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Faith + Works: BYU Design Professor Emphasizes the Importance of Iteration

David C. Morgan Shared His Design Process With Audience Members and Connected His Concept of Iteration to Faith

Photo by Emma Olson

How do designers remain confident in their projects after over 50 failed designs? BYU Design professor David C. Morgan gave insight on this and more in his lecture titled “Please Try Again: The Imperfect Practice of Iteration.”

As the last presenter in the 2022-23 Faith + Works lecture series, Morgan showed audience members the importance of not allowing failure to get in the way of one’s goals.

Morgan told attendees that working in design brings many opportunities for iteration, or using repetition to eventually reach a successful outcome. One of Morgan’s earliest examples of iteration occurred when he was a kid, making paper airplanes in church.

“One thing making paper airplanes taught me was that folding can be a means of not just having fun…but also a means of making stuff that's useful,” Morgan said.

Morgan displayed pictures of bowl designs he was working on and admitted that there were over 75 versions of one bowl. While some designers may shudder at the thought of so many failed versions, Morgan views this process as crucial to get the best results.

“I don’t really think about any of these versions that I did as failures or as successes,” Morgan said. “They are more like questions and answers in a physical form.”

Morgan also discussed the importance of embracing ambiguity in a project. He has to acknowledge that his designs may be used or shaped differently than his original intention.

“I need to accept the fact that they’re going to do it however they want,” Morgan said about other people assembling his designs. “I need to be okay with that, and not only okay, but actually embrace that.”

Morgan showed the audience more examples of his past designs and projects, including a three-legged stool and a uniquely-shaped cake mold.

“When we do iterations, there isn’t necessarily one final perfect version,” Morgan said. “There can be multiple ending places.”

While traveling to northern India to help design and build temporary shelters for the homeless, Morgan and his students talked to the locals about their ideas. They realized their vision for the shelters needed to be drastically altered.

Through this experience, Morgan learned that iteration can be used in not only the design of projects, but also the understanding.

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Design Students Talk With People From India on Their Trip To Build Shelters for the Homeless.

Morgan connected his process of iteration in design to his faith. “If we can use iteration to come up with better design and to understand problems better, maybe we can use iteration to alter our beliefs and to have a more robust faith,” he said.

Morgan explained that the development of personal beliefs takes time and effort. He shared the example of Alma the Younger, a prophet in the Book of Mormon whose path to God was far from easy.

Through Alma’s journey of rebellion and initial repentance, he experienced several iterations in his faith. This process of progression, though difficult, allowed him to become a great man later in his life.

“I feel like all of us have these points in our life,” Morgan said. “If you have any beliefs that you need to work on, I would encourage you to iterate your beliefs and please try again.”