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DesignProcessTechnologyValue, A Conversation

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

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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.

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.

So.

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!

Another:

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!

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.

BUT:

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.

FTP VPN OMG!

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.

VPN,

FTP,

& 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?

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.

EVERYTHING.

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?

Spreadsheets. 

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?

Annually.

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.

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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. 

THIS IS MAGICAL. 

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. 

Lead. 

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?

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