectural and design education but the most important ones tend to be being open.  Be open to failure, be open to letting process guide you, and be open to listening and learning from those around you.  Those guidelines have served me well in work and life and I feel fortunate to have ended up in a discipline that encourages creativity and passion!

Thursday, March 3, 2016
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