Bridging Gaps That Don’t Reside in Building Skins December 6, 2013Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, management, transformation.
Tags: academia, AIA, architects, Architectural Record, bridging gaps, career transitions, change, detailing, educators, joints, practice, SAIC, speaking
add a comment
What resulted for the first time in my public speaking career, I gave a talk at an AIA conference that I didn’t prepare for.
And by that I mean, at all.
I spent three months preparing for my keynote at the 2013 AIA Illinois Conference in November.
But my breakout session later that morning – Through Architecture We Bridge Gaps by Embracing Change?
Not so much.
And wouldn’t you know, it was hands-down the best talk I ever gave.
Or I should say, that the attendees gave.
Because the success of the session was due in no small part to the attendees and the lively discussion that ensued.
The subject of the talk – caulk – really seemed to strike a chord, and the architects in the audience shared lots of examples from their own careers.
The Culture of Caulk
In over a hundred talks I have given around the country, I never had a talk bestowed with the strongly sought-after HSW designation.
Until that November day.
The session offered attendees 1 AIA/CES HSW lu because the AIA powers that be thought the talk was on applying caulk.
The session description starts off thus:
Architects know that the most vulnerable parts of a building enclosure are the joints, connections or gaps between two building systems, and spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to successfully fill them.
The institute officials probably read that first sentence and thought “caulk – that’s good for an HSW LU.”
But had they read on, they would have realized it was a metaphor. And you don’t get HSW LU’s for metaphors:
While their designs and details are fortunately airtight, there are many other gaps that remain wide open and unresolved.
Still about caulk, right? It continues:
These gaps cannot be addressed by architectural technology because they do not reside in building skins, but in the education, training and practice of architects: gaps between academia and professional practice; between internship and licensure; between mentoring emerging professionals for leadership positions; and ever-widening gaps facing those concerned about career advancement and firm succession, including practitioners in all phases of their careers.
Using the metaphor of the detailing of building joints, this presentation will show attendees that they already have the skills, tools and mindsets to successfully bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gaps at their various career stages, reconnecting training with practice, management and leadership in our architecture firms and those we serve.
So it appears that you get the coveted HSW when you speak on caulk, but not when you try to solve entrenched issues in architectural careers.
Hopefully posting this here won’t result in attendees’ HSWs being revoked.
All Detailing is Joints (apologies to Patrick Moynahan)
I told the session attendees that we’re here to talk about another type of gap.
And the need to bridge these gaps – through architecture.
I told them this session is participatory (code in speakers’ circles for my being totally unprepared) – I don’t have all the answers: none of us does.
But, I offered, as a believer in the collaborative process, all of us might.
I am your presenter, I continued – but so are you: I am here to facilitate a discussion (because I didn’t prepare one.)
I showed some slides of nifty bridges from around the world, hitting home on the point that it is possible to cross over necessary career transitions with panache.
What Gaps Require Spanning?
Does it help to think of our career transitions as gaps that require spanning and/or bridging?
And whether we’ll attempt to fill them metaphorically with caulk – or silicone sealant?
One such gap is between academia and practice.
Do we agree that it needs bridging?
I mentioned to the attendees that the past weekend the SAIC Design Educator’s Symposium in Chicago was such a gesture in bridging with firm visits, Archiculture film viewing and panel discussions.
Architectural Record featured an article recently on how the phenomenon of transformational change—in technologies, systems, materials, sustainability, management, and demographics—is unfolding faster in professional firms than it is in higher education. This gap is a concern.
The article offered remedies:
- more practitioners should teach
- more faculty should be professionally licensed
- business and management skills need to be introduced in the studio
- no longer does tenure benefit students
- real estate finance should be a basic part of architectural education
- heavier doses of reality, not theory
- practitioners and architectural educators should work together
Another gap that requires spanning is from emerging professional to firm management.
One of the firms I worked for had a Sink or Swim (vs. training and mentoring) approach to bringing up project managers. When an employee graduated from emerging professional to management, the firm would throw them in the deep end and, well, stay afloat or sayonara.
Gaps We Need to Bridge
Other gaps need addressing, especially those between:
- internship and licensure
- mentoring emerging professionals and leadership positions
- technology and reality, or
- digital technology and building technology
- men’s and women’s salaries
- those concerned about career advancement and succession
On this last gap, SAIC’s Chuck Charlie (@charliechuck) tweeted:
How do we resolve the gap between the old guard now leading the industry, and the digital-native emerging profession?
Perhaps the biggest gap that needs spanning is this: Where our industry is today and where our industry needs to be.
Namely, adding value, reducing waste, growing and become more resilient and profitable.
That’s a bridge worth crossing. And as designers, we ought to be able to span it with panache.
Goodbye Architects. Hello Equal Partners in Design (EPD) November 28, 2013Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, IPD, management, survival.
Tags: Aditazz, Barry Schwartz, co-designers, collaboration, designers, Equal Partners in Design, integrated project delivery, IPD, Michael Pyatok, participatory design
Somewhere along the way – perhaps recognizing that other students or architects are more talented, or willing or able to sacrifice more – many would-be designers give up their dream to design buildings and instead opt to manage teams, schedules or budgets, document and detail other people’s buildings, or undertake any of a hundred other tasks required to get permit sets approved and buildings built.
Whatever first drew them to the profession, it is safe to say that they didn’t become an architect to be a designer among designers.
They became architects to design. Period.
Whether architecture students, architectural interns and emerging professionals realize it, this is what the profession and industry offers them today.
Founder and president of Nissan Design International, Jerry Hirshberg, in The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World, describes a scene where, in a workplace safe for people to provide input and express their ideas, the receptionist – participating in a design review – provides the idea for the direction for their new line of automobiles.
That, in a nutshell, is the future of architecture.
To bridge the divide between design and construction, improve communication, better coordinate documents, and increase collaboration, firms have started to prepare for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).
IPD requires the participation of all project stakeholders early in the design and decision-making process.
Whether working in pure IPD or an IPD-ish process, with IPD the lines of responsibility are blurred when compared to traditional “design bid build” project delivery.
IPD removes barriers that, in traditional project delivery, kept design and construction professionals from collaborating.
With IPD, contractors contribute to the design and architects address construction issues, with risk distributed across the team.
With IPD, contractors made aware of and contribute to design direction and design decisions by the entire project team.
In IPD, key participants are encouraged to contribute to the design intent, just as designers are free to comment on and contribute to means and methods of construction.
While intended to remove obstacles and encourage collaboration, architects are sometimes threatened by the blurring of roles brought about by working in the IPD.
Collaborating is hard. Architects often have individualistic ways of working. IPD may be antithetical to the way many architects design projects.
To persevere in this new world of collaboration, architects should consider getting off the project pyramid and rebrand themselves as Equal Partners in Design (EPD).
Becoming an Equal Partner in Design would have implications for school and practice. Imagine architects being educated, trained and tested not to be independent building designers but designers among designers.
Are you prepared for the day when the plumber makes the winning design suggestion and everyone in the room lets out a resounding Yes!
How will it make you feel to sit beside a teammate who is sketching?
How about when your co-designer is a computer?
Building designers participate in man-machine collaboration every time they work in computational design.
But we don’t have to imagine a cyborgian future to recognize that whomever – or whatever – we will be collaborating with, from here on out we will be collaborating.
Take Aditazz, a collaborative team of not only building architects and planners, but also microchip architects, software designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and materials scientists.
The hospital design that vaulted his unknown company into the round of a hospital competition shortlist of nine had been designed largely by an algorithm.
Barry Schwartz has warned that as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear.
Too many options remains a problem for architects, engineers and owners. But not for Aditazz, whose algorithms are able to compute thousands of options in a fraction of the time to find the best solution.
Gone, along with the architects’ Prismacolor pencils, will be the concept of design intent.
Participatory architects such as Charles Moore and Michael Pyatok have been doing this for years. But will you be comfortable and satisfied letting others provide design input?
Or will you be threatened by other’s participation in design?
Could you be personally and professionally fulfilled playing the role – not always of designer, but – of design refiner?
Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design?
The Architect (2012) January 8, 2012Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, BIM, change, employment, marginalization, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: academy awards, BIM, CAD, George Valentin, Hollywood, oscar contender, Peppy Miller, silent films, The Artist, the oscars
Last night I had the opportunity to see Oscar contender, “The Architect,” a film whose story begins in the late-CAD era.
“The Architect,” whether you consider it a screwball comedy, a sentimental melodrama or a spoof, is a 2D black-and-white film that has received a great deal of praise from critics.
The story is a simple and familiar one
The story focuses on a declining male starchitect and a rising starletchitect, as CAD grows out of fashion and is replaced by BIM.
A valentine to early computer-aided design and drafting, “The Architect,” stars leading man Jean Dujardin as a CAD-using starchitect named George Valentin.
At the top of his profession, Valentin meets eager would-be starletchitect Peppy Miller.
She dreams of success in architecture, invests time in learning BIM, and as her demand rises in the industry, Valentin’s shine is eradicated.
Architect Valentin faces untold obstacles: the fickleness of the public’s changing taste, the adoption of disruptive new technologies, waning powers that come with age, competition from fellow industry professionals and unemployment, among others.
Faced with the economic insecurity of the Great Recession and technological change that threatens to make him obsolete, George is being crushed in a vise grip all too familiar to mid-career architects.
Refusing to adapt to the onset of BIM, he puts all his money into one last CAD production.
George has owners in the palm of his hand, at least until BIM arrives
It turns out George isn’t well-suited for BIM, not least because of his mindset and attitude, dependence on 2D CAD and archaic drafting style.
But BIM is perfectly suited to a vivacious ingénue named Peppy Miller, who crosses paths with George, first as a fangirl, then as an intern in the office of his firm.
In 2009, just after Wall Street crashes, George’s studio stops making CAD documents.
The studio head announces the end of production of 2D CAD documents, but Valentin insists that BIM is just a fad.
It’s fitting that the next time he meets Peppy, on Rapidograph Studio’s main stairway, she’s on her way up and he’s on his way down.
When the studio head lays-off all his 2D CAD starchitects, George decides to open his own office where he could work in CAD.
His project is submitted on the same day as Miller’s new BIM project, and Valentin is ruined.
His wife kicks him out and he moves into an apartment with his valet, while Miller goes on to become a major 3D starletchitect.
“If that’s the future, you can have it!”
However reassuring excursions into bygone golden ages may be – whether drafting in pencil or CAD – they carry with them the potential for revisionism, soft-focus complacency and the refusal to embrace uncomfortable but necessary change.
This is why some critics are grumbling about “The Architect,” which has won a cache of critics’ awards and looks to be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.
Whereas naysaying design professionals can appreciate the fond look back at the medium they adore with equal devotion, they inevitably see “The Architect” as an all too-comfortable 2D nostalgia trip that represents stasis rather than genuine innovation, provocation or artistic risk that working in 3D enables.
Those skeptics may be missing a modest but meaningful truth buried under “The Architect’s” surface and story, which is that George’s plight could easily be transposed into any modern-day profession or industry.
In one of “The Architect’s” most poignant scenes, George plays a character sinking in a cement pour, an aptly desperate metaphor at a time when so many architects feel they are in over their heads.
It’s a film that taps into our anxieties as we encounter seismic economic and technological transformations.
Having just witnessed his first BIM model, George says at one point:
“If that’s the future, you can have it!”
He could be speaking for an entire generation of architects who feel as if they’re in mortal danger of being left behind, forced into early retirement they can’t afford — literally or psychologically – or leaving the profession altogether.
At the risk of revealing a spoiler, it turns out all is not lost for George.
Disappointingly, it involves a work-around – when everyone recognizes the only way out is the way through.
“The Architect” may be drenched in the romance and visual values of CAD’s bygone era, but it’s a motion picture uncannily of its time.
(Apologies to critics of “The Artist,” which – like this post – is a shameless pastiche.)
Architects 2Zebras Top 10 Posts for 2011 December 31, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, BIM, books, career, change, education.
Tags: AIA, architect, architects, architecture, influence, knowledge, Michael Graves, Myers-Briggs, Richard Foqué
add a comment
Architects 2Zebras ended 2010 on a down note and readers let me know it, many of whom came to Zebras expecting positive, uplifting posts.
Not walks down reality lane.
You made it clear: there are plenty of reminders of how hard it is out there for architects and no one needed reminding.
You needed encouragement, resources and guidance.
I heard you and responded with a year’s worth of what I hoped would be more helpful posts.
Here are the ones you responded most positively to.
Thank you for sticking around, engaging and helping to make this another great year at Architects 2Zebras!
A response to an article entitled “A Difficult Character” about how, when a leadership consultant reviewed the Myers-Briggs tests of 100 architects, he discovered there really is an “architect type” — and maybe a difficult one.
In Princeton in the ‘80s, I twice lived in – or next to – Michael Graves home and office. Here’s what it was like.
This post received a very strong response, in part because – despite the title – its message was ultimately positive and empowering for architects.
Ask not what our profession (and AIA) can do for us. Ask: What can we do for our profession?
Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars. Architects, in an effort to distinguish themselves in a competitive market and work environment, have started to call themselves different things.
Architecture’s Two Cultures (AND a Crucial Third)
In-depth review of Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.
Why Didn’t You Teach Me How to Practice? November 21, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, employment, IDP, pragmatism.
Tags: architecture education, architecture school, bridging the gap, education, IDP, Intern Development Program, law school, lawyering, training
But can it?
That’s certainly the intention of Intern Development Program (IDP), the comprehensive training program created to ensure that interns in the architecture profession gain the knowledge and skills required for the independent practice of architecture.
Setting aside the validity in today’s economy of an independent – as opposed to integrated – practice of architecture,
Is the office the best place to train to become an architect?
In firms, these days, almost everybody draws.
And everyone is as close to 100% billable as humanly possible.
No more can architects consider themselves “knowledge workers,” unless that knowledge includes working knowledge of such software programs as AutoCAD or Revit.
With many architecture firms pared down to skeleton staffs, training is a luxury few can afford.
And teaching recent grads on a client’s dime is something most clients will no longer tolerate.
Building clients have never warmed to the idea that they are footing the bill for an intern’s education on the job.
As one senior designer said to me over coffee, rather loudly with an emphatic pounding on the table:
“Work is not school! Not school! Not school!!!”
Tell that to any firm that has set-up and administered a corporate university.
Neither academia nor practice, we’re beginning to see emerging entities that are starting to fill-in the gap, gaping hole or (for those attending Cornell) gorge between architectural education and practice.
Hybrid education. Just-in-time education.
Enroll in the equivalent of a four-year lunch-and-learn.
Don’t pass go don’t collect 200 dollars go straight to jail.
At the same time, we’re seeing bridge students who take-up architecture and engineering; or engineering and construction management; or architecture and an MBA, to help segue between academic and real-world pursuits while presumably making themselves more attractive to an employer.
Perhaps it is best that training – whether in continuing education or in practice – stay outside academe’s ivy walls.
Training is still seen by some as parochial, vocational.
In some academic circles “practice” is a dirty word.
Why sully your pristine education with practical consideration?
Some architecture schools won’t have practitioners on their faculty so as not to infect their student body, as though practical considerations were a disease.
This, despite the fact that practical knowledge is a job requirement on the road to becoming a full-fledge professional, every bit as much as residency is for a doctor.
Before building-up $150,000 in student loans, would-be architects – in most states – know that they will have to pass through an apprenticeship prior to sitting for the licensing exam.
Remind me: What exactly did you get for your $150,000 education?
Learning in school vs. learning in the gap vs. learning on the job
Architects like to think that they are alone in many things, not the least of which is their inadequate education and training in the face of a constantly moving picture of practice.
They are of course wrong: they have plenty of company.
This is evident in the many parallels with other areas of study.
Just consider these quotes:
“What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training.”
“Schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful”
“Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship”
“They are (practitioners) in the sense that they have…degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”
First-year associates at one…firm “spend four months getting a primer on corporate (practice.) During this time, they work at a reduced salary and they are neither expected nor allowed to bill a client. It’s good marketing for the firm and a novel experience for the trainees.”
“This has helped to hasten a historic decline in hiring.”
“The essential how-tos of daily practice are a subject that many in the faculty know nothing about — by design.”
“One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier…schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced…for a single day.”
“The academy wants people who are not sullied by…practice.”
“Where do these students go?…There are virtually no openings. They can’t hang a shingle and start on their own. Many of them are now asking their schools, ‘Why didn’t you teach me how to practice…?’ ”
These are just a few quotes from the New York Times article, “What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering.”
They sound remarkably – and uncomfortably – close to what architecture students go through.
What is one thing you wish recent graduates, interns or emerging professionals were taught in architecture school?
- A better understanding of ___________
- Greater familiarity with ____________
- Deeper knowledge of _____________
- Basic skills, like how to perform ______
- A stronger grasp of _______________
Let us know by leaving a comment.
The Architect’s Missing Manual August 28, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, BIM, books, change, identity, IPD, marginalization, survival, technology, the economy, transition.
Tags: AIA, AIA documents, The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice
Do you remember yours?
My first was the twelfth.
That is, the twelfth edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice.
That was the last edition to be offered in four separate three ring binders.
White, grey and red.
And crisp, with an off-center AIA logo super graphic emblazoned across the front.
I read the entire contents cover to cover to cover to cover.
Here, I thought, at last was the architect’s missing user’s manual.
After 4 years of undergraduate schooling and 2 years of graduate school, I still didn’t completely understand all that an architect was and could become.
And with the deep blue “backgrounders” ample history of what the architect once was.
For the first time you sensed that you belonged to a long tradition.
One that you were proud to be a part of.
Here, at last, contained in four binders was “the answer.”
There it was, in red ink on the first binder:
“Volume 1: The Tools. The Architect. The Firm.”
It would never again be so simple.
Nor so innocent.
Volume 2 was even simpler.
All it said was: “Volume 2: The Project.”
Could it be laid out any more straightforward?
The last two binders contained facsimiles of the AIA documents.
Here was the be-all-and-end-all D200.
“The checklist” that promised to give you a step-by-step explanation of every move you would make, from initial handshake to final handoff.
That was 1994.
In 2001, the thirteenth edition of the AHPP was issued.
And it was a new world. For the US, and for architects.
The contents were reduced to a single bound book.
With the AIA Documents sequestered to a CD-ROM.
And for the first time, the edition was printed on the binding – henceforth resulting in readers referring to the AHPP by edition.
[The twelfth was known by the three-ring binders.]
If the twelfth edition was for me “Paradise Found,” the thirteenth was “Innocence Lost.”
The table of contents said it all:
“Part 1: CLIENT.”
“Part 2: BUSINESS.”
The first 9 chapters were devoted to markets, marketing, financial operations and HR.
All good. All much-needed.
But the AHPP no longer told us who we were – or who we could become.
Not in our own right, anyway. But instead, we only existed so long as we had clients.
No client, no architect. And while practically we understood this to be true from a business perspective, the architect was clearly no longer front and center.
The off-center logo of the twelfth edition now had been shifted almost completely off the cover, so to speak.
The architect – in the first 250 pages – was almost nowhere to be found.
The center – had there ever truly been one – did not hold.
Each architect had to discover and define who she was for herself.
The fourteenth edition, printed in 2008, returned the architect to their rightful position in the AHPP.
“PART 1: THE PROFESSION.”
“PART 2: THE FIRM.”
And so on. But by the time this last edition was delivered, the world’s economy was in disarray with architect , profession and industry scrambling for survival.
The fourteenth edition, thick as a tombstone, was a memorial to what the architect had been.
What would become of the architect was anyone’s guess.
And while we suspect who the architect is – and will become – will have something to do with BIM, IPD, sustainability and digital fabrication, many architects would sooner be defined by their unique attributes, by their education or experience than by technological or global trends that reside outside themselves.
With the world in flux, the industry and profession in transition, and who or what the architect is or needs to be anyone’s guess,
I do not envy the task the esteemed architects and educators who are undertaking the next – the fifteenth edition – of the AHPP.
There has never been a more important undertaking for our profession than the definition of who the architect is and needs to be in the immediate future.
Here is how you can help bring about the new edition of the AHPP.
What can you do to help?
Help shape its intent and content by taking a short survey.
The deadline is coming up quick (Wednesday, August 31) so take a couple minutes right now to answer a couple questions here.
What is your first memory of the AHPP? Has it been of use to you at any time in your career? If so, how? Please let me know by leaving a comment.
The Architect’s Journey August 13, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, change, marginalization, questions, survival, technology, the economy.
Tags: AIA, architect's journey, carl jung, frank gehry, hero with a thousand faces, hero's journey, joseph campbell, sydney pollack
A few years back, right before the economic downturn, the AIA came out with a promotional piece entitled The Architect’s Journey.
The pamphlet was subtitled “Exploring a Future in Architecture,” with the focus on becoming an architect.
Then came the upheaval.
Whereby merely remaining an architect today is a hero’s journey.
Not ‘hero’ as ‘architect-as-hero’ in how director Sydney Pollack presented Gehry in Sketches of Frank Gehry.
But rather hero-as-in-heroic.
To be an architect today requires bravery, courage, ambition – qualities rarely discussed in these do-all-you-can-to-stay-on-the-boat days.
Architect’s careers once followed archetypes common to what Carl Jung (CJ) or Joseph Campbell (JC) might have called “the hero’s journey.”
Mythic structures that all architecture careers follow.
Something along these lines
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, p.30)
Mythic, that is, but not formulaic.
Recognizing that each individual has their own story of how they arrived at where they are
- The Call to Adventure
- The Road of Trials
- Meeting with the Mentor
And so on.
And yet, with
- the convoluted process of earning one’s architectural stripes, stamp and seal
- the downturn in the economy and the subsequent loss of colleagues and mentors
- the inevitable flattening or organizational hierarchies
- the loss of loyalty on both ends
- the advent of new technologies in the workplace
- work processes redefined
- design itself becoming more collaborative
- risks, responsibilities and rewards shared
Can it still be said that an architect’s career path has a recognizable structure?
In terms of storyline, can it still be said that one’s career has a dramatic arc?
Or – in lieu of former goals to attain one’s license, start a firm, win recognition from one‘s peers – is one’s career closer to an undulating succession of successes – and travails?
Becoming an architect is one thing.
Remaining one is something else.
There are many impediments one faces everyday
- Unwitting clients
- Unappreciative public
- Demanding employers
- Insensitive plan reviewers
- New technologies and work processes to master
So many hurdles, in fact, that to remain an architect today you have to be driven from within.
And possess a fire in the mind.
Only, for perhaps the first time in our storied history as a profession, one has to wonder: is that enough?
Some other questions to consider:
- How important are myths to the architect today?
- Do you believe that a career in architecture can still have an underlying mythic structure?
- Is it still possible to create careers with mythical power?
- With eyes glued to monitors and seats to bouncy balls, could it still be said that architecture – as a calling – can be something more than the daily struggle to honor the bottom line?
The Collaborative Designer May 23, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, books, change, collaboration, problem solving, questions.
Tags: co-creation, collaboration, Conceptual Age, Conceptual Economy, David Holston, Design Economy, empathic design, HOW books, HOW design, participatory design, Shawn M McKinney, The Strategic Designer
add a comment
Summary: You don’t need to be a designer to benefit from the best practices espoused in this magnificent new book. A must-have for designers, but also for those in project management and anyone who works with designers.
Based on over 100 interviews with designers, researchers and educators, The_Strategic_Designer by David Holston provides an overview of the design process and best practices.
The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, published by F+W Media and HOW Design, is billed as a Strategic Graphic Design Thinking book.
Despite this categorization, the subject matter transcends graphic design and can be universally applied to any of the design trades and professions including product and environmental design.
The book description will sound familiar to anyone working in architecture and related design professions:
As designers look for ways to stay competitive in the conceptual economy and address the increasing complexity of design problems, they are seeing that they must not only be experts in form, but must also have the ability to collaborate, to design in context and be accountable through measurement.
By adopting a process that considers collaboration, context and accountability, designers move from makers of things to strategists.
The book focuses on the designer’s workflow, ideation techniques, client relationships and methods for measuring the success of their projects.
An excellent foreward by Shawn M McKinney gets things off to a fast start – which, alone, is worth the investment in the book.
Each chapter covers a specific design phase emphasis, providing a practical step-by-step approach, complete with tools and techniques.
Overview of the Design Process – a process rife with opportunities for misinformation, dead ends, and divergent tracks, as well as amazing outcomes
The Value of Process – the benefits of having a well-defined design process
The Collaborative Designer – emphasizing co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in a strong client-designer relationship. This is a particularly rich chapter, addressing and answering such questions as: What makes a Good designer? What Makes a Good Client? and Clients to Avoid. There’s a wonderful sidebar on: Seven Principles for Managing Creative Tension.
Empathic Design – explaining how research provides a path and imperative for moving forward
Understanding the Business – includes a breakdown of basic strategy techniques and an explanation of the purpose of business analysis as understanding and defining goals of the client
Designing with the End User in Mind – with an emphasis on facilitating and moderating participatory and collaborative work sessions. The Designing for People chapter focuses on research as a valuable tool for gaining insight into the organizational needs of clients and their prospective audiences.
Managing Ideas – especially when ideating with others in a participatory or collaborative setting, relying heavily on the experiences and knowledge of people involved.
Making Strategy Visible – how the designer takes an empathic approach to design that connects business goals with user needs.
Design Accountability – asking: Why is design hard to measure? And answering by sharing significant research findings and metrics. Salient quote: “The price for a seat at the decision-making table is accountability.”
Planning in a Turbulent Environment – the days of using a linear design process are over. Strategic designers face increasingly wicked problems. A helpful framework offered by project management.
Refining Your Process – so it can provide a common understanding for “how things get done” mitigating wasted efforts while creating value for the client and user alike.
The author places the book and subject squarely in Dan Pink’s Conceptual Economy, a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context.
Later in The Strategic Designer, Rotman School of Management dean Roger Martin says that the world is moving from the Information Economy to a Design Economy. A small distinction, but one that unnecessarily complicates matters. I would look to a book such as this to clarify the playing field, at the very least to acknowledge that the labeling of epochs and phraseology are still a work-in-progress.
The book’s strength is not in creating new knowledge – but in repackaging what is largely already known, experientially by every designer – in an easy to carry tome.
Readers, for example, who have perused Wikipedia articles on various topics related to design strategy will recognize the source of several of the author’s summaries.
In this sense, the book is not a product of the Conceptual Age, but instead is a well-designed, convenient and accessible agglomeration, aggregating both explicit and, perhaps the greater achievement here, tacit knowledge on the subject. The book is no less of an achievement for doing so.
The design world is a much better place for having this book at its disposal.
Conclusion: The Strategic Designer is a must-have book for designers, those who manage design projects and those who work with designers in a collaborative setting.
Addenda: How can this book not have a single review?
HOW books makes books on high quality paper, books that feel good in the hand, and themselves serve as exemplary reminders that ebooks should not be our only option. The Strategic Designer is no exception.
The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse May 14, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, books, career, change, employment, management, software architects, the economy.
Tags: architect positions, architect titles, bimworker, change management, design anthropologist, design consultant, design ninja, design strategist, design thinker, design thinking, freelancer, intrepreneur, job titles, service designer, thought leader
Not that they’re going to give up the title architect anytime soon.
They’re in search of a title that more accurately qualifies – and clarifies – what they do as an architect.
With the advent of social media, what we call ourselves in our profiles goes a long way toward how others treat and work with us.
Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars
Sometimes we find ourselves using titles that we ourselves aren’t certain what they mean.
And good thing. Because we often use them as much to obfuscate as to communicate.
Many of the newest titles are conjunctions, conflations or co-joining of two or more existing titles – such as business and design – that are meaningful when used independently but when combined leave us ashamed and others feeling abused.
In fact, if you hear someone say “I’m at the intersection of design and business” don’t meet them there – they’re probably lost.
We’ll skip trendy titles such as “Director of Chaos” because architects are more likely to be a ”Director of Form.”
And “Director of First Impressions”? A euphemism for Receptionist. (We’ll spare you the Dilbertisms)
Here’s a field guide to some of the ways we are referring to ourselves – and to each other – in this make-it-up-as-you-go world we find ourselves living and working in.
One definition is offered to confuse or Abuse.
The other you’d be better off to Use.
Abuse: A designer
- is someone who sees everything as an opportunity for improvement.
- is someone who has to sell themselves and their talents every time they walk into a room.
- primarily concerns themselves with how to create a successful communication, product, or experience.
- is an agent who specifies the structural properties of a design object.
- is anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects
In other words, there are as many definitions as there are designers.
Use: Architect. Use Designer if you’d to be retained by an owner. See An Architect With Low Self-esteem
A Design Consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, designs a new one for you, sends you a bill for it and puts a lien on it when you don’t pay in 120 days.
Abuse: Specialists in human factors, psychology, business, design, engineering and manufacturing who provide full service consulting for building and product innovation and design.
Use: Freelancer. An architect who can’t find full-time employment.
Abuse: Uses project management, design, strategy and supply chain techniques to control a creative process, supports a culture of creativity and build a structure and organization for design.
Use: A manager of design projects.
See: This is a comprehensive reference book for anyone seeking an introduction to the basic concepts and principles that inform the management of design projects, teams and processes within the creative industries; and her earlier work, here.
Abuse: Belonging to an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the role of design artifacts and processes in defining what it means to be human. See also: Design Sociologist
Use: Someone with an undergraduate anthropology diploma and a 3 year degree in architecture.
Abuse: An unorthodox or unconventional designer. Used more often in web and graphic design.
Use: Design Mercenary (忍者)
Pure unadulterated business jargon. An entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas or business ideas that merited attention. ‘Go to’ subject-matter experts in your industry. Period. Here’s how to package your ideas to share with others.
Abuse: Calling yourself one.
Use: Only when others call you this. And even then, don’t ever use it to describe yourself.
Abuse: Someone who writes his/her thoughts and feelings online.
Use: Anyone who contributes to a blog or online journal. And I mean anyone.
See: Arbiter of Knowledge and Wisdom
Abuse: Someone who knows what it means to manage the people side of the change equation.
Use: Someone adept at soothing the staff when management changes their mind. See Change Management
Abuse: Business people trained in design methods.
Use: Design people trained in business methods.
Abuse: Design Principals and Senior Designers used to hand off their building designs – and Project Managers and Architects their redlines – to CAD operators. With BIM, it no longer works this way. Like Artworkers in graphic design, BIMworkers initiate, commence, pursue, resolve self-edit and complete the work. If they had money, they would also own it.
Use: BIM Modelers. BIM Managers, BIM Coordinators and BIM Operators will thank you for it.
Abuse: Someone who uses the word “wayfinding” in casual conversation.
Use: An architect knows that if you have to use signage, you’ve failed. Architecture is its own wayfinding.
Abuse: Someone who provides innovative insights on using design as a strategic resource. Someone who hangs with CEOs of major brand management firms, business school deans, IDEO alum, engineers and professors of design
Use: Someone who uses design to achieve key business objectives. See Design Thinker and Design Guru.
See: To be a design strategist, you either have to be an IDEO veteran, Stanford University lecturer on design, the founder of a customer experience design company – or know someone who is one. Here are the eleven skills sets for what it takes and here and here.
Abuse: Someone who organizes people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer’s experience. A cross-disciplinary practitioner who combines skills in design, management and process engineering.
Use: Someone who provides numerous benefits to the end user experience when applied to project types such as retail, banking, transportation, & healthcare. See Social Entrepreneur
Abuse: See Form giver. Someone who gives shape to products, objects and buildings.
Use: Someone who really gets design, puts it to good use and will lead others into the twenty-first century with creative strategies.
See this, probably the best new book on the topic.
Chief X Officer
Where X can be Culture, Interpretation, Learning, Systems, Collaboration, Co-Creation, Creativity, Innovation, Mischief, Imagination, Technology, Information, Fun. As in Chief Storytelling Officer. Someone who has traded real work for knowledge work. A begrudging strategist.
Abuse: A corporate title indicating hierarchy, authority and power. A high ranking officer who gets an office with a window.
Use: Leader. A high ranking officer who gets a windowless office.
Abuse: Entrepreneurs who operate by creating business opportunities and practices inside their organization. Employees who – in addition to their workload – develop client relationships and bring in work.
Use: An employee today runs their own company within their company. Any employee who sells wrapping paper or cookies to captured employees on behalf of their kids. See Social Intrepreneur
Use: Someone with a short attention span who can’t make their mind up. Someone who comes up with an idea then abandons it, usually for another equally compelling idea. See Serial Intrepreneur
Design Director (especially when conflated with Founder, Owner, CEO, President and Managing Partner)
Abuse: Principal responsible for client, project, financial, design management and coffee making.
Use: Freelancer. Sole proprietor.
Founding Principal and Owner
Use: You. Your name.
Abuse: Whether Sustainability Advocate or IPD Advocate, they’re a person who publicly supports and recommends a particular cause or policy.
Use: Someone who facilitates the process for others but won’t be seen doing it themselves. See X Evangelist
Director of Product Strategy and Innovation
Use: Cell phone sales. See Verizon Salesperson
Abuse: Passionate arbiter of knowledge who enjoys learning while teaching.
Use: Job seeking.
See: Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Abuse: Someone who wastes other people’s time and resources by laboriously advocating the use of such systems as Six Sigma, TQM, Lean and other business management methodologies.
Use: Someone who creates value for others by eliminating waste. See IPD Advocate
Abuse: Someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced.
Use: Employee. Anyone who works for a living – using something other than their hands – at the tasks of developing or using knowledge. Anyone who develops, works with or uses information in the workplace. See Anyone who works for a living
Abuse: Someone who uses industry techniques such as gathering intelligence on competitors, generating leads and prospects, managing presentations and designing and generating successful business models, aimed at attracting new clients and penetrating existing markets.
Use: Client-building, client relations and marketing. See Rainmaker
Abuse: Someone who engages clients by focusing attention on the issues and individuals at hand, listening both to what they say and what they leave unsaid, framing the immediate problem from their perspective, envisioning with them how a solution might appear and committing jointly to the actions and resources that will bring it about, all to gain the confidence and earn the trust of their clients.
Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Use: Retired. See Scattershot Approach to Capturing Attention on LinkedIn
Now it’s your turn. Are there any titles you are aware of that you don’t see here?
A Lifeline for a Profession Adrift May 7, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, career, change, collaboration, creativity, environment, fiction, IPD, marginalization, pragmatism, productive thinking, questions, Revit, technology.
Tags: BIM, building information modeling, case studies, cradle to cradle, design-build, integrated design, integrated practice, integrated project delivery, IPD, lean construction, sally hogshead, virtual construction
Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.
Cradle to Cradle, subtitled Remaking the Way We Make Things, is printed on waterproof paper for this reason.
Poetry anthologies served this purpose after 9/11 as did commonplace books carried by soldiers.
In fact, the book I’m about to introduce you to explains the original use of the word “communication” to mean bringing something to the “common place, to the community, to make it part of the larger social group.”
That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.
Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.
On the academic side, Foqué is a professor and dean emeritus at the Henry van de Velde Higher Institute of Architecture at the University College Antwerp.
On the practice side, Foqué is the founder and honorary principal of FDA Architects (now OSAR), one of the largest architectural firms in Flanders.
Richard Foqué’s work is characterized by the integration of architecture, art, design and science and reflected in the book “Bringing the World into Culture”, dedicated to Foqué and in which 21 eminent scholars, architects and designers bring a tribute to his work. An interdisciplinary thinker, Foqué lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.
But don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because of his credentials.
Read this book because Richard Foqué is the first poet to write beautifully and meaningfully about the architect, design, creativity,
And as importantly, digital design tools such as BIM and collaborative work processes such as integrated design, design-build, lean construction and design thinking, subjects at the focus of these discussions.
You had me at Introduction
A book, like any of us, competes in a marketplace for attention.
Building Knowledge in Architecture, until today, appears to have been satisfied waiting patiently to be discovered on library shelves.
Book, wait no more.
Because that’s how long our attention spans today have been shortened to.
Reader, here I’ll introduce you to what will surely become a fine traveling companion and fellow conversationalist in the weeks ahead.
But I’ll need 9 minutes to do so – not 9 seconds. So please bear with me.
Man Measuring the Clouds
A passing glance at a sculpture, Man Measuring the Clouds, inspired Foqué to reflect on architecture and what it means to be an architect today.
“The architect works in the field of tension between imagination and reality. The architect’s task is to convert the dreams and often unreachable wishes of the client into a buildable concept, which should be functional, technically resolved, and in compliance with all building and safety codes, but at the same time must inspire a sense of well-being and have the necessary aesthetic qualities to contribute to and enrich its context.”
Foqué then asks:
“Is the architect the person who is measuring the clouds all the time? Is architectural design, per se, an impossible task to perform? In other words, what is the essence of being an architect? What are the skills, competencies, and knowledge an architect needs to perform as a true professional?”
Aware of the access to practical knowledge readily available to other fields such as medicine, business and law, things can be otherwise for the architectural profession, the author sets out in search of a robust knowledge base architects can access:
“In my own practice, I have endeavored to use my professional experience and accumulated know-how in an innovative way for every new commission. But I have always been left with a feeling of discontent: Could I have done better? Did I use all the creative potential and knowledge at my disposal, and did I not overlook essential elements?”
Foqué concludes that the architectural profession no longer has a shared knowledge base. Building Knowledge in Architecture asks all of the important questions:
“Why did we abandon or sacrifice (this) knowledge base? Why is the architectural profession drifting? Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious? Why do we struggle to cope with contemporary technological evolution, and why is it so difficult to integrate in a satisfactory way new findings and insights into our design solutions? Why are we losing ground, and why are essential responsibilities of our professional practice being assumed by others?”
One page into the book, you realize you have underlined every line. It is one of those books.
The book is organized in two parts.
In Part 1, Building Knowledge in Architecture serves as a practical overview of contemporary architectural design methods, and proposes design – apart from science and art – as a third way to investigate the real world.
“Perceiving themselves as practitioners of a ‘creative’ profession, architects hover between science and art.” p. 25
This is one of the very few books that discuss new digital design tools such as building information modeling (BIM) from academic, theoretical and practical standpoints (discussed for the first time on p. 93.)
But also integrated project delivery (IPD) or at least a facsimile of the same.
In the section called The Exteriorization of the Design Process, Foqué indicates that recent evolution of communication information technology processes forces designers
“…to interact increasingly with his environment. He has no escape, so to speak, but must engage in a permanent dialogue with his surrounding world.” p. 82
Foqué points out that the concept of transdisciplinarity – and the way specialized knowledge can be integrated – harkens back to the work of developmental child psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1970’s.
Where, according to the author, specialized knowledge needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive body of integrated knowledge, “within a global system of values and well-considered choices.”
Per Piaget, those who have taken part on integrated design teams will recognize the suggestion that multidisciplinary collaboration is, at root, child’s play.
“Learning should be revalorized in the sense that the creators of knowledge should also be held accountable for the application of that knowledge.” P. 24
“It is recognized that at the modern university, there exists a hierarchy of knowledge, which starts with the basic and fundamental science at the top, applied science in the middle, and technical skills at the bottom.” P. 26
Explaining why digital design tools, while used extensively, are infrequently taught at the university.
“…grounded in the field of tension between ‘technical’ performance and ‘artistic’ creation. It is exactly in that field of tension that every professional discipline grounds its own knowledge base.” P. 26
Foqué defines a critical component of the architect’s arsenal, intuition, as “a not-yet-conceptualized and not-yet-systematized form of knowledge.” P. 27
Before I go on to quote every line in the book, I want to point out an additional pleasure in reading a book written with a poet’s sensibility.
In describing the synergistic integration of art, science and technology, Foqué uses the seemingly simple example of learning to ride a bike.
“If you describe every part of a bike in extreme detail and add these descriptions together, you will by no means have produced an appropriate description of a bike.”
He concludes this explanation:
“In other words, it is not by knowing the why that you master the how. You need to add the artistic dimension, the art of bike-riding.”
As only a poet – who is also an architect, educator, scholar – could have written.
Foqué explains the now familiar story of how architects abandoned responsibility, and in doing so, relinquished authority, over the past 40 years.
He asks: How can we reverse this decline?
Part 2 of the book presents his case, so to speak.
Reinventing the Obvious
In Part 2, Building Knowledge in Architecture makes the case for case studies in architecture.
The case goes something like this:
Because case studies are used as teaching tools at law, medicine, and in MBA programs, architectural training should also include more reading and creating of case studies.
Here’s the problem with this argument:
It doesn’t need to be made.
In the introduction, the author asks: Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious?
And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.
Architecture curriculums already make use of case studies. I know, for example, when I taught an integrated design/technology studio, we made great use of them.
They are not only, as the author argues, a practical tool for documenting complicated building projects, finding solutions to technical problems and expanding a firm’s expertise.
They are also excellent opportunities for having architecture students work in teams and learn how to collaborate on a project team while still in school.
The complexity of building projects almost guarantees that the teams will be multidisciplinary.
An example is Aaron Greven’s course in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Integrated Building Delivery program, a class that focuses on integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building project participants, for the Masters in Integrated Building Delivery program, a post-professional program that is in its pilot phase.
While the example does not prove the rule, I have previously reviewed these case study presentations here.
And more recently, they have been reviewed here.
The book does an excellent job explaining case study research as a means to establish a knowledge base and, as importantly, develops a practical method to do so.
“Architecture is no longer considered a true discipline, based on a comprehensive knowledge base, as it was for more than 2000 years. It is clear that this situation is no longer tenable, if architecture wants to survive in the Information Age, and in a quickly changing globalized world. A key question regarding the discipline of architecture today is how we can build a store of knowledge again.” P.174
But for me, proving the case for use of case studies in architectural education is not the reason to read this book.
Perhaps it is not case studies that are needed but a knowledge management and information system that can readily access the design professional’s accumulated knowledge.
There are people out there who do just this.
But this book does provide the rationale as well as a unique approach to constructing case studies, grounded in the arguments and methodology presented in the first part of the book.
And more importantly, this book explains how we can build knowledge in our profession and industry through the use of case studies.
The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.
Weaknesses first. For all of the wonderful discussion about design and creativity throughout the first part of the book, there is nary a general mention of or reference to either in the index. It is almost as though the index was created for academics who might scrutinize sources for perfunctorily academic reasons but alas, not for the general reader’s ease of use.
Likewise, many of the otherwise wonderfully rich sources cited, are from the 1970’s or earlier. The book would have benefitted the reader (but no doubt not fellow academics) by referencing more contemporary examples of the same ideas or even the cited author’s more recent work.
On the strength side, the book’s diagrams are truly spectacular and help to illustrate many of the book’s finer concepts.
Another remarkable and no doubt unintended strength of the book is it is eminently tweetable.
A book of well-composed sentences, Building Knowledge in Architecture is remarkably aphoristic, and there are literally hundreds of quotable 140 character lines that are just crying out to be tweeted on Twitter:
“Intuitive thinking and rational thinking are not opponents; they are the twin poles between which the artist structures reality.” http://amzn.to/lyhDEl
Foqué explains that in earlier craft societies, severe penalties were imposed on those members who reveal knowledge in public. P. 93
Today, we are rewarded for the same by being retweeted.
See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.
Read or drown
It doesn’t matter if you don’t learn anything new by reading this book (you will.)
Because, after reading it, you will be able to say that you know what you know for the first time.
And that is some accomplishment. For any book.
It is absolutely critical that you read this book. Why?
Here are 3 reasons:
For all of the reasons I have stated up above.
For the reason that it tells us where we have been, where we are today and where we are headed.
And for this reason:
When drowning and you are thrown a life preserver you don’t say, “no thanks, I’ve seen one of these before,” and toss your line to safety aside.
A strength of this author, as mentioned, is that he has one foot in academia and the other in practice, a perspective evident in nearly every sentence:
“Professional disciplines…reduce the gap between real world problems and academic research, research increasingly captured by its own agenda.” P. 25
A book such as this can go a long way starting to fill the gap between education and practice.
That the author is a published poet can be seen in the book’s nearly perfect prose – so clear that you will not need to go back and read any sentence twice.
But you will do so anyway.
Because the sentences are so well-written they’ll strike a chord in you.
And you will find yourself rereading them for the sheer wonder and pleasure.
So don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because it develops a general design theory, a theoretical framework and practical instrumentation to establish a knowledge base for the discipline of architecture.
Read it if you want to improve your understanding of the impact and motives on decision making so that your designs are more responsive to real needs.
Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because you are an architect, an educator or student.
Read it because books like this are why we still have books.
Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because we as a profession are adrift and this book has been thrown to us as a lifeline.
Read it because at a time when the publishing and construction industry are experiencing upheavals, it is heartening to discover a book that is as well-written and well-illustrated as it is well-constructed and physically beautiful.
The book feels good in the hand, like a book by Peter Zumthor.
When you hold it for the first time you will feel
as though you have done so before,
as though the book is being returned to you
after a long absence.
To you alone.
That is because this book has been written for you.
The book, Building Knowledge in Architecture, was recommended to me by Ryan Schultz, founder of http://www.openingdesign.com/ via Twitter
@theoryshaw P. 78 of Building Knowledge in Architecture (Design as a rational Process: The Triangle Broken) could be your mission statement. Thanks!
FYI This blog was posted for readers at my other blog by a different name.