A shift in perspective can be as easy taking a step forward, backward, or sideways. It can also be a mental shift. Imaginative and creative people can hold multiple perspectives in their mind at once as they move their ideas around to test and understand more about what they are exploring. Thinking this way enables designers to test ideas and understand the impact on other people, systems, or processes. It also helps the steps that need to take place to bring a concept into reality.
My first experience with a perspective shift was as a child riding in a small, four-seater Cessna airplane. It was in the air over coastal Florida that I realized that there was more to the world than what I could perceive on the ground.
From the air, I could see not only where I lived, but also how my home was situated on my block and how far away my friend’s house was. I noticed larger streets that seemed like arteries that were connected with a multitude of smaller streets that looked like capillaries. I could see that the larger streets also connected with other large roads a few miles away. People seemed to congregate at spots and then move as stoplights turned red and green. Along the water, a highway skirted the edge of a cliff and I noticed that its shape conformed with the shape of the land. The road undulated up and down with the land and then cut inland at a point and then took a turn over a body of water.
Going higher in the air, I could see how a three-mile long bridge connected the mainland to a peninsula and then how another smaller bridge connected this peninsula to a barrier island. Long roads moved from point to point over the landscape and appeared to tie together the land. Flying over the historic downtown neighborhood, I could see how roads radiated from a traffic circle in six different directions. These traffic circles appeared as nodes in the urban landscape and appeared to anchor the streets to the ground.
After making many of these flights I came to the realization that people, places, and cities were connected at a scale beyond what I initially comprehended. Everything appeared to be linked, it was just a matter of scale. Stepping away from my ground-based existence and taking a ride on a plane helped me see the big picture and understand its value in comprehending how we relate to the world we inhabit.