There are as many versions and counter versions of this rule as there are in our perception of the number of Inuit words for snow. It’s a great story and one you really want to believe but it’s yet another urban myth.

Pared down and simplified interiors are spectacularly architectural and make for great photoshoots. But as an environment they tend to be cold and heartless. Once occupied, the tendency is to try and humanise these spaces by painting out stark white walls, hanging artworks and softening areas to create comfort. Ultimately less is less and nothing more.

It’s not that simplicity is the problem, far from it. In fact, simplicity is to be encouraged within the field of design as many of the most successful and aesthetically pleasing schemes are beautifully simplistic in their execution.

Which neatly brings me on to another design mantra: ‘form follows function’. No it doesn’t. Form and function are intrinsically linked and each element should enhance the other; to tamper with one element will absolutely affect the other.

After a fashion

Perhaps it’s fashionable to quote these supposed design rules. And therein lies another conundrum. As Coco Chanel famously said, “Fashion fades, only style remains the same”. Fashion is of the moment and exists only until a new fashion emerges.

But surely the stylish environments and products of today were once new fashion too? But somehow they’ve survived the test of time because they don’t offend to the same degree as their peers. Or they have that certain something that means they feel right in any situation. As designers we’re responsible to our clients and to the creation of solutions that have longevity and not an inherent obsolescence.

It’s important when considering a potential scheme that these design rules are challenged and shown to be the myths that they are.

It’s not black and white

A minefield of rules, social meaning and superstition muddy the waters when considering the topic of colour. ’Blue and green should not be seen’. Oh yeah, says who? You've only got to look out of your window to see that it’s quite possibly the most common natural combination there is.

It’s often said that blue and green are calm colours and red and orange are stimulating, but it’s not quite that clean cut. In fact, it’s more about the intensity of a colour that makes it more calming or invigorating. Any colour can be perceived as calm if its intensity is softened, and visa versa.

However, it is possible to influence a mood with the use of colour and it’s worth understanding that certain colours have quite different meaning and associations from country to country. But rules, they say, are made to be broken (and what a stupid saying that is by the way), and possibly no more so than with colour combinations.

Out in the open

We've seen there are many aesthetic design myths. But what about those associated with work methods? Are open plan offices really efficient workspaces? Well, with regard to space utilisation, undoubtedly. But as an environment for working efficiently - I would have to say it’s not for everyone.

There is no question that having a lack of physical boundaries aids communication and collaboration. But if you want to concentrate and focus on the task in hand then an open work environment will not help in the slightest. Open plan work areas are full of distractions both visually and aurally. So the most effective workspaces are those that offer a combination of different types of work environments.

While it’s important to cater for everyone by creating different work zones, there’s one tradition that’s most certainly on the wane. The unwritten rule that says a manager needs an assigned office built to the window elevation and with the best view in the building has been rightly questioned and challenged.

Point one: It is not always a given that an individual who holds a senior position within a business requires a separate office. And point two: It’s calculated that historically a manager who was assigned an area within the office that was twice as large as the average Joe’s was only in his office half of the time. So where is the logic in creating a cellular space, with all the associated costs, that sits slap bang in front of the best view in the house swallowing up the light and access to natural ventilation?

Many design rules have arisen over time in an attempt to justify an individual’s wants and desires. And all are to the benefit of the lazy design team who are afraid to push and reinvent. Many long accepted rules such as vertical lines making a shape look thinner have not only been questioned but also scientifically proven to be inaccurate.

The dictionary defines a myth as ‘a widely held but false belief or idea’. It’s the design team’s responsibility to re-educate and consider their clients’ particular requirements - and not myth the point. The office design team are the key.