Boom times but Australian Architects still facing Mutually Assured Destruction

Shaun Carter’s recent piece on architects fees and money is something I think everyone should read. You can find the full article here at ArchitetcureAU.  Shaun is a past president of the NSW Institute of Architects Chapter.  I thought it would be worth commenting on some of the questions and issues that he raises. Everyone architect in the country should read this article.

The old joke 

He starts with an old blokey architects joke.

Did you hear the one about the architect who won the lottery? They kept on working until they were broke. This was my introduction to architecture. I thought it was a joke. Now I’m not so sure.

This was a fine joke thirty years ago. It has a little bit of the boom-bust mentality about it. Plus a tone of altruism. In other words, architects get money and then spend it on architecture. They get money and spend it on design hours. They do this because of a love and passion for architecture and society.  But as a joke it implies architects always go back to zero, or square one, when they go broke.

The usual catastrophe 


However, while the joke might contain some sublte truths, the problem is as that architects don’t just go broke to the point of zero dollars. They go negative, and the financial and emotional toll on themselves their families and their profession is enormous. No adequate superannuation, no assets no worth in their small businesses when they retire, its worse I guess for employee architects who are inadequately prepared for their later years. Working from contract to contract, below award wages, no paid overtime, moving from poorly managed firm to poorly managed firm isn’t really a recipe once you are past 50 or 60 for a comfortable grey life.

Exploiting the talent

Last week a graduate came to me and said he had been offered a casual job at 17 bucks on a kind of “training” basis. Anyone reading this can look up the award. Sometimes I wonder if one of the best things that could happen to the profession is that the Fair Work commission starts to prosecute architectural employers for not paying award rates. Under the award, a graduate architect on a casual rate should get $31.09 an hour and if full time or part-time. $24.87.

The Scourge of Fee Cutting 

However, as Shaun says the real problem is price competition and fee cutting:

I talk to architects all the time and in almost every conversation hear stories of outrageously low fees and cutthroat fee gazundering. Economics 101 taught me that when a good or a service is in high demand and the supply is limited, the cost goes up. So why is it, then, in this boom time for architects, that we have managed to slash our fees in a desperate race to the bottom? He then goes on to say: If we are to achieve major reforms and be respected as a profession, we need to be not only financially viable, but financially successful. Otherwise, how are we to achieve gender equality? How do we stop our practices becoming sweatshops of juniors working long and late hours?

Shaun Carter proposes four areas where he feels that architects need to change. These are architects, clients, regulation and cheap overseas labour (WTF?).

Idolising the creepy architects


Shaun argues that architects need to be better at business and that being poor at it is “just plain dumb.” I agree with this but to change this architects really need to shift their culture around. As architects, we have to stop idolising and revering “bad boy” designers. These guys are mostly creeps and yet they are the ones that get all the symbolic capital in our profession. Plus they know nothing about business or management. Or for that matter anything really. But hey does it matter when you get all the street cred.



However, he argues that architects need to collectively bargain minimum rates of fees and architects need a “strict ethical and moral code to prevent rogue architects from damaging our profession.” Fair enough, but try telling that to the AIA which as an organisation appears to have governance and decision making processes that are slow bureaucratic and easily hi-jacked by ego-driven personalities. Witness the recent hoohaa around the AACA vs. the AIA. Hence reaching any consensus that might translate into policy or advocacy approaches for architects is like wading through sludge.

Going for the Mandate 

Carter calls for minimum fee guidelines for the entire profession. He argues that governments should then follow these guides as well. However, I am not entirely sure how this might work in practice, and I am concerned in legal terms it might be seen as being anti-competitive. But hey if you are starting a practice, it would be great to get an idea of what you should be charging. I think one thing that all of our professional groups and associations could get behind is the idea (suggested to me by Vanessa Bird previous president of the Victorian Chapter). This is the idea that it should be mandated that every building project in Australia, over a certain amount, should have an architect. I am not sure how this kind of regulation would work in detail. But as Shaun Carter argues:

Regulation has been a dirty word these past 30 years of neoliberal and trickle-down economics. What we know of this period is that the failed economic model has advantaged the few at the expense of the many. Economic literature has thoroughly documented the failure of loose and limited regulation and the way this has run down professions and reputations.

Mutually Assured Destruction


Shaun’s third notion for saving the profession from the “existential cliff” and “Mutually Assured Destruction” as he calls it is to limit university places in architecture degrees linking this to the outsourcing of architectural work offshore. As he says:

“If the profession is going to send our future architects’ jobs offshore, then let’s stop the cruel practice of offering them meaningful employment with one hand and ripping it from them with the other.”

He then goes on to say:

Perhaps the most controversial reason for the erosion of fees is firms employing cheap overseas labour to undercut the market. I believe that this is the emperor’s new clothes of business school management. It drives down fee expectations that will be difficult to claw back, while limiting employment opportunities for our young architects because their jobs are being sent overseas, all at a time when we are enrolling and graduating architects at record rates.


I am not sure about this line of argument because it starts to sound a little “protectionist” and raising the spectre of “cheap overseas labour” suggests stereotyped images of what that labour looks like. Think, call centres full of Revit CAD monkeys in large second-order centres full in South, South East or North Asia. Nonetheless, I certainly dont think that Shaun Carter is intending to cross the lines into Trump Tariff and Immigration territory. But really what is being suggested here does raise questions about some of the current dynamics in practice. This includes the globalisation of competition between architects and the commodification of architectural services with the rise of new technologies. Despite all the BIM hoopla are we really ahead of the technology game?

Too many at Architecture School? 

As for the numbers of architecture students in the Universities and how many graduates are produced in Australia I might leave that to a later blog. But needless to say in 2015, the universities made $225 million bucks out of architecture (Check that out here). I also doubt that very much of that goes back into research of direct benefit to the profession. On the plus side, the Architecture Schools do support the professions with lots of sessional teaching contracts. However, is that enough given how much money the Universities are making out of architecture? For Australian Universities, Architecture Schools are a valuable cash cow. However, Architecture Schools are by no means the largest of their international education cash cows. The universities also love architects, and they love architecture schools because it all adds to their branding, reputation status and symbolic capital.

However, I don’t see many of the 18 schools of Architecture joining these debates about the value of the profession and its worth. Most architecture schools and faculties are struggling to manage the strictures imposed on them by central university executives who think that having an architecture school, in the portfolio, is a bit valuable and kind of quaint. If that is the case, maybe those same executives can give architecture some more research money.

We are family

To overcome the malaise that architects find themselves in the architecture schools, the professional associations, and the AACA need to lobby for the worth of architecture collectively. A fragmented and ungovernable architectural community will not solve the problems architects face. As Shaun Carter argues fee cutting is a recipe for Mutually Assured Destruction.

I am almost on annual leave between semesters. In the next few weeks expect to see a few more relaxed beach blogs and tweets from Italy and the Biennale. If you want to know more about our RASP research project you can find it here

ArchiTeam Funding Research for Architects in Small Practice.

Small architectural practice is one of the hardest things you do in life. Sometimes it feels like the rewards are few and far between. Even the most modest house or house renovation can take years to design and see built. Small practices contribute much to Australian cities, small practices believe in design, the elegance of details and, more often than not, the hopes of local communities. The influence and impact of small practice is everywhere in our cities and suburbs. In our cities, small practice architects are an integral part of heritage and planning debates, the business of architectural education as well as the construction and property industry. However, small architects have not been served well by existing avenues of research funding in the field.

RAsP invite

The RASP launch is just before the MSDx exhibition which will give you a great idea of the range and depth of the many fabulous design studios at MSD.

The voice of the architect

In small projects, no matter what they are it is often the voice of the architect who stands up for planning and regulatory approval, common sense and sustainability. It is the architect who pushes back against the excesses of those only concerned with crude measures of time and cost. A generosity of spirit has always been an attribute of small practice. As a result, most architects at the end of their careers have accumulated those lines and wrinkles that only the careworn seem to gather.

The voices of architects both individually and collectively are often unheard or dismissed. Mostly these perceptions come from a distracted public unversed in design and more powerful lobby groups. Architects themselves worry and wring their hands about this and wonder how it could be better. We need research to combat all of this.

In conjunction with ArchiTeam and MSD, we are hoping to crowdfund a research project that examines the value that architects add to the property. It is unlikely that this project would gain funding in any other way. We are hoping to get around $25,000 for the project.

This initiative is a unique approach to research funding for small practices, and ArchiTeam is hoping to create an ongoing research fund for small practice. ArchiTeam have branded this initiative as RASP an acronym for Research for Architects in Small Practice. Building a research fund of this kind will send a strong message that small practice based architects need to be acknowledged and counted for in the design of our future cities.

The proposal

The research project aims to measure if architect-designed houses and house renovations improve capital gains in the Melbourne inner city housing market. The precise wording of the research question is “Do architect designed renovations improve capital gains in the Melbourne residential property market?”

In concise terms, the research will involve a descriptive, comparative quantitative analysis of two data pools. One pool will be based on sale data from architect-designed houses, and the other will contain sale data from non-architect designed houses. The data from each of these pools will be aggregated, analysed and compared. Descriptive statistics, as well as correlation and regression analysis, will be employed to compare the two pools. Email me if you have any questions about how we will do it. A research contract is in place the crowdfunding amount will go into a fund administered by MSD and ArchiTeam cooperative. The money will principally fund research associate time and data costs.


For regular blog readers who do not know ArchiTeam was founded in 1991. ArchiTeam Cooperative is a membership association for Australian architects working in small, medium and emerging practices. ArchiTeam is democratically run by members, for members. Every member is encouraged to play an active part in shaping the organisation. With over 800+ members, it is the leading dedicated voice of Australia’s small architectural practices. This research proposal is unique and specific to the profession of architecture and small practices. It positions ArchiTeam as both a sponsor and a leader in applied architectural research in Australia.

You are welcome to come along to our celebratory launch night and the details are below. Justin Madden of Arup, Rosemary Ross of ArchiTeam and myself will be speaking. The RASP crowdfunding button will then go live !

RAsP invite

The RASP launch is just before the MSDx exhibition which will give you a great idea of the range and depth of the many fabulous design studios at MSD. Hundreds of projects will be displayed throughout the building during the exhibition, from 22 June to 6 July. If read this blog and see me there come and say hello.


Big Data and Architects Part 2: Getting ready for Hackable urbanism

This week I have been visiting quite a few crits and jury sessions at my graduate architecture school. After last week’s post every time the students saw me coming they appeared to panic. Nonetheless, I sat in the back of most of the crits and listened. It was great.

The experience, of looking at countless analytical diagrams, did make me think about the impact of big data on urban strategy and urban design techniques. Then I bumped into the poster near the lifts. It’s great the AA is coming for a summer break to MSD, our winter break, and our MSD grad school is having lots of great speakers. All the details are here, and I would encourage people to go along.

Sadly, I won’t be around to indulge in this fest as I will be in the northern hemisphere hanging out with what’s left of the Architecture Biennale after its Vernissage partay trashing. Even so, the poster got me thinking about architects and the technology thing yet again. As regular readers of this blog know I am over the whole parametric hoo-ha. Maybe it’s just the culture that goes with parametrics in architecture that I dislike.

However, what concerns me is that with all the obsession with new gadgets and technologies architects have arguably relegated the logistics of informatics to a forgotten territory. The new architect-as-maker paradigm has turned design aesthetics into a construction supply chain wet dream; a meta-narrative of commercial innovation; a fantasy that we architects can be like subbies (sub-contractors) and tradies.  An architectural focus on the technology of gimmicks, the making stuff, is one thing but what about data analytics? (My previous post on big data and practice can be found here).

Technology management and strategy is not something that is taught at architecture school, and I am wondering how the design studio and architects in general will, and should respond to the mass of data and information now coming down the pipeline. So to help, and to prove I am not a complete IT atavistic type here are a few clues to help you get your head around so-called big data.

Redundant Instruments

In engineering and manufacturing, policy types are starting to talk Industry 4.0. However, for architects hunkered down in the maker-space construction supply chains it’s like we are doing all the bits but not the strategy that goes with it. However, the broader question should be: Are all the old polarities of architectural and urban design technique relevant? Typology, functional zoning, densification, “activation” and the like. A lot of the architect’s toolkit of urban analytics appears to be related to the Smithson’s notions of diagramming, and while I would be the first to point to the importance of these legacies, the new digital technologies are swamping these approaches and techniques of urban analysis.


However, cities are no longer the economic engines of American industry or post-war reconstruction. It was these types of post-1945 cities that the Smithson’s and the other post CIAM architects employed their toolkit of pencils, butter paper sketches, ideograms and collages to analyse.

With the rise of policy concepts like Industry 4.0 and the so-called internet-of-things (which always makes me think of this) architects and urbanist are now facing a different set of conditions.

Data analytics is a design issue


How do architects design with data? Even the interns at Hadid’s are beginning to experiment with the Internet of things in workplace design. A few people have started to discuss the idea of data augmented design. However, most of the current work in this field appears to be focused on transport planning and logistics.

Perhaps the first step for architects is to begin to understand the basics of IT infrastructure. Hey, where does all that data go? As physical entities, Data Warehousing appears to exist on the periphery and in the cracks of cities. Where does all that go and who is responsible for data security. In the wake of Cambridge Analytica how is public and urban data captured, stored, secured and surveilled? What are the physical interfaces between this hidden ecology and the servers that it all resides in?


 As Lev Manovich and Agustin Indaco, argue analysing social media posts can yield much information about the built environment.

Data is big really big

That’s why it is called big data. With the onslaught of digitisation, every action generates and spits out data. There is social media of course but once the Internet of Things kicks in it will probably get bigger. Plus it is not just about physical objects spitting out information. There is all the data collected from social media and google apps.

AURIN which is a data provider to researchers have over Over 3500 datasets from 98 sources cover disciplines including demography, property and housing, transport, health, energy and water.

Agency and the Hackable city

It’s pretty easy to mouth off about It’s pretty easy to leave it to the experts. However, in doing so architects risk losing ground unless we can integrate our ways of spatial thinking with these  The size and scale of new data sets and the skills needed to analyse these sets is not something architects should avoid if they are to be serious about tackling the urban design of future cities and settlements.

The hackable city project in the Netherlands posits that there are opportunities for

“platforms offer for modes of collaborative city making that empower (hyper)local stakeholders in an open and democratic society.”

Such sentiments may sound naïve, but they a are better than blind ignorance of the network of platforms that now consume and shape our cities.

Big Data is about decision making

Tools like SPSS and Matlab are ways architects can start to develop some of these things.  But, hey we don’t even do excel at architecture school. Moreover, our idea of research methods is stuff about “creativity” and “design as research”. But maybe what we need are skills in topics including decision-making under uncertainty, optimal location allocation of resources, decision trees, linear programming, Monte Carlo simulations. Not to mention, linear and nonlinear regression, parametric classification techniques and model selection. Then there are methods like Neural Networks and AHP (you can read my paper on AHP here).

Predictive analytics

A lot of the work on predictive analytics in architecture and urban design appears to be centred on transport planning, pedestrian networks and agent and swarm-based modelling. Another development is the push for what has been called citizen design science. This is the idea that new technologies and data can be employed to help citizens to provide input and feedback into urban design and planning processes. I kind of like the idea of “crowdsourcing” opinions. I also wonder how that might work in the context of informal settlements. Predictive analytics would also be of benefit to Post Occupancy Evaluation techniques which architects are now increasingly returning to understand what the heck they are doing.

In understanding the dynamics of urban flexibility and reconstruction the idea of the hackable city and the idea of citizens agency. Such techniques might help architects and planners to abandon the old notions of analysis based on functional zoning and urban circulation.

 Data Visualisation


Data Visualisation is where architects can go a bit crazy and really excel (excuse the pun).  We all love a good diagram. Data visualisation is not about going down to the VR lab and hanging out in a VR hospital word or classroom to see what it is like. Is VR and AR really where it’s at for the future of architectural design? I think other technologies for gathering user data will be more critical than gimmicks.

In fact, I would rather hang out in a VR network diagram or graph. Data Visualisation would be like the Smithson’s diagrams on steroids. No, actually it would be more like meeting Alison and Peter Smithson in their little home the Upper Lawn Pavilion and giving them a few lines of coke and then seeing what happens on the butter paper.

Surviving the Design Studio: Coping with the 10 worst design critics

My Instagram feed has been full of my best ex-students and favourite colleagues having a great time in Venice and Northern Italy. Some have even taken their smaller kids. There were lots of images of Scarpa, and many of the glittering ruins built on the mud flats of the lagoon plus the dreary architectural follies of the Biennale.


All washed up 

Then I thought of these ex-students and thought of the old comic times of the Raisbeck studio teaching days. I got a bit nostalgic. It got me thinking how much I miss design studios and the end of semester crits. No one wants the washed-up self-deprecating professional practice lecturer in a crit these days. Probably best to leave those crits to the shoppy fabricators, grasshopper gropers, history aesthetes, save the world (but never protest) sustainability types, robot boys and anyone with a pedigreed north American or pedigreed degree. Have I offended anyone?

Everything is now so fragmented and specialised. There is nothing wrong with getting the specialists in providing the architects are there as well. But I worry this approach is breeding the end of the design studio. The university managers and money men would love that. Thank god we can still have actual architects from small practices teaching and involved in our schools. Small practitioners can think across, and into the fragmented fields of specialisation.

Of course, I am actually more nostalgic than bitter about the old Raisbeck studio days. Maybe I should put together my all-time best studio team in another blog.

Design crit anxiety

The juries and design crits at my graduate school are coming up, So I thought some of you might need some help. But first a warning: Don’t read this if you are already anxious about standing in front if a design jury.

Architecture students are by and large terrified of design juries. They have every right to be afraid. For an architecture student, the power balance is unequal. Perhaps it is this unequal power balance embedded in studio culture that permeates through the profession’s culture. For the most part, this fear is a result of the emotional investment and work that an individual invests in the project before the presentation. Also, the investment in a project is often individual and unique and it is also easy to think the worst is about to happen. That the jury members will, in the presentation, focus on the weakest points in your design or worse still find faults in your design that you did not even know existed.

English as your second language 

English tends to be the international language of juries. So, if English is not your first language, then it is more difficult. It can feel daunting. Most jurors, but not all, will be sympathetic to your language skills. After all, if you have designed your project well and presented your work effectively it will be ok. Everything will be there on the wall or the screen, and you don’t have to say that much.

Most jurors will genuinely want to explore your thinking. They will want to know about your design ideas, how you responded to the design brief, the context and the ideas set by the studio tutors. Regardless of your language skills they will want to engage in a two-way conversation with you. They will suggest things that you might have done or done differently. Use it as an opportunity to learn.

Good advice

Good jurors will listen to what you and the other jury members say, and help to promote the conversation. The depth and range of this conversation will enable the juror to understand your project and where you are positioned in your journey towards being an architect. Better jurors will gently shape this narrative to get to the point of considering if your project contributes to new design knowledge or not.

But jury presentations require practice and if you haven’t had much practice then, of course, its a worry. To overcome this you should practice your talk beforehand. You really need to do this, and the jurors will appreciate your care and thoughtfulness if you do this. The above approach presumes there is an equal balance of power, or at least approaching it, between the design juror and the person presenting.

Some jurors and design critics are not nice at all 

But you need to be aware that not all jurors are nice. Jury standards across the schools and the profession vary. Architecture in the past has been a professional cultural built on a legacy of discrimination, racism and taste-making snobbery. There are still pockets of these practices in architecture. The design jury can sometimes be the place where these things come to the fore. So below is a heads up on some of the jury types you might find when you present. Plus a few tips on how to deal with them.

Ten types of jurors and design critic (in no particular order).

1. The Peacock: Very common. Sadly some design jurors like to be smarty pants and love to use deficiencies in a project to promote their own specialist knowledge, interests and architectural fetishes. This one is quite common. You often get the impression that these jurors jurysplain. This is the equivalent of mansplaining, and in their vanity, they just want to impress you with their superior knowledge (usually flawed or incomplete), architectural or star status or latest awfull project they may have just finished.

Photo by Juhasz Imre on

Counter: Tell them and stick to what you know about your project. Smile and nod and agree. Try and find the connections between your project and their interests. Under no circumstances pretend to be an expert in their peacock areas of knowledge.

2. The contrary dickheads: Common. These are the jurors who love nothing more than being contrary. Think Tony Abbott. To them the logic of your design thought and how it contributes new design knowledge means nothing. These jurors will use an opposite argument at every step of the way to counter what you or other jurors might say. Usually, they are playing to an audience. For example, if the other jurors like something this type will say the opposite. If you say something, they will say make an opposite and opposing claim. The Contrary dickhead usually leads to a discussion between jury members with you on the sidelines. Counter: If you are confident counter with contrary positions on there contrary. That usually confuses them. Or try and ask a few questions and ask them what they really think.

3.The plansplainer: Common. I hated doing plans when I was an architecture student. I was more interested in ideas, volumes and theories of architectural meaning (on reflection I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to plans. The plansplainer will start looking at your plans and picking them apart. Door swings, toilets, bathrooms, kitchens bedrooms, storage areas and of course those big slabs of space you stupidly filled with tables and chairs from the CAD library. They will often go onto question your pragmatics.

Counter: Get right into the plan detail with them. Pray you actually have some detail there talk to them about sizes and measurements of the spaces in your plan. Don’t worry you will never get it right with the plansplainers. For the most part, they are pedants who have no real interest in architectural ideas.

4.The rock and roller: Endangered. A few isolated individuals exist. Think Woflie P and the recently departed Will Alsop. These are a variant on the self-confident star architect. These types are becoming increasingly rare as they get older. They just want to be entertained. They have no discernible ideology to pursue except “let’s all get down and party.”


Counter: Go with the flow. Talk about your design as if it’s going to be the best drug-fuelled disco party space ever. Tell them something about contemporary popular culture they are unlikely to know about. Mention rappers or the latest Insta influencer.

5.The Big Picture Critic (BPC): Common enough. These types will usually attack the logic of your conceptual approach. It is typically posed by those who have had a more “academic” training in the pedigreed schools. This attack typically will come in two forms. Firstly, the way you have conceptualised your design in a way that is too limited. Your design’s frame of reference, its big picture, is not quite right. Basically, you have forgotten something, or you have not had the right frame of reference, or the logic of concept is flawed. In other words and typically, you did not address a broader urban context. Secondly, there is some fundamental flaw in the conceptual framing of your concept that means your entire concept should be reconfigured.

Counter: this is a tough attack to counter. Especially if you have spent the design process on the computer or rushed together a basic brief and spatial program and never considered anything outside of the boundaries of your site. This attack ends badly if your design does not have conceptual apparatus built into it. Best to consider what you would say about these kinds of questions before the design crit. One way out is to talk about the ideas you embedded into the design. Let us hope you have more than two. This will appease the BPC even if they continue to argue about conceptual configuration.

6.The Headkicker: Rare and increasingly becoming an endangered species. As our former Prime Minister Paul Keating used to say “see a head” kick it. This is the one that is hardest to defend against. It is usually a disaster when one of these types appear in the jury room. Probably best to stay calm and go along with it. Don’t panic as soon as this type smells panic they go for the jugular even more. Thanks to lousy role modelling via the people who taught me I have been witness to the darker arts of this style of jury criticism. These darker jury and design crit arts and tactics should never be used by anyone. This is why I am not going to give you an exact list of what they are.

Counter: There is not a lot you can do. If you can cry. Or seem like you are about to cry that can work. Or at the least just look crestfallen. This only works if your studio leaders have some sympathy for you and they understand that when someone cries in the public space of the design crit something has gone seriously wrong with their teaching.

7.The Silent Head-Kicker: Relatively Common. Still a common occurrence I am afraid. These jurors will never tell what they really think. You will get the feeling that whatever you have done is not quite right. Some architects run their design studios like this (both within and outside of the schools). The crit itself can be painfully long without anyone saying anything. The design critics won’t say much, but your natural tendency will be to say too much to fill the gap of the silence. Don’t try and fill a silence with unnecessary words you might end up saying something that sabotages your design argument (if you have one). In talking to fill a void, you may dig your own grave. If there is a silence just go with it. After all, it is burning up time, and no one is attacking you.

Counter: Respond to their questions but also try and draw them out as to want they really think. Also, direct your remarks to the entire jury even if one of them is silent. This doesn’t necessarily mean their opinion won’t hold some weight later. I hate it when I am on a jury, and a student directs there remarks to the person (like the local starchitect) they think has the most power in the room. When I see that happening I think is one of the few occasions that I will go for the jugular. Remember you need to involve all jurors in the conversation.

8.The Koala: Relatively common these days. I kind of like the Koalas. But they can be unpredictable and a tad pedantic. Sleepy with not much to say. Mostly dopey. So they just assert things. Usually, warm and fuzzy things. But sometimes they will assert incorrect and stupid interpretations. Mostly the questions are superficial. But poke the bear too much, and they can turn nasty. Or show them something intellectually challenging and they will come out with statements that will really drive you crazy because they are out of their depth and don’t really get it.


Counter: Listen and be patient. Try and affirm their questions to get tot here warm and fuzzy core. This juror is never the brightest. Address their pathetic concerns in detail. If they say anything to presumptive or outrageous, you will have to call them out on it. But be warned you may not have enough time to counter their lack of knowledge.

9.The love-your-work-critic: Rare. Just go with the flow with it lap it up and don’t believe all of it. The more you tell them how you thought about your work, the more they will love it. It’s often hard to know what prompts this response from a juror. Sometimes it might be set-up, e.g. a good cop-bad cop situation. Again there are some things about the darker arts of jury criticism I cannot reveal.

Counter: Self-effacement and modesty is always good. Thank the juror or juries for their encouragement and try and figure out what they like about it. Tell them what you would do differently next time. When they jury loves your work, and you tell them that they will want to give you more marks for being insightful. Communication self-reflection and insight into your project and processes will always get you more marks. But, make sure the love-your-work jurors are not just saying it because of how you look or has anything to do with your fashion sense. Check in you with your tutor later and see what they say about it. Afteerwards avoid any #metoo situations.

10. The Mind Messing Psycho (MMP). Extremely rare but not yet endangered. As with the general population a small number of jurors fall into this category. This type will want to get into your head and mess with it. To do this they will ask you all sorts of questions about how you think? These questions will not just be about how you thought about the work. But things like how do you feel when you walk down the street……? Or do you like ice cream….? In other words they will ask you questions that elicit answers bordering on personal emotions.

The MMP then uses this information against you. For example, “you say you like ice cream but there is no ice cream vendor in your scheme?” They might even ask you questions like, “have you been happy in the studio” or makes statements like “you look like a nice person.” In short the line of questions blurs the line between the personal and the public narrative around your project. In some cases, the MMP is asking these questions in order to assert the repower over you within the jury room and perhaps even outside of it. These types thrive on unequal power exchanges. In no circumstances talk or make contact with these juror types after the crit


Counter: Block their questions and don’t give too much away about your personal life or individual feelings. Keep your answers, and the project focused on the situation.


The design crit conversation should foremostly be about ideas and bringing those ideas into the light of day. Even though you may feel powerless or that others have power over you this is the kind of conversation you should strive for. A conversation about ideas and the best design jurors will seek out and want to hear about your best ideas. In fact, I would go so far to say that the best critics are the ones who will listen to your ideas with a sense of humility. Humility is probably an attribute we could do with more of in the profession.

And as I write my plane is diving into Sydney and I can blame that. Put me on a trip and you get an over-oxygenated plane blog.