eBook - ePub


Design Technology Specialists and the Future of Practice

Randy Deutsch

Share book
  1. 200 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub


Design Technology Specialists and the Future of Practice

Randy Deutsch

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

Design technology is changing both architectural practice and the role of the architect and related design professionals. With new technologies and work processes appearing every week, how can practitioners be expected to stay on top and thrive? In a word, Superusers.

Superusers: Design Technology Specialists and the Future of Practice will help you identify who they are, the value they provide, and how you can attract and retain them, and become one; what career opportunities they have, what obstacles they face, and how to lead them. Written by Randy Deutsch, a well-known expert in the field, this is the first-ever guide to help current and future design professionals to succeed in the accelerating new world of work and technology.

Providing proven, practical advice, the book features:

  • Unique, actionable insights from design technology leaders in practice worldwide

  • The impacts of emerging technology trends such as generative design, automation, AI, and machine learning on practice

  • Profiles of those who provide 20% of the effort but achieve 80% of the results, and how they do it

  • What will help firms get from where they are today to where they need to be, to survive and thrive in the new world of design and construction.

Revealing the dramatic impact of technology on current and future practice, Superusers shows what it means to be an architect in the 21st century. Essential reading for students and professionals, the book helps you plan for and navigate a fast-moving, uncertain future with confidence.

Frequently asked questions

How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is Superusers an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access Superusers by Randy Deutsch in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Architecture & Architecture General. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.



Part one

Why Superusers?

Chapter 1

Superusers’ C-factors

In the research for this book, certain distinguishing features or attributes common to all Superusers were observed, again and again. Superusers exhibit a predilection and expertise, not only for the technologies they master but finesse with human interaction. While design technologists are needed for their computational skills and productivity, it’s their outlook and consideration for others’ interests and needs that separate them from ordinary specialists.
This chapter looks at the qualities and attributes that make the Superusers’ superpowers of Chapter 2 possible. These attributes – ten X-factors starting with the letter C – are the bedrock for what separates a Superuser from someone who specializes in technology. The chapter looks at what drives Superusers, their defining qualities, and sought-after differentiators.


Superusers are naturally curious – they’re driven by curiosity – particularly about the world outside of technology. It is not enough for technologists to focus exclusively on mastering technology and tools – for that to be the end of their interests. Some address this by adding “A” for art to STEM subjects, making it STEAM. “I’d add a ‘d’ for design and make it STEAMD,” says Dan Anthony, Design Computation Leader, NBBJ. “We need design. I’m personally very enthusiastic about the [Stanford] approach. Experientially solving problems. Hacking out a process. Sometimes the exposure to the arts can be very narrow or cursory if you don’t want to apply it.” Anthony explains how curiosity led him to study architecture in the first place:
One of the things that came out of my experience at Stanford is an interest in graphic design – something I’ve always been interested in. One of the things that got me to the University of Oregon is that I continued to explore that space after I graduated from Stanford. I found that the thing that I wanted to learn more about was architecture and design. I went to California College of the Arts (CCA) for classes. I travel and go to museums, draw and photograph buildings. I realized I was gravitating toward the urban space and wanted to learn how to design it. I was driven by curiosity.
Superusers’ interests outside of technology have a positive impact on their work, providing perspective, enhancing their laser focus on a task, making their work more enriching by leveraging alternative reference points. And, as will be discussed in a later chapter, curiosity remains a valued characteristic that employers look for in design technologist candidates. “You’re just looking for curiosity,” says Brian Ringley, Senior Researcher at WeWork where he leads research efforts in the areas of construction automation and robotics, playing a pivotal role in developing and testing new methods of building manufacturing and working collaboratively with WeWork’s design, construction, and logistics teams. He continues:
You’re not looking for somebody who needs to be told what to do. You’re looking for somebody who has an extremely large appetite for knowledge. It’s not even problem solving so much. It’s just gaining knowledge, and the way you gain knowledge is to locate problems and wonder why it’s a problem, and decide if it’s a problem worth solving or if the problem is the problem. You’re just hungry for knowledge, you have that appetite and you’re a naturally curious person; if you have that attitude, that you should be able to pick things up. That’s how I felt about myself and that’s what I’ve noticed over the years, the students who are the highest performers are those who don’t wait for me to demo a tool. They have a problem that they want to solve and they go about solving it.
Outside of WeWork, Ringley recognizes the difficulty in nurturing curiosity in his students in the courses he teaches on data-driven parametric design, interoperable workflow convergence and vertical integration, and robotic automation for architectural manufacturing at Pratt Institute’s Graduate Architecture and Urban Design (GAUD) program:
I teach a lot of Grasshopper as part of various courses and it’s a good proxy for design computation and smart models and process in general, as well as also just being a useful skill to know Grasshopper. I know I should be more practical about it, but I’m just always heartbroken that people aren’t trying to figure things out and asking questions. It just seems like they, by and large, come in and it’s like they did what they needed to do to get to that point.
I’ve had a lot of advantages in my life so I don’t want to hold myself up, like everybody should be the same type of person I’ve been. I remember one advantage being that I learned Rhino in high school, which is a freak accident mostly. I remember just being bored with the assignment and being like, “I’m going to type in every command. I’m going to run every Rhino command and I’m just going to see what it does.” I tell my students that and they’re like, “Oh, Grasshopper’s so hard,” whereas I said, “Just put a random component down and see what it does, and then put another one, and just do that once a day, and just see what that leads to.” As an educator, that’s always been that really, really difficult thing to attain, which is “How do I nurture curiosity?” rather than “How do I deliver content?”
Curiosity can also help develop one’s ability to adapt to change – something of particular import given how quickly technology and processes change today. “That goes with the curiosity, because inevitably that’s going to lead you to try new things,” explains Ringley, citing his leaving Woods Bagot for WeWork:
It’s like coming to WeWork. It was hard not to notice them, and it was hard not to notice they were doing the types of things I wanted to do and they were really, really good at it. That’s exciting and that curiosity takes over and you’re like, “Well, I have to go do that now because that seems like where all the smart people went, and where all the big things are happening within this industry, so I’ll pop in over there and see what happens.”


Woods Bagot Principal Shane Burger has talked in the past about object intelligence, situational intelligence, and systemic intelligence in terms of building components. Could these three qualities be a way of describing the people you want to work with? “In a way, it’s talking about the different scales of collaboration, communication, or connection,” says Burger. “There’s always that moment when someone has to put their head down, their headphones on, block out the world, and get something done. But at the same time, I never want somebody who cannot contextualize their work.”
Contextualizers look at their work in larger contexts that spiral out from the problem they are trying to solve, beyond themselves to larger and larger reference points. Contextualizing means to always ask what does my work mean beyond what I am working on now, in ever-increasing questions of beyond? Burger adds:
They ideally know what this means for their individual project. Hopefully they do, beyond themselves. What does this mean for the work I’m doing now? What does this mean for the larger project team? Beyond that, what does this mean for this typology or this sector? Is there something here I can learn from? Beyond that, what does this mean for the practice, or even beyond that?
Figure 1.1
Wynyard Walk. (2018) Credit: Woods Bagot.
Image credit © Trevor Mein


Arguably, people enter the AEC industry because they like working with things, objects, or places, not for the interaction with people. For some, people are an unavoidable liability of working in a profession or industry.
There are a surprising percentage of Superusers that could be considered people-persons. They like people, are energized – not drained or exhausted – by being around people, and thrive in an environment where they daily have the opportunity to be in service to others. Skilled in pattern recognition, their interest in serving others goes a long way to help explain why Superusers are – whether connecting people, tools, processes, or just the dots – considered connectors. Shane Burger explains:
That is a big part of what I do. I constantly look for connections and problems to solve. Sometimes applying something that happens over in the Perth office to something that happens in London. I absolutely encourage the team to do that. I don’t want them to become overwhelmed. You don’t want to over-weight the individual task that they are doing at that time that then might be used to solve 10,000 other problems. That’s where there are two mindsets between the 50/50 of the work. The one 50% that’s focusing on the individual project, and the other 50% that’s to say, alright, let’s back up. Let’s look at this from a 10,000 foot view. What am I doing now that can go bigger?
Here’s an example of what is meant by connection. “We were seeing a lot of problems happen on projects related to some aspects of interoperability and some very common workflows from Grasshopper into Dynamo into Revit that were happening on a very regular basis,” explains Burger. He continues:
Because we were using Flux at that time, we added on top of that some concerns about where Flux was going from a big picture point of view. That then turned into Brian Ringley and Andrew Heumann building some aspects of the Wombat toolkit that we then released publicly. These were some utilities that we were using again and again and again in the practice. We didn’t see anyone else with them out there. They are not really that complicated in terms of IP, but they are really handy utilities. Where this went after this was saying OK, now wait a minute. We’ve fixed some of that for us. But is that really a long-term solution? Additionally, we have this design research group based in our Sydney studio called SuperSpace that is running into similar paradigms, but not quite the same solution space. There are some similar conversations happening. That then sparked a conversation around, let’s start thinking about a future system that might be similar to Flux. We started having very serious conversations with the team from Speckle, in particular Dimitrie Stefanescu. We started talking with Jonatan Schumacher with where Konstru was going in its next steps. That went from single project tools, to multi-project tools, to enterprise tools that we pulled out, developed, and then released, to then start thinking about platforms. So it went at that point from plug-ins to platforms. That’s a good conversation to have. I don’t want to saddle a particular project with a platform-level conversation, but there does need to be that moment where you can back-up and think at platform and infrastructure level, asking: how does this actually impact how we do our work on a regular basis? And is there some amazing opportunity that we could have by thinking about it at platform level?


How do colleagues and firm leaders inside the office become aware of Superusers’ superpowers? “They probably walked past my desk and said, ‘Hey, what’s that?’ And I said, ‘here, watch this.’ That was how it happened,” says Ryan Cameron, Project Architect at DLR Group who actively shares what he is working on, online and off, with others. He says:
We have an Intranet that all the big firms have. I will post occasionally, “For the next episode of Dynamo Next we have this going on. Here are some cool things we can do with data, some basic steps you can learn.”
When it comes to communicating what design technologists or computational designers do, many clients wouldn’t know what to ask for. So it falls on Superusers to be able to clearly explain what it is they do, what problems they can solve, and just what value they bring to assignments, projects, and their clients. It may be hard to communicate the focus of one’s work to outsiders when design technology is focused on internal research and development. Early schematic design on a project would fall within the firm’s visualization guru, or architectural designer, explains Jordan Billingsley, BIM Coordinator with Hord Coplan Macht:
We would only need to bring in the computational designer when they’ve settled on rough rules for what the design of the façade should be, and then trying to get a transparency versus opacity percentage, and that’s when...

Table of contents