Designing a Birdhouse

Now that I’ve got a few design classes under my belt, I thought it might be interesting to start sharing some of my work here. Today, I’ll begin with a project from last quarter: designing a birdhouse from scratch.

I’d never done anything like this before, so I initially found the prospect pretty overwhelming. But, as you’ll see below, it was actually a lot of fun!

Because an important part of this project was learning about the design process, I’ll walk you through all the steps leading up to the final product.

Step 1: Research.

I started by doing some research on existing birdhouses. What are the essential elements of a birdhouse? How crazy can you make a birdhouse and still have it look like a birdhouse? What’s already out there, pushing the envelope in the birdhouse world?




To expand my imagination even further, I also looked for inspiration in things that were not birdhouses. My favorite thread of research along these lines involved architectural landmarks–what famous structures might look cool as birdhouses? What iconic buildings could I riff on?

Opera House



Images: Cool Hunting // HiConsumption //  Into the Air // // Sydney-City // Declan McCullagh

Step 2: Thumbnails.

Once I was satisfied with my research, I started creating thumbnails of possible birdhouse designs. In this step, no self-censorship was allowed–any idea, no matter how crazy, made its way onto the page. As you can see, I went in a lot of random directions.

Birdhouse design





Early on, I thought of creating a birdhouse version of my favorite world landmark, the Sydney Opera House. Though I initially dismissed the idea as too ambitious, I eventually muddled my way back to it.


Ultimately, I settled on a design that is much simpler than the real Sydney Opera House, yet very much inspired by it.


Step 3: Developmental drawings.

After choosing a design, I did some developmental drawings to see how the birdhouse’s different pieces would fit together. This was definitely the most difficult part for me, but it was really cool to see my idea materialize into a three-dimensional form.





Step 5: Line drawing.

Next, I sketched out the design in Photoshop, using the pen tool and a grid underlay. The goal was to create a line drawing of the design, in perspective.

line drawing 1

line drawing 2

Step 6: Rendering.

Then, again using Photoshop, I painted in the surfaces of the birdhouse, trying to create a realistic sense of shadow and depth.


Step 7: Colorizing.

Finally, all that was left to do was add some color! Since the Sydney Opera House is mostly just white, I decided to depart from reality so that I could play with some more fantastical colors. Here is the final result:

color rendering



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