On Design: Goal Articulation (What do you really want?)


Core is going GREAT here at Yestermorrow. Vermont is beautiful. The class is AWESOME (and extremely intense). Totally crazy coincidence: my instructor is moving into the Whittled Down Caravan (check out their blog) that I saw at Derek Diedricksen’s workshop last summer. The tiny house scene is a small world (har har – pun intended.)

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been thinking on the last day or two:

I think I’m going to start getting more conceptual on this website sometimes. It’s my platform for expressing everything that goes into The COMET – which is so much more than solar panels and recycled materials and new technologies. My heart goes into it, my dreams (mostly daydreams) go into it, all of my time and energy. A lot of THOUGHT goes into it – more than can be measured. It’s completely consuming – and I love that about it. In a single, life consuming project I get to explore a world of possibilities and techniques and processes. An entire history of changing attitudes about the way we live.
(Being at Yestermorrow gets me really excited about this stuff – maybe that’s why I’m feeling this way at the moment.)

So here I can express some of the THOUGHT and process that goes into the Design of the COMET as an educational tool, a classroom, and a home. More than just design iterations of program and diagramming, there is a mental and emotional process that goes into designing your own home. Here’s what I learned about myself as a designer today:

For the last few years professors have reprimanded me for being obsessed with technique and materials (what can I say, I’m a doer and a maker). They offered no alternative, but I understood that the way I approached design was backwards and too focused on minute details from the start. Today I had a major breakthrough. Woah.

Goal Articulation:

what do you want? Can you accurately express what you REALLY want out of your home (or another design)?
You want a tiny house, a big house, a cute house, an energy efficient house, or a fancy house? You want solar panels, a grey water system, and a composting toilet?
No. What you want has nothing to do with the House. (Though these details may help us achieve our goals.)
I think what you want is closer to something along these lines:

I want more free time.
I want more money in my savings account so that I can travel.
I want flexibility.
I want simplicity.
I want to be healthy.
I want to spend more time on interpersonal relationships.
I don’t want to work all the time, I want to relax.

So, What do you really want?

Here’s what I found today:
I was trying to articulate my goals for taking this Permaculture/Ecological Design course. (Talk about it using active, present tense). I just did some free-writing + listing to get started.

– I have the tools to design a building/home in a productive landscape.
– I can design with more than the materials in mind.
– I understand how to actual goals versus superficial goals.
– I can design buildings and homes that interact with the landscape and location.
– I can articulate what makes a successful, functional home.
– I can envision the whole picture.
– I can design for leisure.
– I can design a home with free time in mind and a low-maintenance landscape.
– I can let the goals drive the design process, instead of the details.

I actually couldn’t pick just one that summed everything up, but I think you get the idea. These goal articulations are much more than just “I want to learn about permaculture principles in this class.”

And then I applied this concept to my design process:

I hope this post was helpful to those thinking about designing their own dwellings. If we can establish what it is we really want out of our homes and our lives, the details will fall into place. It can be surprisingly difficult to express what we REALLY want out of our living situations, but I hope this sheds some light on that process!

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4 thoughts on “On Design: Goal Articulation (What do you really want?)

  1. Meta says:

    Hello, how long will you be at Yestermorrow? Did you bring the Comet along with you? I have a vintage pop-up camper and live right over the mountain from Yestermorrow. Just wondered if you’d like to come take a look at it with me, we are trying to start a similar project, using free/scrounged and eco friendly materials. Most important reason to re-do an old camper, as opposed to buying new, is so that we can use materials that don’t have harsh effects on air quality and health! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hello! Thanks for getting in touch. I do not have the COMET with me at the moment (she’s under construction back in MA). Your pop-up sounds like a great project! I am at Core here at YM and have no free time (class from 9am – 10 pm every day!), but maybe I could come look at your camper and give you some advice or ideas if I find a free moment. Have you thought about attending the Brattleboro KOA vintage camper/tiny house/eco weekend in Brattleboro VT in July? Sounds like your camper would fit the bill! Email me via the contact page so we can get in touch that way!
      thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Brenden says:


    Just wanted to let you know that design runs both ways. I work as a writer and I’m more of an architectonic thinker – things have overall forms first and then details are deduced from those constraints and I work with writers who start at the smallest units and then imagine upwards – inductively. We make each other crazy whenever we start something together, but it works out, though no one is sure how.

    I just wanted to say that it’s great to be a switch hitter but encourage you to hold on to that ability to grow your design ideas from tiny themes as you develop the ability to get the whole lay of the land. I think what so many of us find so intriguing about COMET is that you did start with this unlikely, lovely creation in the first place.

    Encouragement and Well Wishes from the Northern Prairie!


    • Brenden, thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. I agree with you, and can relate wholeheartedly to your writing experience! Thank you for the honesty and please keep reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

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