DesignProcessTechnologyValue, A Conversation

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


Monty Stark

Monty Stark, AIA, is an architect and founding principal of +HoyStarkHagan Architects.

Hard Questions for Software.


This conversation series is about technology utilized in the design process; this week the conversation is about software purchases.

While we will focus in detail on software products in future posts, this post is looking at general questions to ask before you commit to a software.  Put simply, you need to make sure you’re going to get along.

When you acquire software, you do so in a number of ways and also have a number of things to consider resulting from that acquisition – this is the point  of this post. What are the things that result in the acquiring of software? If these things are not considered prior to committing to a software then surprises – usually unpleasant surprises – result.

Two examples of what I encourage you to consider:

  1. A friend of mine once told me that,  when considering the purchase of a new car , the measure of how expensive a car will be is to ask what the cost of an oil change will be. This will tell you how expensive the car will be to own – or will it own you?
  2. Someone tells you they have a free cat (or puppy or gold fish) just needing a good home…everyone knows there is no such thing as a free cat. Puppies and goldfish have very different requirements and responsibilities – computers and software are no different.

Think about owning the system and process more than acquiring a software, system, or process. This is where you can determine whether there is a value there for you.

Questions regarding software purchase considerations fall into 3 large categories:

  • Software: sometimes called software, sometimes just an app. It’s hard to tell the difference anymore.
  • Hardware: The host system of the software installation – this can be a machine or network – depends and affects complicated-ness.
  • Users: Somebody’s got to run the software, right? Look around and take inventory – are they already busy and covered up? Are they jumping at the chance to run this new software or running for cover? Be honest here, purchase may be a one-time thing, but using it is forever (or can seem like it!).

Software is what you think you are acquiring, but hold on – before giving them that credit card number and pushing the “complete transaction” button, think about the following:

  1. Can the software be hosted locally or does it require the Cloud?
  2. Is it a license, subscription, or one-time purchase? Long gone are the days of a delivery of an installation set of disks or going to a big-box store and purchasing a set of disks to install to have “forever.”
  1. How does it update?
    1. How often?
    2. Is it forced, invited, or pushed on you?
    3. How are they managed? By whom?

4. When you acquire the software, who owns it? What account was it purchased under? Who’s log-in account was it purchased through? Do you have a company account or individual accounts? Have you kept record of those log-ins and passwords?

5. Where does the software do its work? Some software coding and structure results in the processing not occurring within the CPU (as you would assume) but rather in the GPU – this is especially prevalent in graphics intensive programs. Be careful with this – we recently purchased a graphic intensive program and it was a better performer on a machine with a lesser CPU (due to spec of the CPU and the needs of their software).  Sure, a hotter CPU would have looked great on paper, but would not have been as fast or productive as the lesser CPU that was available. We were happy to purchase the machine with the less costly CPU and NOT the machine with the hot rod CPU that we did not need.

6. Where is the work product saved?

1. Locally on the machine?

2. Locally on a server?

3. Remotely?

4. In the Cloud?

7. Is the software comparable with multiple OS’s? If so, which one is the stronger performer? WHY?

8. Can more than one user be working in a file at the same time? What does this require?

9. How is the new process and product going to be used? Shared? Published?

10. What kind of service can I expect from this company? Call them. Email them. Text them. Whichever is their process of communication – see how quickly they respond and how helpful they are BEFORE you need them.

11. How long can I expect this software to be relevant?

12. Does this software require a software upgrade?

1. What are the minimum OS requirements?

2. What are the recommended OS requirements?

3. Go ahead and let yourself nerd-out on this with a trial, if available. You may be surprised what you find – and surprises before the purchase are much better than after. Do your homework!

13. What kind of training is typically required? What is offered? How do you get it?

14. Who in your office will be operating this software? Who in the office will “own” it?

15. How will this software make my design process better? Where is the value? How can this value be measured?

16. How will this software make my design process more complicated? If you haven’t figured this out by now, insertion of a software that is going to require training you may not already have, potentially new hardware to be purchased and, producing new information or product you untill now have not had access to – how can it NOT make things a little more complicated till you get this figured out?

17. How proven is this software?

18. How many folks in the industry want to do this?

19. How long will this process take?

20. How many copies or licenses are you going to need to acquire? Take this number and multiply the above responses by that factor – especially when considering hardware and training. Until now, the software purchase is the easiest thing you’ll do.

21.  Lastly – knowing your responses to all of the above – how much is this consideration going to cost?

New software can be exciting like a new bike or family pet – and it should be. But make sure you consider living with it before bringing it home. Ultimately, it’s your decision – get it if you want to. I encourage you to get it if the above considerations result in a “let’s do this thing” response, but do so with your eyes wide open.

Doing so will assist in making your new acquisition of software a happy new member of your design process family. Everyone will get along – right?

Enjoy! Now you can do new, better, and exciting things in your adventure.

Let me know how it goes.

The orchestrated conversation.

No one app does it all – if a developer tells you otherwise, turn and run.


Used in concert with each other, multiple apps can be magical. This is when design, conversation, and collaboration are truly a joy – for my company and our clients. The conductor of this conversation is Reflector 2.

You may wonder why I went through all the technical jargon about being connected in prior posts; it takes cables and networks and even apps to make the magic possible. If set up properly and maintained, connectivity is seamless, unseen, and unheard. It allows you and the design process to shine.

If you utilize the devices and hardware that we do, it also demands consistent connectivity. Things happen that try to compromise what you are doing, but familiarity with your software, hardware, and design goals will make it all right.

As almost every blues rock song goes, everything’s all right – it’s gonna be all right.

So don’t fret – go for it.

If you (musically speaking) miss a note in the conversation, keep going.  Compensate and everything will truly be alright – great, even. What song has ever been played perfectly?

Conversations are not rigidly scripted;  they get vulnerable, and honest, and spontaneous. That is when art happens – when architecture happens.

So, Reflector 2. You aren’t going to see much of it, but everything you are going to see in the following video is borne on the shoulders and back of the app. There are other products that appear to do what Reflector 2 does, but I challenge you to find a better value in performance, stability, and price. If you do, please let me know about it. I want to see it.

Reflector 2 simply allows you to reflect: it broadcasts your mobile device signals & images to another device (in my case, a laptop computer – sometimes a Mac, sometimes a Windows machine). And it’s doing this live. Reflector 2 allows you to have a conversation with a client and literally have no limitations of media, technique, and images for your design process.

The accompanying video is a screen shot on my Windows laptop of example images and conversational sketching, design sketching that can be done, experienced and recorded – yes and recorded – with you and your clients.

We use this app and process hard. It is a software we do not want to ever do without. Reflector 2 is also one of the apps I have written about whose update I installed the night before a presentation – and it was not fully cooked and ready in the morning. I found an alternative, wrote the Reflector folks a pointed email, and it was corrected faster than I imaged it could be. Great service and a great app to boot.

The point is:

Take the connectivity thing seriously. Set it up  and use it up. Converse with everyone in the design process using every piece of software you need – now you truly have no limits.

Reflector 2 is a highly recommended way to do this.

What have you talked about today? Across platforms? With others? Live?

Give it a shot. I believe you’ll be pleased where the design process can go – and how fast.


You likely have at least a simple understanding of how you connect in your office: wireless, Bluetooth, CAT 5, etc, but don’t forget or overlook other methods of connecting to your office and to your client – or how they connect to you.



& Dropbox to name a few.

How do you share files, information, and ideas? How can you share something with a client that is over the 5 or 10MB limits they probably have?

  • Email? Probably not.
  • Burn a disk? Those days are swiftly passing…going, going, soon gone?
  • Thumb drive? Sure, if you are okay with giving away a thumb drive every time you want to give a large file to someone (they say they’ll return them – they don’t).

We have utilized several options to connect and share files with others outside the office, with ourselves within the office, and with our mobile devices wherever we are.

Let’s consider FTP for a moment – File Transfer Protocol has been around for awhile. It lets you host a drive in your office (or in the cloud, I suspect) where you can control access of others as they retrieve files from you or upload files to you for design purposes.

But my firm  utilizes Apple devices. Guess what? Apple doesn’t allow or accommodate FTP hosting with their operating system.They may now, but it would be through some APP that you then have to purchase and maintain – it is in my opinion this has just not been something Apple has wanted to participate in.

That was one of the lessons we learned as we converted and drank the Cupertino kool-aide.

All in all, it has not been a problem.

We did host an FTP site at one time – in our Windows world – and as a result had to:

issue instructions to log-in,

access and

use the site with established permissions and protocols.

While it was a bit high maintenance, it did allow us to monitor, control, and otherwise be the gatekeepers of who saw what, when, and where.

We utilized a software called Cute FTP and, despite the very non-technical name, it worked great. This was a good system that worked well  through monitoring efforts and management of access log-ins and passwords. Now things are a little simpler – or so it would seem.

Enter Dropbox. 

Free(!) Dropbox.

Regarding the design process, Dropbox has been the answer to the maiden’s prayer for years. Dropbox allows for sharing files in a multitude of ways – from attaching file links in emails, sharing folders that allow download and upload, and apps that link automatically into your dropbox account to files located there.

One word of caution:

Dropbox loads up your computer if you are not ready for it. We use it a LOT in our office and have found whatever you have in your dropbox account, you also have on your hard drive.

YES. That’s right.

While Dropbox is in the cloud and extremely flexible, it is ALSO resident on your computer…this means every file in your account.

EVERY file – yours and those that have been shared with you. I’m not saying this is wrong, just a little known fact. The capacity of your account also needs to be accounted for on your hard drive – don’t accept invitations to large shared folders if you don’t have the space in your dropbox account AND your hard drive.

We have found it historically does not like to transfer really large files – we’re talking giga-bites of information – because they are suspected to be pirated movies. While we completely respect this concern, we have never found a way to get a large file we created to successfully transfer to other devices (specifically iPads, iPhones, etc.) through Dropbox.

But there is work around, so for now we enjoy Dropbox.
In all fairness, there are a variety of competitors. More power to them. We have tried some – OwnCloud and Citrix to name two – but we have found there is almost always a limitation or a catch – a required OS or difficult user interface (you shouldn’t have to know how to code or work in DOS to set these things up).

We have found Dropbox to be the most intuitive and universally known software of this type – and used by our clients as well – to the point that this is where we have landed for now.

VPN. Virtual Private Network.

The acronym is generic enough, the actual name doesn’t explain much to me at all, but it works great…basically providing the ability to log-in to your office and connect to all the files, printers, computers, etc. you would need as if you were in the office (which you aren’t if you are utilizing VPN connectivity).

Have you ever needed to access files from your office at home, in a hotel room in another city? VPN.

Have you ever needed to print something in your office while you aren’t there? VPN.

It does require some geekiness to set up and establish protocols. Find the nerd in the office, wind them up, let them go, and get out of their way.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-8-47-49-amWith establishment of a VPN router (hardware), VPN gateway (software), and established protocols (user accounts, log-ins, passwords and permissions – choices in software setup) you will be working in your office while you are not IN your office – it’s really quite cool.

It also lets you be productive at all times: business trip, vacation, home…your’e still “in the office.” So try VPN – you’ll be plugged in all the time.

With some caveats:

  • Windows does VPN really well.
  • It typically requires internet access – you will need that.
  • Apple used to do VPN – then quit. Literally, without warning.

We updated our OS to Sierra on our Apple computers and discovered they no longer “do” VPN. Just like that, the ability was gone.

Their answer? You guessed it – an app. This one is called Shimo and was (after about 30 frustrating minutes) immediately  purchased, installed, and working. We have had some update needs to keep things current, but all this is to say there is apparently always an app for that.

VPN is great.

Management of the protocols and permissions allow everyone to access the office/design process and be plugged in – literally – at all times.

Bottom line:

  • There is no reason why you have to be disconnected from the office, or your clients, or your design process.
  • Ideas happen when they happen; they are not 9 to 5 – they never were, they never will be.
  • Design is not a sterile “only in the office” process, but you can literally now take the office with you if you desire to.

VPN, FTP, Dropbox et al – all allow flexible, intuitive, 24/7 access to your design process, not just for you – but your clients as well.

This design process truly now has no limits – no down time.

What are you waiting for?

Hooked Up, Plugged In.

How connected are you?

Are you hooked up, plugged in?

These are all terms we have heard before – but regarding IT? Do you know how you are using your connections?

Wireless? Bluetooth? Hardwired?

Hopefully these are things you don’t have to worry about, but you better know the ways you are “connected” – otherwise you will find a time when you discover you have been functionally illiterate, working and productive until you suddenly aren’t, and you don’t know why.

Usually the timing of events are not convenient or beneficial to anyone. Making a presentation, downloading or uploading a large file, or needing to allow a client to connect as part of a design meeting – times when you need everything to run smoothly. Events like this seldom have a great recovery – keep them as few and as far between as possible. We have one client that I swear has bad IT juju and brings technology  – almost no matter what kind – to a screeching halt. Does that sound familiar? Be prepared for anything. Know what your reaction will be if connections won’t work – Plan B, C, and D.

Nimbleness in connectivity and command of at least the concepts of your software and hardware is critical. Sure, you can have someone be the gate keeper of things, but at least know the basics of how your devices are working with each other – or not working – so you don’t find yourself in a tight spot with no idea of how to wiggle out.

Can you diagram your IT world – your software and hardware? And their connectivity? Do this. Share it with your office. Have your IT folks correct you – and they will.

Recognize the difference between a router and a switch.

Know which devices need restarting, what passwords and admin log-ins are for those devices. Do you share access with others? Be ready to assist them in connecting.

Regarding the basic means of connections, I suggest you know the following:


There are several versions: Cat-5, USB, HDMI, VGA, MIDI, RCA, etc – most are falling away as time marches on, so for now we will focus on CAT-5 (CAT-6 is out there as well and coming on strong).

Always – always go hardwired if you can. For what will soon become evident if it hasn’t yet, hardwired connections are the most reliable connections you can have. No dropped signals, no interruptions of other devices  – one pipe of data quickly moving from one machine to another. Speed is king. KING, I tell you. If you want fast and reliable, go hardwired. In your office, in your conference room, even in your hotel room.


The hard. wire. It cannot be denied.

A physical connection restricts. You have to conceal it, step over it, sometimes even pass it around like a joint…in meetings it seems like the Little Feat song, “don’t bogart that joint, my friend…” Sometimes you have to share the hardwire.

Do you know how to make a cat-5 connection? With the purchase of a few items you can be the master of your connectivity.


Parts needed:

  • Wire (CAT-5 or some better version)
  • Crimping tool (beware, the knife blades are sharper than sharp).
  • Instructions and patience

Look at your devices – make sure they are all at the fastest speeds you can get. If one is slow, they ALL are slow. Check your switches and routers to make sure they are coordinated in speeds. Differences can be in factors of ten, so it makes a real difference.

Look at the wiring demarks and switches – are the different network cables labeled and marked? Are they organized? How about the data ports you plug into? Label these – keep record of them and you will be able to plug-n-play, swap, and adjust as needed. If you don’t, you will be forever trying to figure out what “they” did as they placed your lines.

Seriously, knowing this makes you much less dependent upon others. It’s not that complicated and it makes communicating with your IT staff much easier.



This is the connectivities club’s sexy, cool kid. Everyone wants wireless.

Wireless wants to be as dependable as hardwired, and it almost is.

Wireless is infinitely more flexible and accommodating, allowing almost endless combinations of applications of hardware and devices. But beware of conflicts and surprises…

We use wireless to connect everything in our office from computers to our network, computers to Apple TV, and computers to our stereo, but it is not without its problems. You don’t want your Pandora station to start playing on your Apple TV during a meeting in the conference room…unless it’s a really cool station and a really cool client.

Wireless is probably the hardest working connectivity we use – it connects each user to our 3D printer, Pandora, Spotify, Stereo, and Apple TV. But we have to make sure it’s secure.

Case in point: I have had my dry cleaners down the street ask if they could jump on our wireless signal.

Ever use a hot-spot on your phone? Wireless. Protect it. Turn it off when not in use! Your data plan will thank you.

Keep it secure. Keep it secure. Keep it secure.

Consider the clients connecting in your office. They can – and should – be able to go wireless in order to have meaningful conversations and access info they need. But keep it secure! Maybe it’s a separate guest wireless account or other security measures (additional log-ins to go past guest-level access). There are several possibilities.

Then there’s BlueTooth.


I never paid much attention to Bluetooth, it has been the lesser of the methods of connectivity until now. You have an Apple Watch? You are probably utilizing Bluetooth. How about an Apple Pencil? Bluetooth. We utilize Bluetooth mainly on a personal level with personal devices.

If I could have a wish for Apple and Bluetooth, I’d wish that iPad Pros could be drawn on by more than one Apple Pencil at a time – collaboration is stalled slightly when you realize you can’t draw on someone else’s iPad with YOUR Apple Pencil – c’mon Apple, allow piling on here.

All this is to say the flexibility, redundancy, and options for connectivity make your network for design processes a web. Simplifying and managing this web will make you design world cleaner and efficient. You’ll be the better for it.

Wonder how involved this can be? We are an office of 8. And have 70+ connections of wireless and Bluetooth systems. Each device has an IP address, MAC address, and other qualifying information to keep track of. To see this in action in your world let me suggest FING as an app to consider. We have it and use it to organize and troubleshoot conflicts, disconnects, etc.

Knowing the basics of connectivity, the nuances between them, and how to mange them will keep you working, your work flowing, and the conversations going.

When was the last time you looked behind the curtain of your connectivity? Check your speeds, organization, and security. You’ll be glad you did.

Now we can start conversation about what to do with all this connectivity…stay tuned.

Aunt Bee was right.

How long do you use your current versions of software?

It seems there is always some update, some new thing that needs to be loaded and installed. Have you noticed?

Have you measured what it costs to update versus not? How many machines do you have – one or one hundred?

In one of my previous employments, we ended up with a full-time IT guy who worked nocturnally.  He did all he needed to do when no one was around, having things ready when we all came to work the next day. And he ended up needing an assistant! I remember when an architectural firm’s needs were limited to clean and working drafting equipment, clean pens (anyone remember vibrating pen cleaners?), and having lots of scummex on hand. No longer. Sometimes it appears our software owns us.

Are you going to the Cloud? Why? Because it was your idea and you can’t wait? Or is it because the software product is pushing you there. 

What happens if – no, when – you lose internet connectivity?

My point is, it’s all getting complicated.

And with this complication comes the need to simplify.

If you cannot diagram your IT world and how you use it, you need to. This can be a chart or a spreadsheet – something that makes sense to you and the others in your office. Something that your IT guy can reference when he is called in to help.

It’s a frustratingly numbing process, but it’s vital to begin and maintain. Our record of licenses change at the software provider’s pleasure and it’s never just one piece of information to keep. License codes, authorization keys, email records of activations, user/ account records, versions past and present, machines these softwares are being used on, what virtual account the software was purchased on – and, of course, passwords. The list goes on.

For example, when you look at a computer today, if you see a simple operating system and let’s say 5 software programs, you are probably looking at a user account that has at LEAST the following:

1. a username

2. password

3. authorization

4. probably credit card info as well ( with name, billing info, security code, card number – all the stuff the bad guys are looking for). This is just to get the OS purchased and running…

Now add 5 software programs that also need:

1. a user account

2. email account

3. login

4. license code

5. authorization Code

6. version

7. I’m sure I’m missing something…

Seven components of vital information regarding ONE account of software. Multiply by 5 and you get 35 items, plus at least 4 for the OS…39 items of vital information to maintain ONE COMPUTER…how many computers do you have in your design world?

Add my little friend, the virtual machine, and all this compounds into multiples of the above – for ONE MACHINE.

The take away?

Keep records of everything regarding your software.


Have a system that tracks the information of purchase, install, and update. If the software developers decide to update things (do you let this happen automatically? Oops!) you start to lose your handle on EVERYTHING regarding your software licenses.. There really should be an app for this. If you know of one let me know.

Our solution?


Numbers spreadsheets, in fact.

Software companies update (“to serve you better”) at their discretion – not on your schedule. How often do we receive an email to update our programs?


The anniversary of your license subscription purchase.

Product update.

New version launch.

“Bug fixes” (this covers a gamut of things they really don’t want to share with you).

All provided – forced on you in an automatic update – without regard for the other softwares you are using. Provided without knowing details of the compatibilities of the other softwares you are using. Of course, they have no knowledge of what you’re using. But you do. 

Manage your software. Only YOU know it best in your process, your flow, your deadlines.

Did I say never update before a deadline? NEVER DO THIS.

Manage your software – updates, installs, accounts, versions, account locations, or do not at your peril.

Protect your software – always save .exe files or .dmg files within your system so you don’t rely on the software companies to save legacy versions for you.

In the old days you kept your scales and triangles clean, your drafting table surface dent-free, and your pens clean and unclogged – for good reason. Treat your software no differently.

As David Wagner reminded me 34 years ago, Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show said, “Take care of your things and your things will take care of you.”

Remember this. Live it.

Conversations Rule

I have been practicing architecture now since graduating in 1982 and becoming licensed in 1985. Working in design firms has always allowed me to participate in client meetings and project proposals – if you do the math, I have a lot of experience in both. 

For several years we utilized presentations to communicate to our clients – traditional models, boards, and formal static images to convey and communicate design. It got easier and faster with zip-a-tone, letraset, and Kroy lettering machines – anyone over 40 may remember these things. If you don’t, ask an old dude. 

But it was still always a presentation –a fixed message.

PowerPoint came online and we rejoiced! Now you could animate – present faster, easier, and cleaner than ever before – and you still can. But it felt just that…canned. 

PowerPoint gets a bad rap that it just doesn’t deserve. 

Now, you can be critical of a presenter, but not the software. We have ALL sat through presentations where slides are read to us.

It’s 2017PLEASE do not ever do a presentation where you read through the slides to an audience…EVER.

If you want a great resource for good presentation skills I recommend Presentations Field Guide” by David Sparks.


And yet, we have found ourselves doing something differently

It’s subtle, but profound. Profound to the point others have been inquiring about how we do what we do.

It’s best explained this way:

I’ve referenced PowerPoint above.  We learned how to do good – great – PowerPoint presentations. Huge presentations, with many slides, and animations that made sense. We told a story. Got projects. 

Years ago, when called to a client’s office to visit about a possible project, we had an hour to load a computer with example project information, example process information, and information about ourselves. That meeting became a watershed moment in my career because instead of presenting to the client, we had a conversation. 

A conversation about them

Their needs, their desires, their concerns. And in having this conversation about THEM, we were able to show them how WE worked, problem solved, and could do the same for THEM. In the course of this conversation we opened software and exhibited HOW and WHY things were done. 

It was subtle, but profound. We opened the software and showed them. 

Not PowerPoint. Software. Whatever it needed to be. 

Looking back on this I have realized, clients know we work in software – why not let them see us work? Why hide behind the veil of PowerPoint? Let them see we know the software, how it works, and how it can work for them.  If they have an idea or question, show them the answer. 

How do you do this? 

Without a PowerPoint. 

Without a canned presentation. 

Without a net.

With a readiness for a conversation.

Ready to not only let them see WHAT you can do for them, but HOW. NOW, as you are talking with them.

I stated in my last post that you need to sleep with your software and hardware. Become familiar with it – comfortable with it. With this familiarity and comfort comes a confidence and nimble-ness (and, you will find, a wonderful nervousness) that allows you to converse by using the device.

Let a client SEE the active window- or five stacked on top of one another – on multiple desktops, in different operating systems, inside and outside of the office. 

It shows that you know the software.

And that you CAN do this for them. 


They become part of the process.

Conversation vs. Presentation:

  • Which do you think results in most memory retention? 
  • Which do you think results in a more pleasurable time (for all parties?)
  • Which do you think typically results in a “let’s do this again” kind of feeling? 
  • Which does not have a script? 

Be ready and know your software. Be “conversational” in your software.

Ever take a foreign language? Not me – but I know what it means when folks talk of being “conversational” in French, Spanish, Pig-Latin…you need to be conversational in your design software as well. 

Enter the Ipad.

On April 3, 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. It was reported to be magical. It was reported to be ground breaking. It was going to change things. It has.

The first version of it ended up being explained by critics as being for “content consumption.” One could digest the intellectual bounty of treasures online at their leisure – anywhere. They were pretty much correct.

Later versions of the device all reported to be for “content creation” and I admit it is great for that – I’ve gone through four versions. 

But we have a third “C” – the device is best for is CONVERSATION.

Conversation about our designs, about our client’s needs, and about every aspect of a project. 

Conversation with a client, 

with a building official, 

with a contractor – you get the idea.

Tina Fey said it best: Improvisation is magic. 

Take your stiff software, your standard hardware, and  mix it with your sketch software, your flow chart software, that spreadsheet software, those maps apps, that funky animation software, goofy 3D software, your marketing software, and that virtual meeting software. Add your Apple pencil and be ready to reference them at a moment’s notice.

Open one up and do it live – without a net, but WITH your client, their contractor, that building official and see the magic happen. 

Be ready to be nervous. 

Be ready to “undo” a few things. 

Be ready to have others jump in and want to be part of the conversation because they can’t help it. 

Everyone wants to be part of something magical. 

Be confident. 


You’ll be amazed where this can take you.

The age of canned presentations is done – you can quote me on that. 

Consumption is good,

Creation is great,

But Conversations rule. 

When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a client? Without a net?

DesignProcessTechnologyValue, A Conversation…

…about design, the design process, and technology as part of that process, its limitations, added value, adventures, and discoveries in that process. Design Process Technology? Yes, a conversation.

I am an architect and principal at Hoy+Stark Architects.

Our practice is that of an architectural studio; I invite you to see our website,

Our practice is one of involving clients within the design process as much as they want. Ours is a practice of relationships, not just projects. Relationships with clients, authorities, contractors, and material providers. The same can be said of the elements we utilize in our practice – the hardware, software, and tools we use to progress the design process. Nothing stands alone. Everything in our process relies, in some way, on the things around it. Staff, conversation, presentation, input, thought, response, result, hardware, software, output, product, documents, models, drawings, specifications, seals, sets of documents for project delivery.

Design is a verb. Design has value and that value can be measured. By what measure, and what value, our clients determine and bring to a project.

These are personal observations and thoughts that my office and partners have heard before and agreed (and sometimes disagreed) with over time. This is a round-about way to discover “value” in the process. Ultimately, you decide where value is – our clients decide this, contractors, officials, suppliers – we all decide this.

Where is the value in the process?

Is the result worth the costs?

Technology? Time? Efforts? Ownership? All of these come into play in this adventure.

How much technology? How current is the technology?

What kind of time is involved in the design process? How about time involved in the technology effort – just to keep it running and current – and to keep ourselves current? What kind of effort does this take? Ownership: who owns who? Do we own the hardware and software (and updates, versions, conflicts, training, licenses, subscriptions, etc)….or do they own us? Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to know which.

Don’t get me wrong,  I love what I do.

It’s exciting and challenging and rewarding on all kinds of levels. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. Over the last 15-20 years the pace of the architectural world, our local practice, and the design process and technology I’m referring to has ramped up in pace, scale costs, and need of attention – it’s really quite exciting. Really.

My studio utilizes Apple hardware and both MAC OS and Windows operating systems. I’ve been asked to speak on these things at two state conferences and several other events to illustrate how we do what we do – but more importantly, illustrate what can be done – opening the door to that and beyond what we are currently doing.

So, what are we doing?

MAC? – Yes,  with all it offers in ability and limitations.

Windows? – Yes, with all it offers in ability and limitations as well.

Mobile devices? Absolutely.

“Cloud”? – reluctantly,  yes.

Virtual Machines? Yes.

Drones? Yes.

3D printing? Yes.

Virtual Reality/Augmented reality? Not yet, but it’s coming…

Digital vs Analog? Yes, but not vs – rather, along with.

BIM? Yes?

2D Cadd? Well yes, but fading…

Sketching? Hand Drawing? Yes. Absolutely.

An example of what I’m refering to is a video I prepared for an architectural school exhibit. Everything shown is digital. Yet, it looks at times not digital. We blur the lines and do not want to distinguish between or separate the two – digital and analog can live, work, and flourish together. This is a wonderful world now. Why should you have to choose between vinyl records or digital music – why not both? The same can be said for everything we do.

HSA Digital examples from Monty Stark on Vimeo.

It’s a beautiful thing. A wonderful soup of swirling possibilities and opportunities of success, conflicts, updates, compatibilities, conversations, and solutions.

I invite you to join me as I share with you what we have discovered and confirmed. It’s always a moving target – let’s see where this goes.

“Yes, and…” in a Digital World

“Yes, and…” integration in a digital world.

What? Isn’t that just a humorous commercial for a phone/internet service provider?
Century link. Yep.
AT&T. Yep. (the power of &)
Tina Fey. Yep.

Tina Fey?

As my partners and I considered how we do business in numerous conversations, I was reading BossyPants.  We realized in all we were doing, we were looking for “yes, and…” participants.

In consultants, in contractors, in material providers, in graphics, even in clients – when something challenging is encountered, we need “yes, and…” responses. We want team members who are there to contribute and add to, not stop or take away from progress or the development/ betterment of the design.

I refer to Fey’s BossyPants:

“When hiring, mix Harvard nerds with Chicago Improvisers and stir…” (you’ll have to read the book to get the full effect). But what results is rich, layered and much more than if limited to resources of only one – one style, one paradigm, one concept, one walled garden…much more indeed.

What we realized is the “yes, and…” attitude does not stop with the people we encounter and engage with during the design process – it also applies to hardware, software, integration, coordination, cooperation, versions, software structures, and overall “playing well with others” in this digital world. Examples of these situations will follow in future posts – but all are an opportunity of rich solution – YES, AND…

Who needs software that won’t provide any benefit to the other programs you use? What if you can’t print it, export it, share it – use it to further the design? Get rid of it.  It is limiting, prohibitive, and compromising your design process.

Software – any software has its limitations. Hardware – any hardware has its limitations. Knowing these limits and working within them and around them (with adjacent software and hardware) is where the magic is.

Yes, and:

Mac? Yes.
Windows? Yes.
What does this mean? Both.

Think about it: what are MAC’s know for doing well? Graphics, graphic design, art, publishing, and we have all heard “it just works”. How about Windows? Data processing, email, communications, detailed meticulous stuff it does well but doesn’t necessarily “present it well”(in difference to the MAC references earlier – has anyone seen classic PowerPoint presentations lately?)

What we have found, given that we have both digital worlds available now, is that we do both differently – our PPT presentations do not look like typical PPT presentations anymore. And sometimes they aren’t – they are in fact Keynotes instead…Word? Sure, Pages? Sure. Excel? Sure. Numbers? You bet…You get the idea. AND we now can share anything we produce with our clients in ANY format they need – sometimes in BOTH operating systems. Literally a win-win.
Both worlds strengths, both worlds weaknesses. Use them to their strengths.
Both means no limitations – when one waxes, the other wanes.

Both means knowing each world, each OS.

See the short video below as an example: This is my desktop with some narration to give an overview of what can be done. We will get into more detail soon (by the way I’ve been advised these posts shouldn’t be too long – so if it appears there is “more” there sure is – and it’s coming.)…Check it out:

A learning curve for sure, but one with multiple rewards. You know the latest Sierra? AND Windows 10? How about Windows 8.1? How about how they run together?

Together? Yes. Together: introducing Parallels, VM’s, say hello to my little virtual friend. Sort of.
We now are concerned with operating systems, software within those operating systems, and the software hosting virtual machines within that operating system. It’s a magical thing! Truly magical. With limitations – the limitations are a dark magic to be wary of.
Need to work in windows? Go for it.
Need to work in MAC? Go for it. – on the same machine! In your client’s office, in a presentation, on the road – wherever. Truly magical.
Need to update something – woe!
Hold it right there.
In the words of Zork, “You have moved into a dark place. It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a Grue.”…not really, but be very careful.

I’ll explain more in later posts.
Now go on, and have fun.
As we continue this adventure let me make one thing clear: I own no stock in Windows or Apple (wish I did sometimes). Rather, we have invested THEM into our process, our studio, our future.

I encourage you to look into the virtual machine in your office if you have not. Backup, move, restore, save, like any other file. Manage and update like any other computer. Use like any other computer. Provide software where Apple cannot (REVIT). Edit movies where Windows cannot (Final Cut Pro). Cut and paste from Apple into Windows and back again – magical.
Did I say earlier I love what I do?
It’s quite the adventure.
Tina Fey was right.
Yes, and.

Mac or PC – or both?

When we started this adventure as an office we found ourselves at a crossroads – Mac or PC?

We needed to replace our technology because it was at the end of its usable life. Our software was outdated  and our email Windows XP server software was discontinued and no longer supported – believe it or not, this was the domino that fell first to start the others falling.

Curse you, Windows!


WHY would you turn your backs on such a great, reliable workhorse of an operating system like XP Pro?? WHY???!!!

Looking back now and seeing what Windows has developed, my intensity of the question is not so extreme anymore…

So, in the middle of the road, where do we go?

Our decision? Let’s see what’s possible. 

Boot Camp was possible.


Boot Camp would let us run Windows on Macs!

No limits to what we can do, we thought. No problems, we thought. No “you can’t do that because…” we thought. So, we tried it.

We set up a test machine that was already a few years old and began loading software (I suggest you always have a machine you can set up and try it on).

What we found was amazing –  a older machine that shouldn’t be running  Boot Camp “this well” was humming right along.

Bring it, it said to us. So we did.

We pushed and found two virtual machine softwares: VMware and Parallels.



At the time, we found VMware had some graphic issues with Autodesk and Sketchup and Parallels did not…problem solved. Good-bye, Boot Camp.


You don’t need boot camp?

You don’t have to be in one OS or the other? You don’t have to choose?

You can be in both at the same time?

How can this be?

Enter the world of the virtual machine…one computer running inside another. My little virtual friend.



This is going to be huge.

(Sorry Mr. President – this really is a huge deal.)

Now we have BOTH OSs available at the same time.

All the software, all the apps, all the time.

Both machines. AND you can move back and forth between them like any other software or active windows – and cut and paste between them!



Today we work in Apple hardware, utilizing Parallels that supports a Windows 8.1 Operating System for programs Apple does not allow/run/support or cannot run as well as Windows can.

What software do we run in Windows (i.e., our virtual machines)?

Autodesk products, specifically, and other graphics programs like:

Adobe Acrobat Pro (runs in BOTH  Apple and Windows – yes, I do have it installed in both, and frankly I’m so used to the user interface in Windows it’s hard to break away from it).

Corel graphics suite. We considered going (like everyone else) to Adobe for graphics,  Illustrator, Photoshop, etc., but we have such an inventory of information based upon Corel CDR files –  and no way to access them through Adobe products (Adobe does not play well with or even read .cdr files) –  that we have chosen to not abandon this inventory. In my opinion, Corel Graphic Suite does everything we have ever needed to do in Photoshop, so no loss there.

Sketchup – don’t forget Sketchup.

Amazing program.

Accessible to everyone.

Powerful. Capable. Intuitive. Flexible.

I said this before in one of my presentations, but thank you, Sketchup, for not messing up Sketchup. Thank you, Google, for not messing with Sketchup. And thank you, Trimble, for not messing with Sketchup! It has maintained all it was and grown through ownership, development, updates – and still delivers with the same soul. Wonderful.

Seriously, if you haven’t tried this you owe it to yourself to – just once. Sketchup runs on both the MAC and Windows sides, but it has been our experience that user-interface and performance are just easier on the Windows side.  I have it loaded on both, but almost always go to Windows…until now.

Remember Parallels, mentioned above? Parallels now has a limitation we are working around regarding the latest version of Sketchup – click here to watch a video I made for another post. Seems there is a graphics problem regarding what Parallels can provide and what Sketchup 2017 needs to run. Again, like in Zork, “you are likely to be eaten by a Grue.” This one will get you. Answer? Sketchup 2016 in Windows via Parallels and Sketchup 2017 in MAC…for now.

We find we work in two worlds on our traditional computers (desktops and MacBook Pros) and mobile devices everywhere else. Why? Because the design process is “on” at all times. Why be limited to in-office time? The conversations we have aren’t always in the office – why should our process be limited to that location? Utilizing mobile technology – laptops connected to the office network, mobile devices like iPads/iPhones, etc. and video conferencing effectively gives us unlimited place, time, and opportunity to engage in conversation, study, and sharing with others in the design process – all made possible by this wonderful swirl of technology.

The ingredients in this recipe? They will all sound familiar:


Apple OS

Also for us: mobile – IOS.

How these work together is where the previously mentioned magic happens.

I’ll discuss more about drawing your network later- for now, sketch how it is structured.

If you can’t, you are in trouble.

Ours is simple, but complex.

Ours is always changing with technology – your is, too, whether you know it or not. If you don’t know where these changes are occurring, how will you know how they affect you – for better or worse? Try it.

See image of a sketch of ours:


It’s rough, in process, and cleans up well (I’ll share more on that later), but without the ability to do this, how can you have a meaningful conversation with IT folks? How can you let them know your understanding (and therefore get correction from them – for BETTER UNDERSTANDING)?

And besides, how many IT folks KNOW how you need the elements of your design process to function together? Ours is not a typical nor simple business process. We in the design process do things with software many businesses do not. Don’t let IT marginalize what you are trying to do as typical. (We are currently doing things with some software set up – on our own – that we were later told we CAN’T, yet we are doing them, and they are working great…)

This is just software, hardware, 3D-printing, VR, connectivity (wireless, Bluetooth, etc. are addressed later) – things change and ours is like any other- changing…

This diagram represents AT LEAST two things:

Complexity of relationship in operation, AND flexibility of relationships of elements of our IT world – AND THEREFORE flexibility in our design process.

How well do you know yours?

Know it well.

Sleep with it. When I played football in high school our coach told us to sleep with the football…know it well, in your sleep, get comfortable around it, and WITH IT.

I encourage my office to “sleep with” the hardware (metaphorically) – play with it, know it. They take it home.

Only this way will you be comfortable with it when you need to have a conversation.

So, the take away today?

The technology of the design process has gotten complicated.

It doesn’t have to be – but it is for most of us. Know it. Well.

Get comfortable with it.

You (you and your technology) are going to be together working, playing, conversing with – and on behalf of each other – for a very long time.

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