DesignProcessTechnologyValue, A Conversation

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



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!

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.

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.

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