The Design Futures Council Trends Analysis Program (TAP) monitors and abstracts information from publications in the areas of design, technology, economic, and environmental. The Council and the staff at Greenway Group develop implications for the future of the design professions. Objective futurism helps architects and design leaders explore new pathways to success and to share “need to know” data and information.

Lifecycle Design: Architecture firms are offering new service areas to clients throughout the lifespan of the projects they are designing. Each year a larger percentage of fees come from this emerging revenue center. A brand new building starts changing from the moment the ribbon is cut. People move in and immediately begin adapting it to their own unique needs. As the people change, so does the building. Equipment wears out and needs replacement. Finishes and furniture need to be renovated and refreshed. The exterior requires both short-term and long-term maintenance — everything from washing the windows to replacing the roof. Who better than the original design team to care for the structure over its useful life? “Life-cycle design” is creating new relevant services and new streams of professional fees. Clients increasingly want and pay for these services because they understand that taking care of their buildings is a smart investment — it costs them less, by far, than benign neglect. Facility managers, maintenance and restoration experts, commissioning consultants, and utility companies all understand this. Why not architects and designers?

High Definition Value: New clarity of value is being communicated at interviews, on web sites, and in firm brochures. Architects and designers are not just in the business of selling drawings — they are in the business of creating value for their clients. For a lawyer, the value of a legal brief is in the thinking, not the typing, and they communicate the value of that brief to their clients. The same is true in design — or it ought to be. In addition to graphic skills, designers need a language that can clearly express the worth of what they do, and in terms that are appreciated by the client world: no mystery, no fog, and no missed expectations. Design goes far beyond aesthetics, and so metrics matter too. Whether it’s in terms of higher utilization rates, assistance with approvals processes, managing accelerated schedules, lowering capital cost, or designing for more efficient life-cycle cost, architects can have a lot of influence on the outcome. All of it is part of a new and exciting profession unfolding.

Web Communications Change Behavior: Throughout North America firms are changing the way they communicate with professional and client audiences alike and web sites are quickly becoming one of the most important communication tools in successful practice. The rapid growth of online traffic by design professionals and their clients is overtaking other forms of print communications. Architecture firms are cutting back on classified advertising for their position openings and using web based tools. On-line advertising, too, is being experimented with as this new media technology is growing by more than 21 per cent per year. The shift to digital media in the design workplace is also advancing by double digit proportions. Biggest concerns: Personal privacy, security, and a failure to safeguard sensitive data leading to potential legal actions.

The technology survey of practice leaders included the following responses from the 55-64 age groups:

  1. 73.5% use both a desktop and a laptop computer in their design practice.
  2. 68.5% consider themselves to be functional with technology but not very savvy (15%) nor a technophile (5.5%).
  3. 88.5% use Windows operating system; 11.5% use MAC.
  4. 90% have both a cell phone and a landline phone that they use daily. 18% have more than one cell phone.
  5. 57.5% use BIM on less than 10 percent of their projects. 1.5% use BIM on 100% of their projects.
  6. 17% subscribe to podcasts.

Music is important. Many design leaders use music to enhance their focus, relax, or promote creativity, Music, heard over office speaker systems, desktop speakers, earphones, or otherwise, can be found in just about every design office in North America.