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I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!

 

Design On,

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It’s that time of year when family and friends gather, eat, and give thanks. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberries, flaky rolls, etc. – indulgence of deliciousness! Food will be enjoyed, conversations will be had, reflections will be made about what each are thankful for and why. I’m no different. I have a lot to be thankful for:

  1. My wife and daughter.
  2. *Clarification* A loving and supporting wife.
  3. The choice I made to become an architect.
  4. Great family and friends.
  5. Being healthy.
  6. Ability to have what I want.
  7. Wise enough to know what I need.
  8. Living in a nice home and community.
  9. My Clients.
  10. Viewing my work not as ‘work.’

As dishes are being cleared and pies consumed, we exclaim- “Wow this is a great day! What a good time we’re having!”

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However, we all know it won’t go smoothly for the entirety of the day. Alcohol will be consumed. At some point a crazy aunt/uncle will have had a few to many drinks and start ranting about how everyone has disappointed them… you don’t call enough, you stopped mowing my lawn, my bunions hurt and you won’t rub them, you did spend that $1.00 in one place, and it was for candy, etc. Well, today Architecture is that crazy aunt/uncle with its own disappointments. As such, Architecture submits a few of the things it’s Thankless for:

  1. Celebrity designers.
  2. HGTV’s -*insert any show here*- spewing of misinformation.
  3. A friend who has a friend that knows someone who took a drafting class at a community college.
  4. ‘Dark Gray’ turtlenecks when ‘Dark Coal’ is available.
  5. Brick and vinyl siding abutting in a ‘J channel.’
  6. McMansions.
  7. Every X-Acto blade sans #11.
  8. Faux anything.
  9. Value Engineering.
  10. ‘White’ paint when ‘Extra White’ is available.
  11. House flippers.
  12. Drafting machines.
  13. EIFS.
  14. Oil rubbed bronze/brass.
  15. Complaining about being an architect.
  16. Life as a House.
  17. Post Modernism.
  18. Man Caves/ Diva Dens.
  19. Fruit cake.
  20. Any industry/person employing the term ‘Architect’ that didn’t pass the ARE.
  21. The…

Wait…”What?… I can’t hear you, I’m typing… hold on.” I’ve got to go, my nephews calling me and I need another drink, Happy Turkey Day!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 21 2011, edited/revised per date above- Happy Turkey Day! RIP Zaha.

A repeated discussion every architect has with residential clients is why do they even need an architect? The client will cite that their brother in-law had a builder designed house built and it turned out fine- just like the other 7 that look like it on their street. Or their nephews’ friend once took a technical drafting class at a community college 15 years ago and she can draft something over the weekend with some software from Staples for someone to build. Or better yet, they themselves took an art class in college and love math! I compose myself and begin the discussion…

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For years I would try and explain an architect’s value with grandiose terms and concepts- an aesthetic that reflects the modernity of their beliefs, villa this, axis that, concept of nothing being everything, datum, beaux arts that, white is not always white, machine for this or that, gables, we don’t need no stinking gables, etc. Then one day while going off on one of these rants, the client offered me some cake… mmmm cake. An epiphany occurred; I could see the delicious tree from the Black Forest! From that point on I simplified the explanation of an architect’s value in terms easily understood, cake! Who doesn’t love cake?

I found it easier to compare architect designed houses to non-architect houses as tier cakes from a bakery vs. grocery store bought sheet cake. One can typically stomach a sheet cake. However, is that what you expect from your cake? The sheet cake is just there… lying… like a sheet. There may be some ‘thing’ jammed in the center of the cake that all the kids are raging about, or a gel food coloring message. If you do dare eat it, your teeth will crackle and cringe from the 1,896 grams of sugar per slab, not including the so-called frosting. You’ve seen a sheet cake before, whoo hoo, looks like every other one you’ve seen. You walk past and ignore it. Lying there in the display case of sheet cake suburbia for mass consumption. Sheet cake, no thought, just doing what was done before.

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However, a tier cake from a bakery is, well, it’s prepared for your specific tastes. You’ll meet with the baker to discuss cake flavor options, fillings, combinations, aesthetics, frostings, colors, fondants, how many stories, size, shape, etc. In short, it will be customized for you. It won’t be too small nor too big, it’ll be just right. People will take notice and sense a good cake. They may not know why, but they’ll know it’s better than a sheet cake. One bite and you’ll know it was worth it- first a blast of chocolate, than a quick cool of raspberry, a touch of coffee notes in the frosting, are those white chocolate chunks? You won’t be able to imagine the day without the cake. It’ll be just what you wanted and will even have some delightful surprises.

Hungry? Go grab yourself a slice of tier cake and enjoy. Your tier cake will be the envy of all at the party. If you eavesdrop, you may hear guests saying “Can you believe we put up with sheet cake for so long, what were we thinking?” Trust me, they’ll be taking about your cake for years to come, and it won’t be because of indigestion! So go hire yourself a baker and enjoy some tier cake- and by baker I mean architect and by tier cake I mean a house designed for YOU!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 15 2012, edited/revised per date above- If these are copyrighted cake images, send me a cake sample for proof and I’ll promptly remove the images!

In my previous post, Crickets, I addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created the [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:

 

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Download a PDF for your own use -> [un]Response Form

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted December 9, 2013, edited/revised per date above… the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy!

Architects tend to speak and ask questions in a circuitous manner. Sometimes, what you may hear from an architect isn’t what’s actually going through the architect’s mind- these are known as Architect Realities. In case you missed our previous post on these realities, the link is provided below. Keep in mind, clients can be just as bad. Below are a few examples of what you may hear from a client, as well as what’s actually going through the client’s mind.

 

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Architects, be sure to keep these in mind for your next meeting with your client; be sure you hear what your client is really saying!

Clients, be sure to review these Architect Realities, and keep them in mind for your next meeting with your architect; be sure you hear what your architect is really saying!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted February 26 2013, edited/revised per date above… My clients don’t do this; it’s just what I hear other clients do.

Architects tend to speak and ask questions in a circuitous manner. In our never-ending quest to demystify the process of an architect, we’re once again lifting the veil of secrecy. Below are a few examples of what you may hear from an architect, as well as what’s actually going through the architects mind.

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Keep these in mind for your next meeting with your architect; be sure you hear what the architect is really saying!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted January 21 2013, edited/revised per date above… I don’t do this, it’s just what I hear other architects do.

 

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Design On,

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* Please don’t attempt to apply to a history course, ARE, IDP, etc. you’ll fail! I’ve been careless on properly referencing the images to their source… meaning I haven’t and just copied from googles’ image search engine. Inform me if I’ve used any copywritten images and I’ll remove them and feel a bit remorse


A lot of other professions use the title ‘Architect,’ for many its sacrilegious. I have mixed opinions on the ‘title issue’ as there are more pressing matters facing the profession. However, I’m pretty good at turning situations about face. I’m going to start pilfering other professions titles and terminology and get in the game. As the kids say, “Don’t hate the playa, hate da game!” They still say that, right… right?

 

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Design On,

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Keith Palma, NCARB, LEED AP, MBA, MD, DDS, JD, IT Specialist, PHD, CPA, Sc. D., Architect (the kind that designs the buildings that the other ‘Architects’ work/live in)

* Originally posted July 31 2013 + February 04 2015, edited/revised per date above- we’ve added more humor! Photos from photostream on FLICKR and have been used under the creative commons license, in order erik ERXON , Herry Lawford, and remainder from Matthew Burpee

Occasionally I’ll receive phone inquiries that go something like this:

Me “Hello, cogitate design, how can I help you” (keep in mind I do my best Isaac Hayes impression on the phone)

Potential Client “I got your name somewhere, I have a lot and I want to build a (insert building type here)”

Me “Wow, that sounds like an interesting project, would you like to meet and discuss further?”

Potential Client “No, I just need plans”

Me “Yeah, that, um, that’s not something we just ‘have’”

Potential Client “I don’t need much, can you just sell me some plans you’ve already done?”

Me “No, not really, we craft buildings per the client’s needs and specific site…”

Potential Client “Can’t you just sell me some plans from your cad machines?”

Me “No, it doesn’t really work like that…”

Potential Client “Jackassarchitect…”

Me “I’m sorry, what was that?”

Potential Client “Oh, I said Jackson Browne’s car is next…”

Me “That doesn’t even make sense…”

Potential Client “Does to…”

Me “Does not…”

Potential Client “Jackson Browne’s car is next…”

>click<

Me “Bueller… Bueller… Bueller… Bueller…”

So than it hit me, an opportunity! We architects are resourceful; why not make it as easy as possible for others to profit. I can do that. Then an apparition of Ray Kroc appeared. I can make it even easier; I’ll offer a drive-thru service and a value menu! So introducing the all new Cogitate Design value menu:

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(click menu to enlarge)

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted August 02 2010, edited/revised per date above- we’ve eliminated trans-fats and have gluten free options!