The first edition of *The Origin of the Species* sold out its initial print run of 1,250 copies on the first day. The “survival of the fittest” that Charles Darwin observed in 1859 also happens in professional firms. And it’s happening fast.

The first edition of The Origin of the Species sold out its initial print run of 1,250 copies on the first day. The “survival of the fittest” that Charles Darwin observed in 1859 also happens in professional firms. And it’s happening fast.

Design firms are evolving and specializing. Some are dominating their markets while becoming stronger and livelier. Others have fallen into a slide of decline and will most certainly die, unless an intervention saves them.

The tools that architects, engineers, interior designers and landscape architects use are also changing rapidly. As tools change, the rules change. Pathways to success are being redefined. We are forced to let go of beloved tools and ingrained behaviors in order to stay successful. For many of us, letting go is hard to do.

“Those who do not like change

will like irrelevance even less.”##

The slide rule is gone; blueprints are dead; electric erasers didn’t last long. You can still find them in the storage rooms of some design firms or on eBay. But you’ll find them among the antiques.

Building Information Model (BIM) tools are replacing 2D CAD. And the day of that technology’s demise is not far off. Process delivery is also changing and design-build systems continue to grow. The design profession that relied on drawings to create buildings is increasingly using 3-D models instead. This transformation will fundamentally—for the better—change the metrics of value in our design. I say again, for the better.

Do not fear the complexity of change. It is a friend to the architects and designers of the future, as complexity requires deep knowledge and specialists. It also requires orchestration and a maestro. This means that as the design professions flatten and expand into many specializations, their value will actually increase, as will the value of the big-picture conductor. Architects with strong leadership skills are most likely to be the maestros, or master builders, of the future.

Moving from a category of service delivery to master builder does not happen without strategy, hard work and commitment. Yet, you can imagine the future and find your place in it—then act to get there. Although there is more than one road to success, there are also paths to failure. But there’s no point in avoiding or fearing the future. For architects and designers the strategic opportunities are significant. Those who do not like change will like irrelevance even less.

—James P. Cramer