The end of trade secrets

I recently came across an article in Fast Company magazine written by Sahil Lavingia, the founder of Pinterest.com, in which he talks about the prominent spot that designers have in today’s business. He refers to designers as the new “developers” or the “hotties” of today’s business world. This opened my eyes to two things: the huge relevance designers have, not just in the architectural industry or the products industry, but in all businesses; and the phenomenal advances technology continues to have in our private and business lives.

If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, I strongly suggest you become a participating member. This website provides a matrix for the average individual to connect their soul with their design interests. It provides tools to learn from anyone, from the most prominent designers to your neighbors, on the virtues of good design, architecture and a wide array of other interests.

Another social media newcomer is Houzz.com that similarly allows designers and the average user to share ideas, but is specific to home design. I’m an ardent fan, having watched the AIA struggle for years to put together a website in which architects could post their work and make it available to the general public, with limited results.

Architects and designers as well as the average home aficionado can access more than 400,000 images, learn about products, colors, design theory, etc., and interact with each other, their prospects and clients. It’s exciting to see a young entrepreneur and group of designers like Lavingia put such great tools at our fingertips.

For an old hound like me who took an entire course in college on how to use a slide rule to perform mathematical calculations before handheld calculators existed, and finished post-graduate before the personal computer was on the market, these phenomenal advances in technology are true joys and give me a great sense of appreciation for the potential we have as architects to do our work and bring it to the public.

Another great tool that has made a revolution in my own company is the iPad, which I have provided for my entire field construction team. In lieu of lugging around a 7-lb. laptop, or worse, a box of plans, specs and change orders in their pickups, they now have easy touch access to sets of extensive drawings and construction documentation and can zoom in on details with intuitive fingertip control.

Ten years ago our company began the painful process of abandoning mounds of paperwork and files, and tackling the monumental task of transferring everything to digital format and saving to a server. It wasn’t so long ago that going paperless was beyond reach, but with committed effort and much help from new technology over the past five years, such as powerful bandwidth and new communication products like the iPad, paperless is the new reality.

I discovered days after we had invested in our new tablets that the high-tech industry has been working diligently on new applications for architects and home builders. New ways to perform estimating, manage data and access servers, etc., is coming in our direction fast and furiously. A new vocabulary of files for architects and builders such as dwifs and others will help us to intercommunicate, bringing us closer to each other’s disciplines in an environment such as design/build where the information flow is phenomenally quick and accurate.

Whether you’re taking advantage of the hardware, the software, the 4G bandwidth or the new universe of possibilities the Internet brings, you should also look at connecting through available blogs and other social media. You can share your acquired knowledge or gain from others in our industry who are taking advantage of these tools that are developing faster than we can keep up.

We no longer live in a world in which you can, as my classmates in architecture school used to say, “armpit” your designs or your knowledge. There are no more professional secrets, thanks to technology. It’s all out there on the Internet and if you don’t think so, take a minute to check out Houzz.com and Pinterest.com.

See what I mean?

Luis Jauregui, AIA, has been a member of the local and national chapters of the American Institute of Architects for more than 20 years. He is an active leader within the Homebuilders Association of Austin, Texas. Send email to luis@jaureguiarchitect.com. Read past columns at ForResidentialPros.com.

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