DesignProcessTechnologyValue, A Conversation

Conversation regarding the architectural design process, and the technologies used.

Faster? Stronger? Harder? Yeah, Right.

The first rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club.

Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Dead men tell no tales.

Kids say the darndest things.

Keep the family business in the family.

There are some things you just don’t talk about; today, I can’t help myself.

In IT, what’s being developed is always in the forefront of the news, reviews, and opinion pieces. We have traditionally lived in an era where advancement of speed, power, bandwidth, and performance have been things we not only could look forward to but count on. This appears, for the current time, to be no longer.

What has happened to fast, powerful computers getting faster, more powerful, and handle larger bandwidths?

What has happened to Apple and Windows continuing to deliver hardware that are rockets compared to the previous year (or years’) models?

I write this as part of our design/technology conversation after great frustration, angst, anticipation, and repeated letdown from what I will call “The Big Two.”

I know the market these companies are looking at – my kids, my grandkids (there are 5 and 8, respectively) –  and understand where the quick money is.

The thing is, we as a design studio constantly and consistently need stronger, more powerful machines. Most of us are using computers that now are on-par with technology that is 7-10 years old. Operating systems have changed, software has changed, but the hardware we are loading it on is, for the most part, same-old-same-old. It’s tiring.

Consider this an open letter to The Big Two:

If you make some computers that will rock the design world with power, RAM, GPU, processing power and speed, performance, compatibility, upgrade-ability, power, speed, oh and power and speed, and you will blow your competitors away.

Why do I say this? Because I’m living it.

First, Apple appeared to not focus on computers, iMacs, or Mac Book Pro’s much anymore.

Then, they confirmed it with upgrades that border on gimmicks – a touch bar at the top of the keyboard that “enhances the user’s ability to access software controls.” I’ve been told “not so” by many users and I am about to confirm this myself with a new purchase. But the computer is no more of a processing machine than that of the generation I am currently using – now 2 generations old. That makes no sense – or cents – right?


Did you see the latest Keynote? Totally mobile devices. I get it, I own several, including the Apple Watch and iPad Pro (that this is being composed on). But come on, selling a watch by skateboarding to your favorite song in a terminal is off the mark – I’m 58 years old and looking for hardware to help my business – and my clients’ businesses – succeed. Or perhaps I’m not the mark anymore? Get real, Apple.


But Microsoft (or should I say Windows? sometimes it’s hard to know) is doing it, too:

Studio machines show great promise with a control knob of sorts that magically attaches to a tilting touch screen (touch screen! you, listening Apple?), but the performance of the best machine they offer is a marginal top-end performance at best.

Now they are offering a laptop with a softer feel – velvety, or something like that – on the surface your hands rest on…really? This is why I should buy their new machine, because it feels good? Come on. Does it make my design process better? Faster? If not, I’ve got no time for it.

What results is a search for an alternative. We have found some hardware alternatives and they are making valiant efforts in performance (64 GB’s RAM, incredible GPU’s), but glowing keyboards and logos and tricks that make gaming fun don’t necessarily make the design studio – or your clients conference room – so fun.

In the midst of the hardware development drought, we are at a crossroads: do we replace hardware and keep the software we are used to with less performance or replace software that will allow us more flexibility in our hardware purchases?

I’ve been told I’m an Apple guy – I’ll buy that.  A very frustrated Apple guy, who, when working on discovering an alternative, found some interesting – and not cheap –  alternatives,. But there is always a catch.

The architectural design process used to be full of names like Mayline, Rotring, and Stadtler. I can’t help but wonder what folks will have trouble remembering in the next ten, twenty years?


I hope Apple is not one of those names.

I hope Windows is not one of those names.

We’ve come too far now to give up on each other.

Step up, fellas. Deliver, or someone else will.

I know this post can end on a positive note, so as a final word of encouragement to Apple and Windows:

Go ahead and keep making thin, sexy, sophisticated, velvety-smooth, tilting touch screens. We do look forward to the next iThis and AppleThat, but do it with some transparency. Don’t forget about the power, speed, bandwidth, performance, processing, capacity, capability, and service that everyone is looking for.

You do this, and we will knock your doors down to get them.

Now get on it.

The IT Factor

For the past few months I have been blogging about technology in the design process: the apps we use, the operating systems employed in our adventures, and the struggles, challenges, and opportunities we encounter to make this process better – for ourselves and for our clients.

As part of this effort I experienced something that hit a nerve – not something that has sent us spinning in a direction that distracts from the overall blog, but something that rang a bell of sorts and caused me to pause, take a breath, and offer a bit of a sidebar  regarding  IT services.

In full transparency, I want you to know I have one son who holds a degree and is working in IT and another who, as a graphic designer, has had his hand in IT by association – both now for about 10 years.

Observations and conversations with both of them have already prompted some of my posts, but a recent LinkedIn post sent me here. My colleague Angela posted that someone made a jab at her job title in an effort to make her think less of herself, referring to it as a “little Beetle Bailey desk job.”  Her response was a great – she sees the value of the IT help she can provide  no matter the task – and I joined over two thousand others in commenting on the post while another thirty-four thousand liked it.  I wanted to take this opportunity to offer some thoughts on IT services and how to use them.

Allow me to offer the following points to consider:

First, understand this IT thing is a new field and it is changing, morphing, and growing as fast as and as complex as the field of computers you are using. Those of us over forty can probably remember when there was no IT. If you think you have a lot to keep up with, think again. How many of you click “Remind Me Tomorrow” when your devices prompt you to update their systems? IT folks can’t.

My first experience with this notion was in Dallas and our IT guys were in the office and doing it by necessity. Tony, one of my fellow architectural designers in the office, was the first, learning on the fly and doing a bang-up job of it. Explaining, training, fixing, updating – doing whatever was needed. When Tony was no longer able, Eric came along as a dedicated IT resource for us; he ended up working nights so when we arrived in the morning things would be working for us. Eric worked hard and, for the most part, no one saw it. I did as we needed to discuss things as new computers came in (I usually had the beta test machines – lucky me).

Later, in another office, Doug kept the IT wheels turning and still does, I understand – patience of Job, that guy. Seems all offices try to get by with a guy in the office as much as possible.

Locally, in my office, I’m by default that guy. But I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers.

What then?

Call someone! Now. 

That person used to be Chris and Jonathan, now it’s Drew and Thomas. Used to be Drew and Ben – one was Apple and the other Windows (remember, we use both OS’s…great resource, those guys.)

You can see things change over time. Go through these changes carefully. Know your network and systems as best you can – we will touch on that shortly. Changes can be very painful – do them carefully and with purpose.

So, who to use? THAT depends upon you, your level of training, your office, and your resources.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I suggest you find a good – no, a GREAT – IT person and get to know them. Let them get to know you. Insist they get to know you. If they aren’t interested in that, move on to someone else. Interview them. Feel good about them. Get their cell phone number and let them know you may need to use it (don’t abuse it, though). When you call they need to understand it is serious and valid for them to return your calls. The point is, they may not be on the payroll, but they may be your most important expense at times (hopefully for very short periods). You two are going to be working together on some really important stuff – your IT needs.

We have a phrase in the construction industry – I don’t really like it very much –  that goes like this, “How much and when?” When you call, you need to be able to clearly represent how much you need done and when you need it completed. Depending upon the timing of your call, your need and the intensity of it, the answers are likely EVERYTHING and NOW! Be careful with this, as they don’t need a “sky is falling” attitude every time they hear from you.

Plan ahead – and give them a heads up at all times. I called once and didn’t get an answer so I called again, insisting I get a return call. Again, no answer, so I called a third time, indicating they needed to either be in jail or the hospital. I did get the return call – and he was in surgery….you never know. Either way, we connected. (He’s now gone on to medical school – he was in studies, not under the knife. Thanks again, Jonathan.)

How to work with IT?

Think about these things as you communicate with them:

  1. Respect them. They are trained (one was actually a computer scientist and did things others told us later were not possible – so there). Appreciate what they can offer you and listen to them. Speak to them as though they are smart – they are. They could be doing far more interesting things than re-setting your passwords.

2. Consider them a resource. 

Not as a servant or otherwise someone who is less than you are – they are far from it. These folks do things most of us cannot imagine how to get started. Upon completion, it may seem like a simple thing they did – but they know how and what to do – AND what the resulting affects of their actions may be. All the more reason to communicate with them and let them get to know your system, your methods, softwares and processes – being able to work in your specific system is critical.

3. Learn from them.

Let them show you everything they want to and record it. Write it down, draw it, photograph it. Remember it so you don’t continually pester them with log-in resets and can later have an intelligent conversation about what your software/hardware is doing.

If they aren’t wired to share much with you then ask them to. If they aren’t willing to do so, start looking for another resource –  you need to know as much about your system as you can for future reference and decision making. Be sure you work with an IT resource that knows and appreciates this.

4. Help them help you.

In addition to the above, do everything you can to help them help you. What does this mean? Any number of things can be done to assist them in helping solve a problem. Many times I capture screen shots of error messages, record screen events, even video what is going on if a screen shot won’t do it – pick up your phone and shoot video of what’s going on. Then show it to them – at their visit, in an email – or TEXT it to them with your request for assistance! This allows them to come prepared, not needing to recreate what the problem is – they will have already seen it.

5. Oh, and keep records.

Record passwords, logins, versions, everything you can. There are a variety of softwares to keep record of passwords and such – these can be life savers and the convenience and piece of mind is great. I currently have a document of some 66 pages of records regarding software and it’s nowhere near as complete as I wish it was.


The take away? Think: if you were the IT response team representative serving you,what would you want to understand from your client? Give them that and more, they can cypher through what they need. Communicate.

Learning these things over the years has helped me understand what they put up with from the rest of us.

Bless them.

Thank you to all the folks who have been a resource to us.

You have no idea how much you are appreciated. We need to continually work on THAT.

Love ya, mean it.

IT: they are a-changin’


New. Improved. Upgraded. Special. Custom. Tailored. Smarter. Happier. Faster. Stronger. Higher. Cheaper. Prettier. Smoother. Younger.

We’ve all heard these.
We have all desired these – for ourselves, and in the products we have purchased.
Things change.
This is inevitable and cannot be ignored. However, it appears things are changing FASTER, stronger, QUICKER and at a frequency that only appears to be getting faster, stronger, and quicker. What to do? KEEP UP!

When this blog started I stated that as things progressed through the year, they would probably change and be different than what was posted earlier in the year. Well, I think I said that – if not, I’m saying it now. Things ARE changing and are in flux – not only about what I am blogging about but what we are trying to use. This is what today’s post is about – change and options. The pace is quickening – so read this post fast.

Remember the increasing rate of technological change?

Let me illustrate it this way:
Think about the lifespan of wax and vinyl records. What about magnetic tape? Reel to reels? Cassettes? 8-tracks? CD’s? MP3’s (which are now declared dead)?

How about “IT” as we know it?
Remember software from a big-box store?
Downloaded software?
Streaming software?
Now it’s web-based software. No store, no disk, no install, “no nothing” as they say…
What’s next?

If you recall your experience with any of the above, you will note the introductions of replacements for each came faster and faster. Not just more powerful – MORE – and faster and quicker and more frequently. It’s not going to stop, only change.

When you are through changing, you are through. –Bruce Barton

I encourage you to acquaint yourself with Moore’s Law if you aren’t familiar with it. There are those who don’t believe it – let them.

In addition to the technological rate increasing, we must remember that everything changes. Here is an example of why it appears to be doing so – this illustration is based upon an FTE, or “full time equivalent,” that we consider with some of our projects. These assist in understanding cycles of a project – annual, seasonal, or otherwise.

Example: a church. If you consider FTE’s on an annual basis, a church will have birthdays, deaths, pregnancies, and celebrations in the lives of each member. If the FTE of said church is 1, then the church “ages” (goes through all the above annual life events) in one year. If you up the membership to 10, then the rate increases 10-fold, and appears to occur much more rapidly, appearing to age at a rate of ten years to every year (going through all the annual events 10x more). With the number going to 100, or 1000, the  life events would be overwhelming (hence the need for a church staff – lots of life events going on and we all want our birthdays remembered – right, kids?).

Ok, take that example and think about software and hardware. How many licensed copies of software do you have on your machine? Here’s an example of one of mine:


101 installs of software – AND THIS IS A NEW MACHINE.
How many of these apps do I single out? Maybe 20.
How many ask for monitoring, updating, licensing and otherwise ask for attention sometime in their “life” of a year? You guessed it – 101. All of them. Oftentimes, more than once a year – some quite frequently.
Not one is unnecessary.
Between the OS, networking, apps, and other softwares it added up really quickly.
101 apps asking for attention. If each needed attention only once a year, that’s still almost two requests each week. That results in apps asking for attention in some way every 2.5 working days! Good grief. Luckily, some of this attention is automatic, but you still see it. It slows you down, asks permission, and otherwise gets in your face in some way or another. And this is just software.

Change is inevitable. Except from a vending machine. – Robert C. Gallagher

Hardware has to support all this stuff – and THAT’S where the wheels can start coming off in the setup.

Example we are wrestling with right now:

Sketchup – it now requires an OpenGL of 3.0 to run. Do you know exactly what that is? Me, neither. But I do know it references the structure of the software – and therefore the software is GREATLY dependent upon this structure – and this new incompatibility has created a limitation in how we can use Sketchup.
Does Mac support it? Yep.
Does Windows? Yes.
Do virtual machines? Noooope. At least, not with Parallels – yet. Who knows when? Your guess is as good as mine.
Point is, change happens. Count on it. Are there other options? Oh, yes. We are studying those, hence my new machine – a Razer with a 1080 GPU and processor that is a rocket – it’s fast upon fast, but no Mac stuff, please – Windows 10 only.
So, again, change happens – and it’s changing right now.

We are considering going to Windows only, or Boot Camp for Mac. In the process, I’m discovering apps in Windows that do similar functions as those we have used in Mac  so I’m planning to post about those, too.

You must welcome change as the rule, but not as your ruler. –Denis Waitley

FYI: There may be a replacement for Sketchup, AutoCAD 2D, and Revit – we are looking at Archicad. It does some pretty amazing things, so why not at least be conversant?

The take way?
Apple: you guys needs to step it up. Make some hardware you don’t need to make excuses for. Make a rocket again and set the bar. Come on – get back in the game.

Windows: you guys are bringing it. We are using a Razer for the moment, but honestly, the new stuff you are delivering is really impressive. But you are slacking a little like your fruity counterparts – bring a workhorse to the table. Make a Surface Studio that can run the powerful software architects need and you will have plenty of takers.

Stay tuned for options as to where this goes. No longer is there just one good camp – they both have their merits and limits – as does my patience and funding for office machines and software. Choose wisely.

The times, they are a -changin’.

Sketchy is the new black.

What softwares do you use – daily?

What apps can you not do without – daily?

I’m sure some apps come to mind that you WISH you could do without, but need, despite  their “features” and intuitive interface. But wait…

What about the apps you are happy to use? Do some come to mind? Some you enjoy using? This post is about one of those…Sketchbook.

Autodesk nailed this one.

Kudos to the geeks at Autodesk for this one. I tip my hat to you folks there.

Sketchbook – this is definitely one of my keepers.

Need to sketch and doodle with a client? It does that.

Need to draw over a Google Earth image? It does that.

Need to sketch over a photo you just took? Explain a detail to a contractor? Compare information in a series of overlaid images? Combine images? Create a graphic image?

Yes, yes, yes, and YES!

This one does that, too.

Sketchbook is one of my go-to apps I have referenced before and use every day. With a little time upfront to understand the basics and capabilities, it proves to be a fluid, intuitive, and incredibly flexible app.

You can find tutorials – there are probably thousands of great tutorials on techniques, applications, and videos of people doing incredibly realistic, stylized, and generally great looking illustrations and images.

While this is all well and good, I seldom work in this app ALONE (almost all of the blog images I use are altered or otherwise created for these posts in Sketchbook). Generally speaking, most of my experience in this app is with an “audience” – with collaborators, in meetings, with clients – and sometimes tethered to a big screen in a conference room. I am able to take their site, their plan, images of their space, and converse with them about THEIR project – right then and there.

When this happens, we find clients take ownership in the project, have buy-in, and understand how and why things are the way they are. What could be better?

I cannot encourage you enough to try this app. Plunk down the subscription price and go Pro – you get loads of brushes and abilities that you (understandably) do not get in the free version. Students: take the money you would otherwise waste on some emoji app and spend it on something seriously good. It’s reasonable and professional – you will not be disappointed. College/Architecture school professors:  learn this – teach this – the offices of your graduates will be the better for it.

Couple of things I wish it did: collaborative drawing with more than one stylus at a time on a screen. How sweet would that be? Also: drawing to scale. So all you folks out there go ahead and tell me about TRACE. I hope to get to that one soon in a post. For now, Sketchbook.

I don’t have a YouTube tutorial because there are so many great ones out there already – go check them out – but I DO have a short video illustrating how it integrates with other apps on my iPad Pro – magic, I tell you.

This is but a sampling – I’m sure you are a quick study – see what you can do with it. Let me know.

Oh, and as Mr. Jobs used to say, one more thing. It can record your sketches, creating a video file of your sketchbook creation. If you are interested in that sort of thing, it’s great to work into a video presentation about your projects, making them truly conversational. See how that word keeps coming back?

Did I mention it also has a desktop version?

Yes, yes it does.

The mobile app and the desktop version are all licensed under your one account with Autodesk. What are you waiting for? The desktop app does even more than the mobile app (draw in perspective with straight vanishing lines!).

Let me know how you use the app’s features and how it affects your process, conversations, and design efforts. I predict you will find a place for this app in your inventory of software.

AND if you are in an office NOT using this app, be the first to do so. Set the bar – if they shoot your efforts down, we are always hiring…just saying.

Look it over. Enjoy.

Breath deep, design is in the air. (I recalled that from years ago – thanks, Dave).

Surveying the year so far.

This post finds us about 1/3 the way through the year.

What have you done regarding technology and your design process this year?

Updated versions of software?

Purchased new software?

Gone rouge and threatened to go off the grid and do everything analog (hand drawing, drafting, etc.)?

We have considered all of the above.

Leases wrap up, trade show booths at professional conventions tempt us, CEU lunch sponsors entice us to consider their offerings, and last but not least, new tech comes along (or doesn’t come along -AAARRRRGGGHHHH!). You consider going to the dark side, whatever you consider the dark side to be – Mac, Windows, open source. I hear it’s nice. Supposedly they have cookies (the chewy kind).

Nevertheless, where are you regarding the concept or element of design tech? This blog, by nature, is a one-way conversation and I truly appreciate the data I’m getting of various countries reading  in addition to the encouraging words from friends and past workmates – truly wonderful. BUT, I’d like to know a little more about where you are – so I’ve created a survey.

We are 1/3 through the year and, whether you know it or not, the latter parts of the year are approaching fast. What are you planning for? New software? Updated versions? Training? Learning a new software – personally or company-wide? How long do you expect this to take? Are you ready? Why are you doing this?

We have pledged among ourselves to learn some new software – and here we are, months later, yet to start. Why. We are busy – I get that – I AM that – we all are, but this adventure does not let up. Don’t let up – remember, it’s easier to keep up than catch up.

Please consider taking the survey below and answering just a few questions to give me a picture of where you are in this world of Design/Process/Technology/Value. I’ll share with everyone what you let me see and shape where we go as we proceed through 2017.



I hope this is not a frustration, but rather a break for you to give some feedback.

One of my favorite surveys is from a local restaurant that is one question with two choices: frowning face or smiling face. While this one isn’t that simple, it is designed to be quick and direct.


Thank you in advance for stepping into the conversation.

You are always welcome here.

PDF Expert App Review

What’s in a name? In this case, almost everything.

PDF Expert.

Who has the moxie, pluck, gall, cojones, pride – whatever – to call anything they are marketing as expert? 

The folks from Readdle do, and they make a strong effort to live up to the hype.

This post is not a tutorial on everything this app does, but it is an attempt to share how we use it.

Do we compose original PDF documents on our iPads? No. Practically none.

Do  we manage everything we do in all our PDF’s on our iPads? Nope.

What we do, however, is use these devices to converse (there’s that word again) throughout the design process with our clients and within our office. This app – PDF Expert – goes a LONG way to make that happen.

Do you have oversized documents you need to include in your process?

Do you have multi page documents you need to use?

Do you need to markup, sign, share, extract from, and otherwise include in your design process? Do you need to show, share, and issue documents to others?

Do you need to sign a document? Insert a photo? Share a website? Memorialize a document?

Build, assemble, alter, rotate, break apart, or otherwise manipulate a PDF document?

How about reformat something into a PDF document? Yep, this app (now with a companion app) does this.

In meetings?

On site?

On the go?

On the fly?

Without a net?

This app does that. You’ve heard there’s an app for that – this is it. Before I go too far into this post, let me say I think the name is silly. But I’m beyond that and no longer hung up on the name…because the app works. Hard, well, and consistently. It delivers.

I know there are others – BlueBeam, to name one – but as I posted earlier, when you find one that works, well, stick with it until something undeniably better comes along.

In this regard, I’m still waiting on a better PDF app.

Be aware that Readdle makes a family of apps for productivity; while we aren’t involved in the typical business process, we don’t utilize everything they offer. A companion app, PDF Converter, is used much like a plug-in. This app converts almost anything to PDF and allows use and full function in PDF Expert. This app is crazy simple and connects through menu functions with PDF Expert seamlessly. You can convert almost everything you see on your iPad screen into a PDF – websites, photos, text documents, whatever – and open directly to PDF Expert for your use. If you use PDF Expert, you will want to use PDF Converter.

As an aside:

1.  I have heard great things about Documents and how it allows filing and saving to folders with iPads that has been, until now, a frustration. I’m looking into this app and may adopt it in the near future, depending upon how and IF it works with our NAS here in the office.

2. In my experience, Readdle has been a company that communicates. We have, on occasion, needed to talk to them and they listened.

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 11.54.41 AM

I’m including another short video for this post; I’m finding it shows so much more than I can type. In full transparency, I just wanted to show how we use the app, and in what ways,but my first take was over 30 minutes. I know you don’t want to sit through (and miss) an entire sitcom while taking all of this in, so I’ve attempted to edit, clip, and otherwise shorten the summary video.

Consider how you present and share ideas as you review the video (PDFexpert has a couple of “modes” – my word in this case.) We leave it live and find it more engaging and immersive.

Try it. I believe not only will you like it, you will find your clients also like it and want to participate in meetings with you.

Regarding PDF’s, and their use in communication in the design process, it does not get better than this.

Noteshelf App Review


This app is one of my primary go-to apps.

Please understand, I am getting no compensation for this post. No free sample to try, no perk. I’m writing this blog because on many occasions I am asked, how are you doing this? or what app are you using to do that?

I cannot simply tell them which app I’m using without explaining how they work and why I’m using them. So here goes…

Again, if you know of an app you want to share with me, please do!

So, Noteshelf.

This is the little app that could – and can, and still does.

Earlier I stated some points that apps have to deliver on:

  1. Deliver consistently.
  2. Work well.
  3. Play well with others.
  4. Stay current.
  5. Let me be the author/creator and have my identity.
  6. As much as possible, coordinate and link to my desktop.
  7. Do not let me down.
  8. Communicate well with others.

This app does this and more – it is so intuitive it’s freaky sometimes. The user interface is wonderful. The ease of use is wonderful.

What’s not to like? Well, some may have a list:

  1. No search within the app. I haven’t needed it.
  2. No handwriting recognition. No need for that, too (although it may have that by now…).

What it does is let me record, draw, type, sketch, import images, mark them up, and create a document. Specifically, notebooks (hence the name Noteshelf, I suppose).

The couple of things I wish it did, but doesn’t?

  1. Import video. Not needed much, but as you can send out the “pages” to others, doing so with a video imbedded would be GREAT. If an image is good, why not a video, right?
  2. Work in layers on a page. As you note and draw and type and import and highlight and mark up, you will at times wish you could do so on layers. Maybe it’s coming…
  3. Alternative page sizes. The app has pages that are essentially 8 1/2 X 11 portrait and I wish it could do larger format sheets. It does landscape now, but still could use oversized sheets (type D, E, E1, etc.)

That’s about it. It pretty much does everything else.

What’s so great about it?

Of the items referenced above, item 5 – let me be the author and creator – is a game changer. What I do in Noteshelf is on my letterhead. Mine. Not some by-line created in Noteshelf, mine.

Noteshelf lets me create and share with my identity – and share with everyone at the same time with no additional formatting, titling, etc. It’s like I’m working on my letterhead all the time because if I want to I AM – and you can, too. This is simply great!

While out in the field, in the office, on a plane, on a construction site, where ever – you are working if you want to. On your letterhead, title, or border, you can send out to any and everyone you want to – instantly.

Have job site observations? Send them out on the site. Client meeting notes? Send them to your client while you’re still across the table from them.

There almost no end to what it can do in your mobile device – pending my wish list, of course.

Need to share something you did in another app? Do it it the other app, take an image of it, and upload it into Noteshelf. You can mark it up, erase, type over, highlight, and format as needed to share with others. The point of this is to share.

Share knowledge, direction, instruction, and clarity of ideas in your design process. Noteshelf scores in doing this.

Make your work yours.
Make your process yours.
Then share it.

You’ll find this is a daily app.

The app of my eye.

I have covered posts concerning connection, management, training, and concepts of software and apps used in our design process – now it’s time for a more detailed look at the individual apps themselves.

Below you’ll find a video of the apps on my iPad that I have attempted to integrate into my conversations. There are a lot of apps – only two games – but mostly photo manipulation, text, note-taking, and sketching apps.

MANY of these apps are award winners and great in their own right.

MANY of them have followers who swear by them. I found myself not swearing by them at times and maybe sometimes swearing at them – so they went.

If they work for you, that’s wonderful…keep reading.

All have their merits, but I have found that after I install an app I either warm up to it quickly or I do not – it gets uninstalled quickly, so as not to take up valuable space, and ceases to be a distraction on my desktop or iPad.

Yes, I use an iPad – Pro, even, and the Apple pencil – and I love it. Let me say that Apple has rocked the computer and computing world. For this, I tip my hat to them.

While I have not purchased Apple stock, I believe my office has invested Apple into our company. I will feel good about this until they appear not to be the best investment for us to make. I hope the apparent trend of them not placing a priority on desktop computing does not make us consider other alternatives, but it is looking like that may be the case with news of Apple closing desktop computing departments, OS divisions,  and offering no real meaningful developments and performance upgrades for quite some time. However, they are setting the bar consistently high in the mobile device aspect of our design conversations and processes.

The result?

While we may be considering alternative devices and hardware (and resulting software) for desktop office applications, we are NOT regarding our mobile devices.

In fact, we are so committed to Apple’s mobile devices that we recently purchased and provided iPad Pros and Apple pencils to everyone in our office (full disclosure: there was one person who had already committed to a Surface Pro, so I am eager to see how it works in our world. I’m looking forward to understanding what alternative things we learn in this). This very post is being composed on my iPad Pro while flying over the Gulf to Miami and on to Aruba – I can’t think of another device I’d want to use.


What apps am I using and why?

The “why” is a more meaningful discussion to me. I’ll get into “what” apps soon enough.

Why use an app?

What do you desire to accomplish?

How do you work?

With whom do you work?

What is your product?

These questions will direct you to specialties of apps out there (there are thousands to choose from in several categories), but I find they all have to answer some basic questions.

Here is my short list of things an app has to do to have value in my process:

  1. Deliver consistently.
  2. Work well.
  3. Stay current.
  4. Let me (in this case, you) be the author/creator and have my identity, not the developer of the app. I am the one producing, let me and my office represent.
  5. As much as possible, coordinate and link to my desktop.
  6. Do not let me down – can you think of an app of yours that crashes often? That’s known to be “buggy”?
  7. Communicates and plays well with others – other apps, other devices, other people. Nothing is done in a vacuum; for an app to work well, it needs to add value to my companion apps.

That’s about it.

Not a lot of specs and nerd statistics. If an app works well for me and delivers, it stays. If not, it cannot go fast enough.

I’ve been asked, how do I find my apps? Easy answer:

1.Constantly be on the lookout for them. Keep your ear to the ground.

2.Read about them.

3.Search for them.

4.Talk to others about their apps.

5.TRY them.

Take a look below at the apps I’ve purchased.

202 of them.

How many are on my go-to list? Seven. 3.4%.

Not many make the cut. Frankly, as time goes on, making the cut gets harder and harder.

So, which seven apps have stood the test of time?

  • Noteshelf
  • Sketchbook
  • PDF Expert
  • Snapseed
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Mail

Short and sweet. Seven apps I do not want to do without. There are others, to be sure,  but these seven are workhorses for me.

These let me represent me and my company – my clients and their concerns and goals. These let me clearly represent the concerns and accomplishments of the design process and do not get in the way.

If an app can do this, it is a good one to have as a resource. If it does not, it will not get carried around.

If you find you visit an app frequently, then place it in your Dock – why hunt between screens? Keep it at the bottom of the screen, and it’s always there. Let yourself hunt for the lesser used apps; keep the go-to apps at your fingertips. Don’t limit this area to just Apple apps – they let you put any app there – use it!

Note: All seven of my go-to apps are in this dock. No accident.

This is why, in earlier posts, I discussed being familiar with your software and apps. If you are not comfortable with an app, either get there by playing with it or don’t bother at all.

The takeaway?

  1. Explore apps. When you find one, stick with it…until something better comes along.
  2. Talk to the designers. They sometimes really do want to hear from you.
  3. When you find some you really like, hang in with them and you will find their use becomes second nature.
  4. Enjoy – this should be fun, after all.

If you have some apps you think I should check out, let me know.

I’ll take a more detailed look at features and our use of particular apps on our next visit.

First stop:  1200x630bb

Stay tuned.

Training Day.

Last week I offered a series of  questions that you should consider when purchasing software.; this week I’ll consider you have purchased software and now plan to use it. You saw, evaluated, and purchased. Now what?

Press on! Learn it, use it, benefit from it!

Whether you are formally trained or you like to learn as you go, you need to get up and running as soon as possible in order for the new purchase to not be too much of a distraction. Pleasant, frustrating, or perplexing – any distraction for productivity is not good.

So, before you get started, how many are in the training? How long will the training last?

Let’s look at two examples:

When I was much younger, a colleague and I went away for three days of training in Versacad design software. We did our training, came home to the office, and proceeded to document the largest and most involved project that office had ever known – two young guys who did not know what they did not know. We figured the “not-knowing” part out quickly and, with support from each other, delivered what came to be a great project in our careers (thanks to Randy for going through that experience with me – it was quite a ride!).

Now, as an owner of an architectural firm, the thought of that scares me to death!


I recently heard of a large firm who decided to go with Revit in their office. I’m sure reaching the decision was much more involved than this, but it was described to me as one Friday they went home and when they returned Monday, only Revit was installed on everyone’s machine.

No 2D software.

No pre-emptive training.

No going back. 

It was added that they experienced quite a learning curve – a frustrating, painful curve – but now they never want to go back.

Both examples are frightening to some extent. Both mean a complete buy-in. Both have no alternative – and that was the point. At some time you have to decide – deciding is sometimes the hardest step in the process.

So, what about my own firm?

Now, we are learning Revit.

We are still hanging on to 2D, as well. We debate at times on which to use – what is most productive, efficient, valuable to the project. At times I wish we did not have the choice.

A process like this takes longer, brings everyone (including me) along at a slower pace, and gives you the opportunity to second guess.

This post is preaching to me. Remember, this is always personal.

Whether you are the guy cutting the check for the software, the designer trying to learn a new trick, the instructor who cannot understand how thick these new users are, or an IT guy trying to get everything installed and ready for everyone – it’s always personal to everyone.

So let me encourage you to discuss training, integration, and how success is going to be defined with everyone. 

Also understand this – training and learning never stops. If you think otherwise, consider how often technology changes, updates, and gets re-issued. Failing to keep up is devastating.

If you intend to not grow in technology, be prepared to go the way of dial phones, fax machines, 8-track tapes, and broadcast TV. While these older technologies may be novel and refreshing at times (I myself have a set of classic 70’s stereo equipment), they cannot process, deliver, nor promise what today’s tech can – old software is no different.

In earlier posts I referenced ZORK. How many of you got those references? How many of you went to your stash and pulled out your copies of ZORK and played?

I didn’t either.

Point is, keep up. Catching up is so much harder.

Some challenge this, but I am living Moore’s Law these days. If you want to nerd out on the pace of tech change let me refer you to Coursera.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.16.11 AM

Remember, this is fun – or it should be.

Enjoy the discovery, training, and new abilities.

Keep the old tech if you want – it can always come in handy one day. Knowing not only how something got here but also why is a great thing.

So back up your junk. Save often and update as needed. And let me know if you have any vintage stereo equipment you need to get rid of – I’m looking for a particular Pioneer turntable. Vinyl is back, baby!

Blog at

Up ↑