Design, Make, Fail, Repeat

Yuki Murata

Architecture and design are full of straight lines and sharp angles, but my journey has neither felt nor been particularly straight.

I grew up in a family of architects and fine artists, so it always felt comfortable to occupy that world.Designing, creating, crafting, and tinkering was second nature, and my family embraced DIY before it was a “thing” you could Google or search on YouTube. My Japanese grandmother was the type of person who always wanted to learn something new — so she would grow a field of wheat so she could grind her own flour, or cultivate silkworms just so she could try spinning silk.

But while I witnessed that curiosity and experimentation firsthand, in my own work I allowed precision and perfection to dominate my process and stunt my ambition. It took me a long time to learn how to invite playfulness back into my work and to not censor myself. I had to embrace the awkward, ugly, messy phases that are crucial to good design.

Now, as I have entered my early 40s and have transitioned my creative work from houseware objects to community programs, I see that life — like design — benefits from failure. While school was my basis for crucial foundational learning, it was in the real world where I had to cultivate a high tolerance for risk, pressure, and mistakes.

And it was real-world career and parenthood challenges that recalibrated my inner compass. Having to weather disappointment and frustration forced me to see situations as they currently are, not just what they are not, or what I wished they would be.

My advice for girls and women who want to be artists and designers? Get the best education you can, spend a few years skillfully making things (like engines, bread, or cabinetry) with your own hands, listen as much as you speak, and never stop seeing the world with open eyes.

Most importantly: Design, make, fail and repeat. We really do learn by doing, and if you stop yourself from doing anything because the fear of failure is too great — well, that may be safe, but it sure ain’t fun.


New Construction “25CSA”    Completed August 2012    3000 S.F.

New Construction “25CSA”

Completed August 2012

3000 S.F.

Architecture (Metal Frame, Metal Cladding)    Remodel “Miyoda House”    Completed June 2012    1800 S.F.

Architecture (Metal Frame, Metal Cladding)

Remodel “Miyoda House”

Completed June 2012

1800 S.F.

Yuki Murata has a bachelor's in Architecture from Yale University and a master's in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Her professional work has taken her from various architecture offices in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Santa Fe to the product design offices of Martha Stewart in New York and on to artisan ceramic workshops in Tangshan, China.

Words: Yuki Murata