Published On:

Friday 9th March 2018


BIID Events

President Networking

President's Breakfast - Let's Talk Software

It’s not often that you sit down with a group of designers and get to discuss how they actually do things in detail.

Well that was what happened at the President’s breakfast – Let’s Talk Software on Thursday 8th March 2018, generously hosted by the Crestron UK showroom in Design Centre Chelsea Harbour.

A group of designers gathered to discuss software. Not usually a subject to get passions flowing, but this morning enthusiasm and exchange were freely flowing. You would have thought that we all did things in roughly the same way, well you’d be wrong. With drawing software ranging from AutoCad to Autodesk Revit to ARCHICAD with Trace by Morpholio Board and many others.

It turns out that for concept production, most of us still use hand sketching, it’s faster and more ‘intuitive’ for producing quick ideas, but newer Apps like Trace and Concepts, particularly with the iPad Pro are finding favour with designers. Once we get into the nitty-gritty of drawing software, in the UK many use the ubiquitous AutoCad, but it turns out that ARCHICAD may offer a better integration of 2D and 3D and scheduling than even Autodesk Revit. SketchUp, which now incorporates Layout, is rapidly becoming the software of choice because of its ease of use. But, from what we hear, ARCHICAD does everything but better. It even integrates into InDesign!

When we discussed presentation software, the range broadened even further. There is some wonderful 3D software that can move effortlessly into virtual reality and, let’s face it, at some point we’re all going to have to embrace Virtual Reality. Of particular interest, though, is the Dulux Paint Expert, which allows you to take any photo or image and reproduce any colour from it. This is incredibly useful for any photos or images you may have taken on your travels. It also allows you to prepare mood boards based on their full (and I mean really full) range of paint colours. We all seem to use Power Point for assembling electronic boards, but many of use InDesign and Photoshop to manipulate and control images.

The conversation shifted to our workhorses, scheduling and purchasing. ‘Boring’ - you might be thinking! Well it turns out that we all have very different ways of doing things. Yes, we all use Excel, and all the office documents, but more interesting is the use of tailor-made software such as Estimac and other similar customised specification / purchasing software. Some of us have started to use Eporta and others, and some, particularly those who may design products or furniture haven’t been as happy as they would like to be with them. So the question comes up of how do they work and what do they charge? And that leads on to the real subject…our business models.

Are we consultants, agents or suppliers? Do we charge mark-ups and does that cover risk? Should we be transparent or, if we take the risk of supply, should we hide our margins? Is there a design fee, is there a procurement fee and if so what is the balance between the two? And what about discounts and passing them on?

The BIID position is simple and clear. Be transparent. But, that’s clearly not the only way design businesses structure themselves. It’s not a matter of professional practice, it’s also a matter of business ethics. There was a lot to discuss here, but we ran out of time. I’m ready for the re-match.

- Charles Leon, BIID President

Related articles