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June 5, 2012, by Fil Anastasio

The Creative and The Technical

One my favorite quotes from the late Steve Jobs was from an Apple keynote a couple years ago.  He said that  “We’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both, to make extremely advanced products from a technology point of view, but also have them be intuitive, easy to use, fun to use, so that they really fit the users – the users don’t have to come to them, they come to the user.”*   That always struck me as something both profound and  so simple to grasp at the same time.     It is not just enough to make something technically and sophisticatedly accurate anymore.  For a product or service to truly succeed today it needs to balance those technical aspects with the beautiful, the inspiring, the intuitive, the fun...  It is part of the reason we created SHAPE.   To take the non-traditional services SHP  offers to our clients and bring in a little bit of the Arts to make them connect with our users.

 

At our  little LLC,  SHAPE Environments, we live and breathe the spirit of that idea in everything we do.  How do we make the heavily technical things we work on easier to use,  information rich for the future and maybe throw in a dash of fun on the side?   We'd love to be on the forefront of that evolution for the built environments industry.   From Revit and iOS applications, to branding and identity development for the buildings we design, to content that makes BIM better we believe we can make a difference.

One of the service offerings that best represents this is our Revit content development.  With our commitment to a 100% BIM workflow about 5 years ago came an unforeseen hurdle in the efficiencies promised with a BIM design process.  We could model all the spaces and buildings we wanted, but when it came time to add specific manufacturer content and products, we hit a wall.   The pieces we needed didn't exist or were inaccurate representations of products that could possible corrupt our models or just add bad data.  We needed a solution and unfortunately, the market at the time didn't have any answers.  So to fully take advantage of the efficiences of BIM workflow, we started developing our own content internally and then moved on to developing our versions of specific manufacturers content.  As we gained experience in technically building these pieces, we  realized that what truly made what we created special and valuable was what we did beyond the technical accuracy.  We started developing content designed for how real users would want to use them, not the developers.   How it would make their jobs easier; save them time and errors; bring more accurate information into the models; be visually identical to the real products to better communicate with their clients; be fun to use and make their job easier not harder.   We wanted people who used our content to be able to  toggle an option and say "huh, that was pretty cool".   It is one of the things that makes many of the products Jobs was referring to above do more than their technical purpose, they intrinsically make them better.

As we've grown our content development services for companies like Haworth, Case, and Porter, it has allowed us to bring that value to the industry we live and work in.  Designers laying out office spaces with Haworth content will design more efficiently and can trust what they put into their models is accurate and will have the aesthetics and information their clients might need from the model 5 years from now.  And who knows, they might even have that "huh" moment once or twice.   We continue to push the content we develop to bring more value to not just the designers using them but to the end users eventually taking ownership of these models for the life of their buildings.

We'd love to hear your thoughts.   Can we as creators settle for just good enough?  Is innovation without the spark of the artistic truly innovative anymore?

I'll be writing more on my thoughts on how this intersection affects us, SHAPE's other services, and what we do for the industry.  Stay tuned.

*For those of you interested in Steve Jobs's keynote, click on through to  'YouTube' at about 30 seconds in.