Want to Drive New Clients To Your Website? Start Blogging (One Minute Masterclass)

"It's not  who  you know, and it's not  what  you's  who knows what  you know." --me, c. 2002, while trying to come up with "a thing your dad always says" for his daughter's 5th grade class

"It's not who you know, and it's not what you's who knows what you know."
--me, c. 2002, while trying to come up with "a thing your dad always says" for his daughter's 5th grade class

When you post something to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, you are, essentially, blogging, i.e. you're adding content to the web to engage an audience, building your brand and ideally direct them back to your website to learn more. But there's a huge difference between creating your content directly on Facebook, and creating it on your website then sharing it out. When you blog on your site first and share it out to other platforms, you own your content and reap the fruits of your labor, instead of giving a large part of your effort away to Mark Zuckerberg

Why add new content to your website that’s already done? Because new content = change, and search engines rely on evidence of change to justify revisiting your site and reevaluating your relevance. Change is the bait you use to lure them back. Evidence of growing relevance--regular posts containing relevant words, more visitors clicking through to your post from social media--is how search engines determine whether your site appears on page one or page fifty-one. The more you force their hand to re-visit your site, the more opportunities you give yourself to improve your site's ranking.

What to blog about? Well, the dirty little secret is that unless you're already famous, your main audience for the first few years will be automated web crawlers, so don't worry about quality; focus on quantity. Blog about anything you enjoy, so long as you post regularly, and so long as your posts contain relevant keywords and phrases ("architect," "home renovation," "theater design," etc) that reinforce some aspect of your brand (e.g. you-as-competent-architect, you-as-community-volunteer) The quality of your writing doesn't matter as much as using words, phrases and thoughts your future clients may be searching for.

Things like, how much you enjoyed that Paul Rudolph exhibit the other day at the Center for Architecture, or how you saved a client money, will work nicely. So long as what you post is authentic and relevant to your professional expertise it will catch Google's attention, trigger the algorithms that evaluate relevance, and expose your site to more Google searches.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the phenomena of “social sharing” and the inbound links sharing generates, but that will be our topic in the next LinkedIn chapter: Social Sharing for Architects and Designers

Conclusion: if you want to increase the chances of being found on the web, start blogging on your own website, write from the heart, do it on a regular basis, make it relevant to you, and always post to your website, not Mark Zuckerberg's

Good luck, and please share this article.

*exceptions to this rule include famous people who, because of huge Twitter followings, get all the attention they need from their tweets (aka 144 character blogs) and concede no value to Twitter as a platform

Have Pen Will Travel: Benefits of In-house Sketching and Rendering

In-house sketching and rendering remains one of the most efficient ways to quickly visualize and present design concepts inside a brief window of time. It prefers "sharing your process" over prematurely "presenting the solution"; "thinking out loud" to "knowing best." It doesn't replace photo realistic rendering, but serves as a complementary tool for presenting concept designs while avoiding the unintended consequences of overly-specific solutions. (cont’d below)

Concept sketch of a rooftop club overlooking Dubai

Concept sketch of a rooftop club overlooking Dubai

Concept section through proposed vertical mall

Concept section through proposed vertical mall

Concept sketch of a proposed library addition, Princeton University

Concept sketch of a proposed library addition, Princeton University

Like a design deadline, in-house sketching provides the tool to pull the team's ideas together and synthesize them into a presentable work of art.

Other advantages to in-house sketching:

  • occurs in your office so coordination and supervision is immediate and personal

  • studies multiple options quickly and intuitively in plan, elevation and section

  • Fills in details while work is still in concept, but avoids being overly specific

  • Results in an artifact / work of art that connects your clients to their emotions

  • Can be combined with basic 3-d modeling to create hybrid sketches

  • Can be used to “art-direct” 3rd party photo-realistic renderings

  • Can be accomplished by single designer working with renderer

  • Can save money when compared with hours burned by large, unfocused team

Concept sketch for an Equinox resort concept

Concept sketch for an Equinox resort concept

(Above: Video replay of studying options for a nightclub entry)

2019 is looking like a busy year. It may be the right time to test visualizing and presenting more of your concepts as sketches.

(Author James Akers is a registered architect and illustrator with over 25 years experience. He provides both in-house and studio-based sketching, rendering, and what one might call "design stenography" services to many of NYC's and Boston’s leading architects.)

Because You Never Want To Hear The Words “I Wish I’d Known About You Yesterday?!”

By now most architecture firms have their own sophisticated websites, usually costing $ tens of thousands to create and manage, not to mention the employees needed to maintain blogging and social sharing. Because of this perceived cost, many small and mid-sized practitioners either still have not created a site, or are using sites made long ago (Internet 1.0 or 2.0) that don’t have the modern look and feel that inspires confidence in clients. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that new website design and hosting services like make it absurdly easy and affordable to get a clean, modern-looking website up and running by yourself, or with minimal help from someone with experience.

Below are pages from a recent site I helped create for Jones Architecture in NYC. Stewart Jones has worked on some of the most prestigious cultural projects in NYC during his enviable 30-year career, and the professional photos he displays certainly reinforce the point (yes, you do need to start hunting down your best photos, like, now)

The home page of new site created for Jones Architecture, NYC

The home page of new site created for Jones Architecture, NYC

…featuring beautiful photographs (credited on site) of Jones’ superb work.

…featuring beautiful photographs (credited on site) of Jones’ superb work.

Working together we were able to create this site in a matter of days, not weeks, and the site now serves its primary function as calling card and overview of work for every client researching Stew’s firm from this day forward.

If you need to get on top of things and update your own site, or learn more about SEO and the strategies and benefits of social sharing, or create a bold new calling card of your own in the information age, give us a call. The good news: cost is no longer a factor, and doing it now, instead of “tomorrow,” means you will never again have to hear the words, “Rats, I wish I’d known about your work yesterday!?”

Author James Akers is a registered architect and illustrator with over 25 years experience. His specialty has been to provide sketching, rendering, and what one might call "design stenography" services to many of NYC's and Boston’s leading architects. This often involves working in their offices, drawing on his experience as architect, illustrator and designer to help his clients get to the next phase.

Victim of Trump Boast Identified

When Trump said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and he wouldn't lose any of his supporters, we all believed him...we just didn't know who "someone" was..


In this illustration, Trump shoots someone on 5th avenue and gets away with it.

A New Look at Concept Rendering

Photorealistic rendering has become a commodity. It makes every firm's work look the same, and commits you to a level of detail never intended for concept design. Hand rendering can help you regain control of the concept design process and focus your client's attention on your big idea--not the details. And now with iPad Pro, video replay can help you share your design process.

James Akers is a licensed architect and nationally recognized architectural illustrator working in all media, and now digital drawing using Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro. In addition to his architectural design work, he has helped some of the world's best architects and interior designers visualize and present their ideas.

He shares his drawing process with 3000+ subscribers on his Youtube channel here.

Using Sketchup and Procreate to Simultaneously Design and Render 5 Hotel Interiors

When there isn't enough time for photo realistic digital renderings but you still need to present your design concept, use a combination of Sketchup, the Procreate app, Apple Pencil and iPad Pro to create sketch renderings that wow your client and leave your design options open.

How Architects and Interior Designers Can Design on the iPad Pro

The latest in my ongoing series: How Architects and Interior Designers can Design on the iPad Pro. This video shows the process we used to design and present a visitor experience for a major league interactive sports museum. We didn't have enough time or information for digital images, so we had to rely on the most powerful computational platform: the hand.

Using the Procreate App and iPad Pro to Simultaneously Design and Render a Hotel Room by Hand

From the series Designing with iPad Pro and Procreate

Video 5: The Procreate app combines the timeless experience of truly drawing by hand on an iPad Pro or MS Surface tablet, with the powerful Photoshop tools you have come to rely on in making composite Photoshop renderings. The effect is to potentially save time and money by helping you render your projects as you design them. 


To see more ways the Procreate app and iPad Pro might be able to help you leverage your hand-drawing and designing talents, please click here to visit and subscribe to my Youtube channel. Thanks, and stay tuned for the next in this series; How Architects and Interior Designers Use the Procreate App and iPad Pro to Design

Use Procreate App to Share Short Videos of Your Design Process With Your Clients

Do your clients appreciate how much work goes into your designs? Here's an inexpensive animation technique that can both educate them AND entertain them, burnishing your reputation as a genius while slyly demonstrating to them just how much thought, detail and sweat has gone into producing your designs.

In the examples provided below and on my YouTube channel (to see, click here), I have simply recorded the design process using the Instant Replay feature of the Procreate drawing app, then edited it and added text and music in iMovie. This would be better in Final Cut Pro (more choices) but one step at a time, right? 

Please let me know what you think, and if you like them, please like them and subscribe to me on the Youtube channel linked to above, thanks.

Photoshop Combined With Hand Architectural Sketching Helps Art Direct Final Digital Architectural Renderings

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Circular rooms can be particularly difficult to visualize. To study this casino resort entrance lobby, we treated the drawing more as a section than a rendering, making sure to show the connection between the porte cochere and the separate entrances to casino, hotel and retail areas of the resort. With less than 6 hours to communicate the concept behind the room, we used a combination of quick hand architectural sketching and fast Photoshop gradients and collages to get our ideas across. As you can see, this left no time for careful selection trimming, but the crudeness helps add energy to the image and makes it clear to the client we are not trying to create a finished digital rendering. As a further bonus, the drawing makes provides a platform to continue testing details, like the laser -cut metal panels visible at the upper edge of the ceiling.


3 Cartoons Explaining How Cats Took Over My Parents' Lives

How many of you have gone home for a visit and found that one cat had turned into seven? These cartoons, made for my parents' birthdays when my mom was alive,  show three ways cats figured out exactly what buttons to push on both my parents. If you like them please share.

My Mom spoiled the cats rotten, and everyone at the local grocery store knew it.

My dad used to complain about the cats, but every night falling asleep in front of the tube, they were his best friends. Of course who knows what they were up to while he was sleeping?

Cats also fit nicely into the little battles between mom and dad. My mom always did all the the cooking and plating of dinner whle dad, er, watched TV. But don't worry, he still had the nerve to ask that the plates be warmed in the oven

If you like, please share!

Source: chrome-extension://bhloflhklmhfpedakmangad...

Automatically Collect Every Image You Ever Sent or Received in Gmail

Just upgraded the website from Squarespace 5 to Squarespace 7. Did it for two reasons: because Google is deprecating the search results for websites that aren't mobile-optimized (e.g. respnsive design) and because, hey, it looks so much better.

The main challenge was to go back and find image files that were large enough (say, 2000 to 3000 px in width as opposed to the 850 px width of my most of the image files I had kept on my computer) to fill the full bleed image format of the SS7 template I chose, but here, another remarkable piece of software proved invaluable. I don't recall the exact name now, but for you eager beavers interested in googling it, look up "chrome extension organizes your gmail attachments" or tap on this link here. That's right, once you add this extension (or lab feature) to your gmal settings, this amazing code runs quietly in the background to pull a copy of every image you have either sent or received in gmail, going back to the beginning of your gmail life. What's more, it automatically collects these images in a folder you can later find in the left column of your (Mac) finder window (see image below). Its kind of a miracle. As I began looking for larger image files, I discovered over 3,000 images in this folder, none of which I had ever lifted a finger to place there myself.

Anyway, hope you like the new website, and if you'd like to learn more or stay in touch, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook. I love your support and interest in the site.

The highlightd file shows the location of gmail attachments sent and received since day one of gmail

The highlightd file shows the location of gmail attachments sent and received since day one of gmail


Why Can't Architects Give Google-Like Design Test to Job Applicants?

The following is an imaginary interview between a design magazine and an architectural office manager.

DZ: How did the idea of a Google-like, pre-hiring design test come to you? 

LG: We were having difficulty determining applicants' real-world ability from portfolios and references alone, so we thought: Why not an on-the-spot "design skill" test? If we're impressed, we find a place for them. If they don't live up to the promise of their portfolio, we invite them to apply again after a spell, and everyone is spared the cost of a sub-optimum hire

DZ: What are those costs?

LG: Time wasted hiring, having to teach, being distracted by, then having to replace the wrong person. Many people and projects are impacted adversely by a sub-optimum hire.

DZ: How did hiring work before the test?

LG: In practice, we rarely had time to follow up on references or determine an applicant's true abilities--or the true contributions they made to projects in their portfolios. The design test helps us identify hidden gems and weed out those who pad their resumes.


DZ: Why do applicants take your test with pencil and paper. Are these relevant in the age of Rhino, CAD and photoshop? 

LG: Its simple practicality: pencil on paper is direct, requires no plugs or wifi and provides a record of an applicants design process and ability to tell a story. Its the ability to imagine and communicate that we, and ultimately our clients, are interested in.

DZ: What if a person is brilliant but doesn't draw well? 

LG: I want to make a critical point here. We don't care if their drawings are pretty. We're looking for their ability to think critically, design, and communicate.


DZ: Have you lost any recruits because of the test...the intimidation of it? 

LG: On the contrary, many of our recruits say they went out of their way to apply for a job at our firm because of the test--because they thought the test was kind of an equalizer that allows them to demonstrate their abilities and not just where they've gone to school.


DZ: How did you devise the test in its present form? 

LG: We interviewed all of our principals and asked them what skills they wanted in new people on day one and what skills were missing most. We then invented questions that addressed these issues.

DZ: How do you score the test?

LG: We don't think of it as scoring because there are no right or wrong answers, only thoughtful and less thoughtful ones. The test is kind of fun to look at, as you can imagine

DZ: We liked the question where you had a person invent 3 new ways to clean a toilet. Have the responses been interesting on that one?

LG: We're doing our next book on just the responses to that question." 

DZ: But seriously, why give architect applicants the same question as product design and interior design applicants?

LG: I'll get in trouble for this with my fellow architects, but the traditional architect's snobbery about interior design being beneath them is one of the leading causes of poor teamwork at our firm. Its all design, and showing contempt for these other disciplines shows you don't pay close enough attention to your own everyday experience." 

DZ: If its not giving too much away, tell us your favorite question.

LG: I like the one that says, "On one page, use diagrams and a maximum of 144 characters to explain the last project (not just your part) to which you contributed at your previous firm. Then tweet your answer to us. 

DZ: So has your test helped with hiring?

LG: It's helped us grow our pool of applicants; it's helped identify people we wish to immediately hire, and in more cases than I'd like to say, it's saved our firm perhaps $100s of 1000s of dollars  hiring, teaching, then replacing people who lacked a basic understanding of plans, sections, and elevations.

DZ: Thank you, LG.

LG: My pleasure.




Against All Odds, Architectural Rendering By Hand is Back

(Summary: Ever-shrinking architects’ fees combined with developer’s expectations of Hollywood-quality digital renderings have brought us full circle: hand rendering is being rediscovered as the most cost effective and artistically direct way to design in the digital age, with the added benefit of helping to art direct third party digital rendering consultants.)

Against All Odds, Hand Rendering is Back. Why against all odds? Because hand rendering was supposed to die. Hand renderers were supposed to be replaced by computers, and to some extent that did happen. But what has evolved is a bit of a surprise.

First, a quick overview of the state of digital architectural rendering...

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iPhone Won't Charge? Here's An Instant Fix That Architects and Illustrators Use .

Is your iPhone refusing to charge? Does your iPhone charge sometimes but not all the time? Do you have to jiggle the lightning connector to get a charge, but even that doesn't always work? Then I have two words for you: pocket lint.

 I know, I know, you're an architect or architectural illustrator or product designer and you love your phone, and you take very good care of it, and your clothes are always clean. Why would you have a pocket lint problem? Trust me, you do. Now prepare to be amazed. Before you call the Apple Store Genius Bar, try this simple trick. (Attention: the author is not responsible for you screwing this up! It worked great for me, but use a gentle touch and common sense.)

Step 1) Find a nice clean, long-pointed push pin. (I know, scary, right? Read on!)


Step 2) Gently insert point of pushpin into lightning connector hole, and "rake" with a light touch across the bottom of the hole as if you were cleaning 20,000 year old bones...

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Architectural Rendering Techniques: How To Make Storyboards For Startups

The concept sketches below, created and shared in advance of a conference call, were used to get a team of engineers and executives in different states on the same page quickly. The style of the drawing is somewhat messy and loose--at least by the standards of the Keynotes and Powerpoints most startup employees deal in every day--but the human-drawn element helped promote a more...

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Simple Residential Designs for Surprising Solutions

I used to spend a lot of time designing homes that used simple construction techniques but still (hopefully) resulted in surprising solutions. This one's called Tower House. A little po-mo, but hey, that was what we were doing back then )