Design for Innovation


24 February 2016 - TIM HAWK

It seems that all new things are celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. Yah!!! I have something new. Come see it. Come share in my joy over my shiny new object.

There was a Wang computer adjacent to the math room at my high school in New Philadelphia. It was so special (and so large), it took over an entire room and gained energy from punch cards that were fed into a slot in its side. I recall the principal bringing by community and business leaders while we studied “Computer Programming I and II” in the next room. The visitors were always very impressed with the district’s investment, but they had no idea why we harnessed the tool. They just witnessed the Wang as a novelty. Mrs. Rothel, our energetic computer programming teacher, on the other hand, was convinced that computers would become a vital part of our lives, so I did my part to learn about the computer because I believed in her dream.

A few years later, while in graduate school at Ohio State, my class was an early leader in the development of software to assist architects in the development of digital drawing tools. By this time, we had Macintosh personal computers which were significantly smaller than the old Wang computer, but they were still set aside in a lab. We viewed the computer as a special tool that stood apart from the everyday business of architecture.

In Chicago, my office had one or two personal computers set up in a special area of the studio, and one had to be selected to work on the system. It was considered a different path than design. Visitors were often given a tour of the area and they would ask lots of questions about how the computers were helping our architecture firm provide a better product for clients. The computer was a special attraction, a side show which supplemented the traditional design process.

But with time and change, the computer has become fully integrated as the tool of choice for drawing in all architecture firms. Nowadays, the computer is not so special. When we give prospective clients a tour through our studio we are more often sharing the products of the computer: drawings that we produce using the myriad of software programs which have been developed to support the architectural profession. The computer itself is akin to a pen. Visitors do not look to be impressed with the mundane, but are more interested in the shiny new objects. What’s next? Tomorrow’s firm may use virtual reality tours or three dimensional printers. Robots may fabricate building components in the studio. Who knows?

It is important to recognize that architectural drafting and modeling technologies have become integrated into the process of design, and we have moved onto new technological pursuits. That is the way things happen in the workplace. Technologies become integrated once they are of actual value and they are replaced by novelties. New technologies sit off to the side until they are adopted while complete integration results in exponential progress.

Adopt technology to fuel innovation. Throw technological processes into the mix and watch the pace of progress.

At Motorists’ Business Innovation Center, our team significantly increased project funds to integrate a robust audio/visual package which supports a robust communications platform between local and remote Motorists locations. Almost every conference room is supported with a video-conference device. Some are more sophisticated than others. Meeting participants can capture their work digitally and instantly share goals and objectives. They are also able to see one another during the normal course of everyday business. Technology closes the gap between distant locations and allows associates to accelerate the resolution of their collective project objectives, and it is working. When our team met with Motorists leaders to gain feedback on the design’s effectiveness, we were lauded for the integrated technology and they suggested that rooms without audio/visual support would benefit from integration. We have been amazed at the impact that technology has had on the effectiveness of this design and have adopted new standards for collaborative space specifications as a result.

Now, we look to the future and wonder what might be next. And, we know one thing for sure: we will integrate technology first as the best and most proper way to celebrate that which is new and next.