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The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse May 14, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, books, career, change, employment, management, software architects, the economy.
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Architects, in an effort to distinguish themselves in a competitive market and work environment, have started to call themselves different things.

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.

Designer

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

Design Consultant

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.

Design Management

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.

Design Anthropologist

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.

See this.

Design Ninja

Abuse: An unorthodox or unconventional designer. Used more often in web and graphic design.

Use: Design Mercenary (忍者)

See this.

Thought Leader

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.

Blogger

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

Change Agent

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

Design Thinker

Abuse: Business people trained in design methods.

Use: Design people trained in business methods.

Design thinkers are designers who achieve innovative outputs that drive business success. See this and this and especially this.

BIMworker

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.

Information Architect

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.

Design Strategist

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.

Service Designer

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

See Service Design + Design Thinking = This

Design Innovator

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.

Intrepreneur

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

Serial Entrepreneur

Abuse: An entrepreneur who continuously comes up with new ideas and starts new businesses.

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.

X Advocate

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: Sales.

Business Architect

Use: Cell phone sales. See Verizon Salesperson

Lecturer

Abuse: Passionate arbiter of knowledge who enjoys learning while teaching.

Use: Job seeking.

See: Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor

Lean Ambassador

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

Knowledge Worker

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

Business Development

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

Trusted Advisor

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.

Use: Architect. While David Maister’s guide is a classic, this and this are also helpful.

Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor

Abuse: Expert.

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?

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