Shiny New Objects
You may agree that our American culture is oriented to what the next new shiny object/show/music/trend is. We jump from one thing to the next new thing, and for the next new person. We often forget to reconnect and rebuild old relationships/clients/referral sources and friends, and instead think – if only I could meet “name here”, I could move forward. We often think that we’re stuck, that we don’t see the path ahead, and we really don’t know how to start. We are so used to relying on Google for information that we forget that we can learn from others with experience. We are easily distracted by the banner ads: “20 best recipes for weight loss & perfect health”. I want that, don’t you? Perhaps our distractibility is caused by too much computer time and not enough conversation and thinking time. When is the last time you sat down with a friend over coffee or a glass of wine, and really shared what’s on your mind? When is the last time you set aside a whole chunk of time, at least three hours, to meet with yourself and either think, write, paint, solve a problem – and then another three hours to think even deeper? I think that true creativity requires time, and that in the absence of enough time, our solutions are repetitious and typical of other previously developed ideas. In addition to not having enough time to think things through, we also try to do too many things at the same time. When you’re a college student, you think that you can write a term paper while watching TV. The behavior stays ingrained, but the endless time of college is past. In today’s deadline driven world, how do we work efficiently and effectively? A clear focus on the task at hand leads to efficient work output. The constant interruptions of the modern open workspace increase collaboration, but perhaps at a cost of inefficiency and lost trains of thought. Do interruptions drive you crazy? Have you found any techniques (besides tuning out completely with ear buds) that allow for accessibility and collaboration, but that also send the message not to interrupt you?Once you stay focused on one task at a time, you may find that being more efficient can buy you some of the unprogrammed time that can lead to innovation. Promise yourself that you’ll set aside real time for thinking and creativity, or for a real connection with someone you care about, maybe someone who isn’t “new and shiny” but who may have real and lasting value in your life. Please share your ideas about multi-tasking, avoiding interruptions, and about setting aside a big chunk of time for a real experience away from a computer.
Design Trends: Is Eclectic Random?
I once described the design world as “the tyranny of modern”. The only projects (in every category) that were being published were minimal white spaces with pops of bold colors. The next trend to hit the magazines was what I called “Expensive Brooklyn Rustic”. Alongside the white projects, there were now projects with exposed rustic wood planks. Never mind that splinters attacked people in the elevator of the newish Pérez Art Museum in Miami, rustic was in. This makes me think, what’s next? I predict that “traditional” is going to be appreciated rather than trashed. Gorgeous detailing adds character to a space. However, rather than the cloyingly sweet or dark vibe from the old version of traditional, my more eclectic tastes will incorporate modern art and lighting, a broad color palette, and a lighter feeling overall. Eclectic isn’t just a random mash-up of old and new. It is using all of the tools in our designers’ tool belt to create a feeling or an environment that works for the people who use the space. What do the experts say about design trend forecasting? Here are some links to some of the well-known Trend Forecasters. Enjoy! Pantone Color Institure (US) - http://www.pantone.com/pci Scarlet Opus (England) - http://scarletopus.com/ lidewij edelkoort (Netherlands) - http://www.edelkoort.com/
Good Service vs. Great Service
Everyone recognizes bad service when you get it: the sales clerks who are too busy chatting amongst themselves to help you; the attorney (or name any other professional) who is too busy to respond to an email for weeks; the customer service representative who yells at you that you’re not listening to them, when they are not listening to you… Unfortunately, I’m sure we all can add to this list. I’m curious, however, about the subtle difference between good and great service. A good housekeeper at a hotel passes you in the hallway and says a friendly “hello” – vs. the great housekeeper at the hotel who says, “Good morning, Mrs. Saul, is there anything you need to make your stay more comfortable?” Of course, the latter requires the hotel to empower the housekeeper to take action to help the traveler. But if the housekeeper could arrange for the right pillow, for example, wouldn’t you think the hotel is the best you’ve ever stayed at? What about the less obvious examples. I’ll use our profession, architecture and interiors, to demonstrate what is the difference between good service and great service. Let’s assume that two firms or even two project managers/designers do good and competent design work. What makes one of them stand out? One firm/person does the work required, and when completed, lets the client know it’s time to set up a meeting to review the design. The second firm schedules bi-weekly calls to update the client about progress on the project, giving the client an opportunity to express their concerns. Or maybe the firm sends out an email weekly, to update the client about tasks completed, answers needed from the client, any new information that might change the budget or schedule. Which firm/person is offering great service? Which firm helps the client relax in the knowledge that the design professional is working hard on their behalf? I now sit on the client side of the table for my website, which is being managed by Vimbly Design. Our client manager is Daniel Kasman. We just received the following email from him: “Giving you an update on unresolved items: Blog is fixed on mobile. New post for today is up on the website. Will be up on social media shortly.Currently in the process of updating 3 portfolios with better quality photos. This will be complete shortly. Confirmed for 9:30 am phone call on Tuesday. I will call you. Thanks! Daniel” It really shouldn’t have to take a lot of time to go from good to great. Do you have a few small ideas that will help you provide great service? Please share with us the best practices from you or your service providers.
Cinco de Mayo – Celebrating unlikely victories
We are celebrating Cinco de Mayo today by thinking about unlikely victories and their longevity in our imaginations. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over superior French forces, on this day, May 5, 1862. Did you know this? Why are we still celebrating 155 years later? What makes this event so memorable? Can you think of other unlikely events that we still celebrate? My first thought was the biblical victory of David over Goliath. However much we remember the victory, does anyone associate a date with it? What about Patriot’s Day? Although it is only celebrated in Massachusetts, Maine and Wisconsin, the holiday commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. The shabbily dressed American Minutemen militia were the unlikely “victors” over the smartly outfitted, red-coated British Crown forces on April 19, 1775, a mere 242 years ago. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were not decisive, but they were the first open combat with the British forces, marking the beginning of the end of the British occupation of the American Colonies. Victory was not won on what is now known as Patriot’s Day, but victory was the ultimate result of the war. Do we best remember the unlikely or the shocking? The answer is yes. According to scientists at the University of California, emotionally strong events, such as 9/11/01, are well remembered because they activate the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Other factors, such as repetition of images in the media, can also contribute to long-term memory of events. At Leslie Saul & Associates, we are celebrating our 25 th year in business, serving people who work, play, age, live, and learn. Our long-term success seemed completely unlikely on December 21, 1992, our start- up date. Despite the odds, we are still providing great service to our clients. Have you achieved an unlikely victory, whether big or small? We would love to hear about it… perhaps over beer and tacos as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?!
What really motivates you?
Motivation drives ambition, commerce, and choice. Why pick one job over another? Why buy one car over another? Why choose the red jacket over the black jacket when you are getting dressed in the morning, or watch a movie rather than read a book? Understanding why you do what you do and the choices you make, both good and bad behaviors, is useful in modifying those behaviors. It’s also important to understand the motivations of your colleagues, clients, life partners, children, teachers, friends, neighbors…you get it. Businesses say that they now want to hire for people skills. I think the secret to having good people skills is to understand the motivations behind each person you work with. For us, understanding other people’s motivations is a key element for a successful project. When we first start a project, we use our “Project Priorities” chart (see attached). We encourage our clients to make the tough choices about which is more/most important to them: Budget? Quality? Being Green/Sustainable? Having all the tech toys? Design? Authenticity? If you are motivated by money, Budget may be most important to you. Within that budget category is the question: should we consider resale value of the improvements or just fulfill the current needs and desires? Should long-term payback of energy savings be considered or only initial cost? If we come to a common understanding of our clients’ motivations and priorities, decision making is simplified and our chances for a successful project conclusion are greatly increased. Now have you guessed my inner motivations yet? Although design is one of my top motivators, my number one motivator is that priceless feeling we get when a project is judged a success, not by our peers with awards, but by the people who will use the space, and by our clients (not necessarily the same people). What motivates you? When you have your next architecture and interior design project, give us a call! Perhaps we can do for you what one of our clients wrote in his testimonial: “Leslie should have been a psychiatrist. I ask her to come up with design proposals for a new lobby in an office building or the layout of a larger tenant office. During the process, she identifies my deep-seated motivations, fears, and goals and make tactful but firm suggestions for a solution. Cautiously at first, I ease myself into the process and before I know it, I feel much better. It works!” -John Kiger, Graystone Corporation (The Dupree Company).
What’s Your “Stack?”
Two articles, one in the NY Times Magazine on Sunday, April 16, titled “Level Up” by John Herrman, and another in the Architects Newspaper Magazine, AN-Interiors, March-April issue, titled “House on a Stick” by Matthew Messner, got me thinking. (I know, this is dangerous). The “Level Up” article is about how the tech world talks about the “stack” of software (used to refer to for hardware too) with which new software products are built. Mr. Herrman uses the smart phone as an example of “a ‘stack’; a layered structure: There’s the low-level code that controls the device’s hardware [design alert: the foundation], and then, higher up, it’s the basic operation system [design alert: the structure], and then even higher, the software you use to message a friend or play a game [design alert: the materials that you actually touch].” I hope my bracketed design alerts help make the “stack” clear. These are my words, not Mr. Herrman’s. The point of the article is that the concept of the “stack” can be applied to ourselves, to the world of politics, to life itself! In the article, “House on a Stick”, Mr. Messner describes a design firm from Athens, Point Supreme, as having sculptural totems made from the actual materials used in the firm’s Petralona House. Illustrated by the architect’s sketches and photos of the sculptures, the totems look like a design “stack” – randomly assembled for their visual impact, not to explain foundation, structure, or materiality. This did make me think about the practice of architecture and interiors: Is our “stack” merely the functional, like foundation, structure and materials? Or merely the decorative, like materials, colors and lighting? Or, as I put my stack together, a team made up of clients, brokers, designers, engineers, contractors, suppliers, and people who actually use our spaces? Perhaps architecture and interior design is a lot like technology in its combination of hardware, software, and user interface/experience. What is your “stack” like? If you are part of the LS&A “stack” (or family), please comment below. To learn more about how to get started on your next architecture or interiors project, contact me directly at or call the office at (617) 234-5300 x 0. We would love to be a part of your functional and beautiful project stack.
Are Scientists Designers?
Are Scientists really Designers? If design is everywhere, let’s test this premise. At the start for Scientists: According to my brilliant PhD Biochemist husband, scientists start with an idea, a premise of some sort, then plan an experiment that will help discover what really happens, (OK, these are my layman’s words, so apologies to scientists everywhere). There is trial and error to develop an efficient, replicable process that leads towards a solution. The more experience a scientist has in the specialty, the more streamlined this process can be. The design of an experiment is critical to its success. At the start for Architecture and Interior Designers: The first step is to listen to our clients about their needs, hopes and dreams, and to help them visualize “the island of what can be”. Once we can “see” the project completed in our heads, we can begin to plan the space, select the materials, products, colors, lighting, architectural details that will make the “dream” real. There is trial and error, although experience working together can streamline the process. The next step for Scientists: Once the experiment is successful, and its methods documented, the product development can begin. After the science is working, the output can contribute to a scientific paper, patent or facilitate the improvement or development of a product. The next step for Architects and Interior Designers: Once the dream design is agreed upon, the detailed documentation of the design can be developed. These documents and schedules go to the builders and vendors who will implement our design ideas. The last step for Scientists: See your product out in the world protecting the health of people. Priceless. Now it’s time to think about your next product… The last step for Architects and Interior Designers: Turn the completed project/building space over to the client to enjoy/use. Priceless. Time to think of solutions for your next client. What do you think: Are Scientists Designers? If you're interested in defending the importance of science to contemporary society, don't forget to checkout the Boston March for Science next Saturday afternoon (April 22).
Jim Stone's book “5 Easy Theses”
I don’t necessarily agree with everything in his book, nor do I think they are easy, but here are some of his ideas, perhaps over-simplified.
Fire Pits, Saunas and Pools
Let's warm up a bit with two recent projects Leslie Saul & Associates worked on recently.
Thoughts about March Madness and Winning
There has been some great basketball, and some tough losses, although the slogan “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” may date me as a child of the 60s and 70s who listened to Howard Cosell of ABC sports.
Leslie Saul & Associates, Inc.
architecture and interiors
1972 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140