Reform at the AIA

Dilbert; Change

In recent months, members of the Australian Institute of Architects have received a stream of emails addressing substantial changes underway within the organisation. The changes target the very heart of the Institute and systematically rethink the way it functions.

This is a subject I’ve discussed previously (see Why I’m a member of the AIA and A better AIA), so have followed the proposed changes with keen interest. For those of you who’ve missed the detail arriving in your inboxes, here’s a brief summary:

  • Long serving CEO of the Institute, David Parken, has announced his retirement.[1] His successor has also been appointed. Jennifer Cunich, previously of the Property Council of Australia, begins in the role next month.[2]
  • Architext has been closed and the Newcastle and NSW Country Division of the AIA has been reabsorbed into the NSW Chapter in Sydney.[3]
  • A governance review by authority and governance advocate, Henry Bosch AO, has resulted in a proposal to replace the Executive Committee with a Board of Directors.[4]

These are some big changes. To offer a sporting analogy, we have a new coach, a couple of expensive yet underperforming players have been scrapped, and – should the new Board be implemented – we’ll have a whole new way of making decisions about our footy team.

I think there are a few important questions that need to be asked: why is reform necessary? Are the proposed reforms the right reforms? And what happens next? For some of my more skeptical readers, you might even suggest that there’s a more fundamental question to be asked first: why is the AIA itself necessary?

Dilbert; Change

Why is the AIA necessary?

I tackled this question in detail in Why I’m a member of the AIA, but let me repackage my thoughts in an easy 4-step answer:

  1. Within the big building industry ocean, architects are the smallest of fish. Real estate agents, bankers, developers, planners, lawyers, engineers, project managers and builders all have far greater influence on the strategic planning of our cities than we do.
  2. The same goes for both political and public opinion. In the context of Australian life and culture, we are chronically undervalued.
  3. This context in fact forms part of a broader downwards slide. We are an historically important and influential profession rapidly losing ground to competing occupations.
  4. Halting or even reversing this slide is not something individual architects can do on their own. We need a peak professional body like the Australian Institute of Architects to transform our many tiny voices into a single, unified and much more powerful soapbox.

That is to say, we’re up shit creek and the AIA is our paddle.

Now, there are many organisations advocating on behalf of the architecture profession in Australia. There are the AAA, the ACA, Parlour, the Robin Boyd FoundationArchiTeam and many others. All are membership organisations seeking to further the AIA’s own purpose, that is “to improve our built environment by promoting quality, responsible, sustainable design.”[5]. All do good work, but none boast the history nor member saturation of the AIA. They’re the small forward crumbers to the AIA tall timber.

The AIA is necessary now more than ever. The architecture profession is already in a state of crisis, can you imagine how much worse off we’d be without our biggest collective organisation?

Dilbert; Change

Why is reform necessary?

The Institute has experienced successive years of alarming financial difficulty. Annual reports from 2012 to 2015 show negative cashflow from operations to the tune of $18,000,000.[6] While the majority of these losses are offset each year from other activities, over this same period the Institute saw real losses of around $3,000,000.[7]

In both the 2014 and 2015 annual reports, the independent auditor concluded her analysis by stating that the losses incurred “indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the ability of the company and the consolidated entity to continue as going concerns.”[8]

As a member, it is deeply unnerving for me to discover that the day to day activities of the Institute have been so financially unsustainable over such a long period. The auditor’s words really strike home: business as usual at the AIA may very possibly lead to bankruptcy.

Put simply, reform is an inevitable and essential ingredient in keeping the AIA afloat.

Dilbert; Change

Are the reforms the right reforms?

Jon Clements, National President of the AIA, has been instrumental in orchestrating reform at the Institute. I’ve spoken informally with him on this question, and have been left with the lasting impression that national leadership is acutely aware of the crisis currently faced by the AIA, and is doing everything in its power to overcome it.

The closure of Architext and the Newcastle division are the most easily identifiable changes, but they’re not the most important. I suspect they’re merely the low hanging fruit that give weight to the new mantra of “a more focused strategic plan embracing three core pillars – membership, advocacy and education.”[9] The theory being that the AIA will progressively shed activities that fall outside these areas of operation, thus spreading their resources over a smaller area.

Much more important is the governance review undertaken by Henry Bosch. To understand what is being proposed, I suggested you head to the governance page of the Institute’s website, which summarises the changes and includes this neat infographic:

Australian Institute of Architects; National Council; Executive Committee; Board of Directors

Bosch’s review identified that the existing AIA leadership structure (on the left) is unwieldy, and impedes good governance practices. Currently, the National Council meets only three times a year. In these meetings, Councillors are expected to address and decide upon issues spanning policy, strategy, business and finance – an enormous agenda to slog through in just two days. The National Executive meets more regularly, but isn’t empowered to approve expenditure, meaning all decisions need to head back to the the next Council meeting for approval.

This governance pathway is tortuous, obstructs good information flow and regularly leaves local Chapters in the lurch while they wait for new initiatives to be approved.

Bosch advised that effective governance requires a smaller, more focussed board derived from National Council with independent directors to add specific expertise in areas like the law, accounting and marketing. Thus the AIA’s proposal (on the right) is to establish a Board of Directors that addresses business and finance, leaving National Council to focus on policy and strategy. Council will still meet only three times a year, but the Board will meet as often as every month. This division of duties learns from corporate structures to create a much more nimble and responsive leadership arrangement.

It’s important to recognise that this change in leadership structure will not automatically fix the AIA’s current financial crisis, nor is it intended to. Instead, it acknowledges that crises only occur when leadership is not successful in its role. Asking sixteen volunteer Councillors to meet once every four months, cover an enormous quantity of material each time, and then make effective decisions across many areas of AIA operations might work okay when it’s plain sailing, but is horribly ineffective when the seas get rocky.

A more nimble leadership will be better empowered to begin the process of rebuilding. Really, it is just the first in a series of important steps towards reform. With a new structure in place, the strategic plan for the AIA can also be updated, which in turn can flow via the new core pillars (membership, advocacy and education) into day-to-day activities. I’m not convinced the pillars actually exclude anything the Institute is doing now, but am happy for the reform process to play itself out. Ultimately, I’d like to see more aggressive tightening over the next couple of years, driven by a new strategic plan and a systematic appraisal of the cultural and financial benefits of all existing activities.

As I’ve stated before, I also think the AIA needs to focus on increasing its member saturation within the profession. Like any governing body, cutting expenditure is only one half of the equation, the other is to increase revenue. With only 45% of registered architects opting in as AIA members, there’s a huge pool of untapped financial support waiting to be leveraged from the other 55% of the community.[10]

Dilbert; Change

What happens next?

The governance review has already evolved beyond Bosch’s initial proposal. Feedback was sought from members last month, importantly resulting in a gender equity commitment from the AIA to mandate a minimum of three women and three men on the Board of eight directors.[11] As the leadership structure is established by the AIA constitution, a lengthy draft of the required amendments has also been produced and circulated.

The next step is to commit to the leadership reform.

This will happen on Friday the 13th of May in Melbourne, at the Institute’s 87th Annual General Meeting. As a vote on a change to the constitution requires a minimum of 75% of the vote to pass, there is currently a push across the country to contact members for their support. In Victoria, this happened via a special email from Victorian Chapter President, Vanessa Bird.

I strongly echo this push.

It goes without saying that the AIA needs to stay afloat financially if it’s to continue it’s work. The scary evidence revealed in recent annual reports proves in no uncertain terms that business as usual is unlikely to ensure this. Major reform will give the AIA a better chance of stemming the losses of recent years, and enable leadership to improve the Institute’s role as peak body for the architecture profession. Most significantly, I believe that the survival of our profession is inextricably tied to the survival of our peak body. If it sinks, so do we.

Please consider this article an entreaty to either vote for leadership reform in person at the AGM next month, or if you can’t attend, to support Item 6 of the AGM proxy form.


Footnotes:

  1. David Parken; media releaseFrom the CEO; December 2015.
  2. Media release, A new era as Australian Institute of Architects welcomes new CEO; April 2016.
  3. Greg Ridder, Interim CEO; CEO’s report; Australian Institute of Architects annual report 2015; page 6.
  4. Ibid. See Jon Clements, National President; National President’s report; page 4.
  5. About the Institute; Australian Institute of Architects website, About Us page; accessed April 2015.
  6. See net cash inflow (outflow) from operating activities line items quoted in finance summary sections of Australian Institute of Architects annual reports 2012 (page 8), 2013 (page 10), 2014 (page 11) and 2015 (page 11). The annual reports are accessible to the general public and available for download here.
  7. Ibid. See net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents line items.
  8. Alexandra Spark; Independent auditor’s report to the members of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects; 2014 and 2015 AIA annual reports; page 41 and page 44 respectively.
  9. Jon Clements, National President; National President’s report; Australian Institute of Architects annual report 2015; page 4.
  10. Warwick Mihaly; Why I’m a member of the AIA; Panfilocastaldi; May 2015.
  11. Gender equity; Australian Institute of Architects website, Governance page; accessed April 2015.

Images:

  1. Dilbert comic strip, A successful transformation… Published 11th July 2010. This and subsequent Dilbert comics copyright Scott Adams.
  2. Dilbert comic strip, Don’t be afraid… Published 30th September 2010.
  3. Dilbert comic strip, You must learn… Published 13th December 2015.
  4. Dilbert comic strip, We must change… Published 13th December 1996.
  5. Proposed governance changes, copyright Australian Institute of Architects.
  6. Dilbert comic strip, If we are… Published 3rd August 1996.
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Other social media for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the last of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets. It differs from the preceding posts in that it takes a brief look at a few of the sites I don’t use, and why. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google +, Snapchat

Tumblr
Total users: 555 million[1]

Purpose: An image-focussed blogging service. It covers every subject on the planet, from humorous tombstones to partying pandas.

Why I don’t use it: With my involvement in Panfilocastaldi, I’ve never had the need to explore other blogging platforms. As Tumblr relies very heavily on imagery, it is particularly unsuitable to this blog, which is concerned with written discourse. I guess I only have so many hours in the day.

Food for thought: Yahoo paid $1b to purchase Tumblr a few years ago, and in neat symmetry, the platform is fast headed towards the magical 1b user mark (which will make it the second only platform to do so, after Facebook).[2] Can so many people be wrong?

For students: Tumblr blogs occupy a space somewhere between Instagram and WordPress. They’re filled with more than instantaneous photos, but don’t have room for the hundreds or thousands of words contained within a traditional text-based blog post. If you’re interested in starting a blog, but are turned off by the idea of having to write a lot, this might be the social media outlet for you.

Pinterest
Mihaly Slocombe
Following: 16
Followers: 26
Joined: April 2015
Total users: 100 million[3]

Purpose: An image-based portfolio site a bit like Instagram and a bit like Houzz. It can be a place to exhibit your work, though is probably better geared towards collecting ideas from other people.

Why I don’t use it (or use it much): I uploaded a few of our projects onto Pinterest a year ago, but lost interest in keeping our site current. I’m also not keen on the idea of having a scrapbook of things that interest me available to the public.

Rumour has it: I’ve heard that the majority of Pinterest users are middle-aged Americans, which would make the platform of questionable interest to an Australian architecture studio. A quick online search confirms these numbers: around half of Pinterest users are from the United States, and two thirds are 35 and older.[4] Curiously, 80% are female too, which contradicts many other social media outlets, like LinkedIn and Google Plus, whose users are mostly male.

For students: Though I’ve dismissed Pinterest as a marketing outlet for our studio, its broad content might make it more useful to you. It’s an opportunity to show unbuilt work, sketches and things that inspire you. The challenge will be connecting to people locally who will value this contribution.

Google Plus
Mihaly Slocombe
Total users: 418 million[5]

Purpose: A single portal that gathers together all of Google’s many social media services, including Youtube, Hangouts, Communities, Adwords etc.

Why I don’t use it (or barely at all): We’re on Google Plus for two reasons only: so people can access our contact information when someone Googles us; and to track user analytics for our website. If we were to ever take on an Adwords campaign, Google Plus would also be the portal through which to do it. Really, these are all business marketing tools, not social media services.

As a social media service, I frankly have no idea. Browsing through the various functions contained under the Google Plus umbrella, I suspect the platform can do an awful lot. That said, it lacks the clarity and simplicity of every other social media outlet discussed in this series.

For students: Reading through a few articles online that explain what Google Plus is, I got the picture that it’s halfway between Facebook and Twitter. It’s formatted like Facebook, in that you have your own page, and can take part in communities that share your interests. Yet like Twitter, the communities are yours to choose – your feed isn’t clogged by the inane things written by your friends and family.

Snapchat
Total users: 200 million[6]

Purpose: An image-messaging service that allows you to send photos or videos that self-destruct after a few seconds. Snapchat has recently added a Stories feature that allows users to aggregate 24 hours of content at a time. The content then self-erases when the next day ticks over.

Why I don’t use it: Like most people over the age of 30, all I really know about Snapchat is that it’s famous for high school students using it to send photos of their junk to their friends.

This video by Casey Neistat opened my eyes to an interesting insight though: in a world of ever-shortening attention spans, Snapchat is the logical successor to Facebook and Instagram. You capture your content, you distribute it, it’s watched (or not), and then it’s gone forever. It is the digital equivalent of living a life with no past and no future, only the now.

I find this fascinating, though recognise that as an architect interested in creating things that will outlast me, Snapchat is in many ways the antithesis of my work.

Food for thought: Snapchat became popular very, very quickly, particularly among teenagers. On the back of this, Facebook tried and failed to buy the platform for $3b in 2014.[7] Since then, the estimated value of the platform has more than tripled. I suspect the founders think they will do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace.

For students: While buildings are permanent, the way they are used, the light and shadow that fill them, the sounds they make are not. Even more so, the design and business processes that lead to buildings are ever-changing. It would be an interesting experiment to see how you could use Snapchat to explore the ephemerality of architecture.

End.


Footnotes:

  1. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016
  2. Tumblr targets Australia as it heads to 1 billion users; Australian Financial Review; August 2015
  3. Statista; January 2016
  4. Pinterest statistics sourced from: Pinterest has 70 million users. More than 70% are in the US; Semiocast; 2013. Can brands and businesses by successful with Pinterest marketing?; Joop Rijk; January 2015. Two thirds of Pinterest users are 35+; Red Clay Interactive; October 2012
  5. Google Plus; Wikipedia; accessed April 2016
  6. Statista; January 2016
  7. What’s the point of Snapchat and how does it work?; Pocket-lint; October 2014

Image:

  1. Other social media, logos copyright Tumblr, Pinterest, Google Plus, Snapchat. Composition by author
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WordPress for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the 7th of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets, how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media

WordPress
Panfilocastaldi
Direct subscribers: 193
Indirect followers: 961
Created: October 2010

Purpose: WordPress is a blogging and website content management system.

Staggering statistics: Depending on the articles you read, it’s estimated that about 25% of the internet runs on WordPress.[2] More concretely, each month WordPress users produce 54 million new blog posts, and over 400 million people view 21 billion blog pages.[3]

Community: There is probably a WordPress blog on every subject known to humankind, so the problem is less discovering your community and more whittling the millions of options down to the one in which you’re most interested. As it says in the Panfilocastaldi byline, my blog explores the culture, practice and business of architecture. It didn’t start this way, originally covering a much broader range of topics, but over time I have narrowed my focus down to this fairly specific subject.

Almost all of my followers are other architects running or working in studios around Australia. This makes sense, since this is precisely the audience for whom I write. Occasionally I meet someone at an event and discover that she’s been following (and benefitting from) my blog for years. I always act cool when this happens, but just below the surface I’m giving myself massive high-fives and whooping like a little boy who’s just discovered that Spiderman lives next door.

I follow a small number of other architects who maintain active blogs. This circle would be larger if possible, but there just aren’t that many architects committing themselves to generating content.

Posting: Before I had children, I wrote a lot more than I do now. My unwavering commitment however is to ensure I publish at least one article every month. This keeps the blog current, and ensures subscribers are exposed to regular content.

For students: I started this blog as a way of encouraging me to get off the couch. Having the blog inspires me to experience new things so I can write about them. The process of writing then encourages me to see more new things. It is a very positive feedback loop.

At architecture practice lectures I gave recently at both Melbourne University and RMIT, I asked students to raise their hands if they write a design blog. Of the 400 or so students in attendance, I counted only 5 raised hands. There should be more.

Good examples:

Importance:
9 / 10

 


Footnotes:

  1. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016
  2. Tom Ewer; 14 surprising statistics about WordPress usage; ManageWP; February 2014
  3. How many people are reading blogs?; WordPress; March 2016. This page also contains a neat world map that flashes a light over the relevant city whenever a blog post is published.

Image:

  1. WordPress, logo copyright WordPress. Composition by author.
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Houzz for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the 6th of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets, how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media

Houzz
Mihaly Slocombe
Following: 22
Followers: 477
Joined: October 2013

Purpose: A massive online database of house photos, it’s the eBay of residential architecture.

Community: Unlike many other project typologies, private residential clients are notoriously difficult to find and connect with. As the Houzz user group is mostly populated by non-architects, it’s evolving into one of the best ways to overcome this hurdle.

I follow a very small number of colleagues and clients. I don’t see Houzz as a useful tool to connect with other architects (Twitter and Instagram are much better for this), but I can attest to its ability to generate project leads. Our followers come from all over the world and are mostly non-architects, though it’s hard to tell whether any of these connections will lead to fruitful collaborations.

Portfolio: Houzz is essentially a supercharged portfolio website. It’s a way for us to push our work out into a domain populated by millions of people feverishly devouring photos of houses. It also acts a gateway to our own website and a growing number of project enquiries. Most of the project leads we receive from online portals (as discussed here) come via Houzz.

Notoriety: As I uploaded our portfolio onto Houzz long before it officially launched in Australia, we’ve benefited from a huge headstart in having our work seen by more people in more places. Much like Google, the Houzz search algorithms reward popularity with more popularity. As bizarre evidence, this photo of one of our wardrobes has been saved by over 16,000 people, and continues to receive awards each year as the most liked wardrobe photo in Australia.

Procrastination: For anyone interested in building or renovating, Houzz is easily the most addictive source of procrastination in existence.

For students: Unless you have built work in your portfolio, Houzz is not a good way for you to advertise yourself. It’s possible you could connect with potential employers, but again I think Twitter and Instagram are better tools for this.

However, with 9 million photos and counting, a 2014 market valuation upwards of $2b, and their first major tech acquisition late last year, I figure you’re either on the Houzz wagon or getting covered in dust.[2]

Good examples:

These are all practicing architects, all of whose practices appear on the first page of Houzz when I search for professionals in Victoria.

Importance:
4 / 10 for you
10 / 10 for me


Footnotes:

  1. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016
  2. George Anders; Houzz tops $2 billion valuation, opens million-item marketplace; Forbes; October 2014

Image:

  1. Houzz, logo copyright Houzz. Composition by author.
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LinkedIn for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the 5th of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets, how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media

LinkedIn
Warwick Mihaly
Connections: 382
Joined: April 2011
Total users: 100 million[1]

Purpose: LinkedIn is a virtual resume and professional networking tool. It also functions a little like Facebook, with a rolling feed of content posted by your network.

Community: As a business owner, I don’t get much value out of LinkedIn. I’m unlikely to be on the lookout for a new job opportunity in the near (or distant) future, and my welfare is not supported by an employer. I’m connected to many individuals within my network on other social media outlets also, however LinkedIn is not my preferred portal in which to engage with them.

These days, most of my new connection requests are from building industry suppliers who I imagine want me to specify their products. I have to confess I resent these, but am always happy to connect with the odd architecture student or graduate who sends a request.

Posting: As with Facebook, I rarely post directly to LinkedIn. Panfilocastaldi does so automatically, I occasionally make comments, and I’ve had a few direct messaging conversations. I see my LinkedIn network primarily as another audience for my blog activity, and an intermittent source of news.

Profile: When I first started using LinkedIn, I put in a lot of effort to fill out my profile: education history, past jobs, current projects etc. I think this dedication sprung from an obsessive compulsive desire to complete things, but my profile has become less current as I’ve lost interest in the platform.

For students: Though LinkedIn is best suited to the highly mobile, corporatised tech and finance industries, the same goal of professional networking still applies to architecture.[2] Use it as a companion to your traditional resumé, and connect with architecture studios where you might like to work. As with other social media sites, being active is the most important aim.

As an aside, LinkedIn doesn’t permit stalking in the way Facebook does, as it pops up alerts on your page whenever someone visits. Perhaps you can use this function to get noticed.

Good examples:

  • Petar Petrov. Graduate architect at Bates Smart (also a past student of mine)
  • Luke Bonham. Graduate architect at Metier 3 (also a past student of mine)
  • Kurt Ballener. Architecture student at Melbourne University (also a past student of mine), and always up to something interesting

Importance:
2 / 10 for me
7 / 10 for you


Footnotes:

  1. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016
  2. Between them, tech and finance represent around 20% of LinkedIn users. By comparison, the entire construction sector only represents 3%, of which I imagine architecture is an even smaller minority. Source: State of LinkedInVincos; 2011.

Image:

  1. LinkedIn, logo copyright LinkedIn. Composition by author.
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Facebook for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the 4th of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets, how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media

Facebook
Mihaly Slocombe
Likes: 182
Joined: March 2012
Total users: 1.5 billion[1]

Purpose: Like the rest of the planet, I have a personal Facebook page littered with the occasional embarrassing photo from nights out on the town. I also maintain our professional Facebook page, whose primary purpose is to act as a virtual declaration of existence.

Community: Identifying my Facebook community is harder to do than on Twitter and Instagram. The likes I’ve received arrive from all over the world, which is intriguing, but then the engagement usually falls silent. More valuable is the backlink that pushes my professional posts onto my personal page. This means my friends (most of whom come from other walks of life) see my posts, hopefully creating a slow burn that might one day lead to a commission.

Posting: I rarely post directly to Facebook anymore. My blog posts do so automatically, which represents around three quarters of my Facebook activity. I also push a lot of my Instagram photos to Facebook, and the occasional business announcement. While Twitter and even Instagram can handle repetitive posts, a Facebook community is unlikely to tolerate this. As a result, I keep my posts more stretched out.

Groups: I belong to one professional group only, not out of austerity, just lack of conviction. I think it’s important that we be on Facebook, but have found Twitter and Instagram better tools to connect with my desired communities. I should aim to be more active however. As my Facebook network mostly comprises non-architects, it can be a useful soapbox from which to preach the value of good design.

Procrastination: Facebook offers an endless supply of procrastination-worthy entertainment, but I’ve rarely found it to be professionally enriching.

For students: Perhaps the most useful characteristic of Facebook is the way it authenticates your identity. Like LinkedIn, it’s a way of proving that you exist and that you’ve done things. It’s also positioning itself more and more as a gateway service to the rest of the internet, making it almost necessary to belong. Professionally however, I’m not interested in knowing what you got up to on your 21st.

Good examples

Importance
5 / 10


Footnote:

  1. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016

Image:

  1. Facebook, logo copyright Facebook. Composition by author.
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Instagram for students

In my casual surveys of architecture students from first year to final, I’ve been surprised to discover how few engage professionally with social media. While Facebook is ubiquitous and many have Instagram accounts jammed full of selfies, there is little interest to extend this activity into the professional sphere.

This is the 3rd of eight articles exploring the major social media outlets, how I engage with them, and how they might be of interest to students. An archive of the series can be accessed here.

Social media

Instagram
Mihaly Slocombe
Following: 38
Followers: 76
Joined: December 2015[1]
Total users: 400 million[2]

Purpose: Instagram is the visual equivalent of Twitter, in that my networks on the two platforms overlap a great deal. However, it is less news-driven and more portfolio-like. If an architect uses only two social media networks, it is most likely these two.

Community: Up until very recently, my professional and personal Instagram activities were rolled up into one account. With a substantial business rebrand underway however, we’ve split off the professional content into its own account. Like Twitter, my professional feed is restricted to local architects posting interesting work. My personal feed is more diverse. I follow friends, artists and furniture makers.

Posting: The output of any architecture studio spends a lot of time being incomplete, making it challenging to capture beautifully on Instagram. With our new account, I intend to intersperse ongoing and complete projects. This will hopefully achieve a healthy balance between glossy images and insight into our process. Architectural pilgrimages and travel in general are also very Instagram-friendly.

Likes: Since there is no searchable record of the photos I’ve liked, I can’t use this function as I do on Twitter. I use it therefore as it was intended: to tell people I like something they’ve done.

Procrastination: Instagram is the ultimate time-waster. The contents of either my feed or smart search function are easily accessible, immediately consumable and endlessly interesting. I occasionally find myself, late at night and bleary-eyed with fatigue, scrolling deeper and deeper into Instagram’s beautiful content. Use with caution!

For students: Use Instagram to develop your portfolio. It can be as powerful as a strong traditional portfolio, if not more so. In this regard, I’m intrigued by the exploitation of Instagram’s three-column thumbnail layout I’ve seen around the place: from all black and white, to the colours of the Pantone rainbow, to repetitive triptychs. Instagram is also emerging as a way for architects to advertise job openings, so follow studios where you might like to work. Instagram is a wonderful source of inspiration, particularly if you look beyond architecture to other fields.

Good examples:

  • Vasilii Zhelezniakov. A graduate architect and artist based in Melbourne.
  • Ben Schmideg. A graduate architect at MA Architects (also a past student of mine).
  • Sheng Yi Lee. A graduate architect and artist based in Melbourne.
  • Ab Yamani. A graduate architect and photographer.

Importance
10 / 10


Footnotes:

  1. Note: despite the date, I’m not a total Instagram rookie. My personal account has been going for four years.
  2. Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2016Statista; January 2016

Image:

  1. Instagram, logo copyright Instagram. Composition by author.
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