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Tech Trends

By LASN Associate Editor Ashley Calabria, Associate Professor, University of Georgia College of Environment and Design, Caldwell Hall, Athens, Georgia

Landscape Architect and Specifier News recently sent out a survey to identify technology trends in the work place. The response was well received, with 122 firms responding from 34 different states. California had the highest response rate with 22 firms. Other high response states were Florida with 12 respondents, Georgia with 8 and Texas with 7.

The survey questions were geared toward graphics, including traditional hand graphics, computer graphics and office Other questions revolved around resume and portfolio skill sets. Linked in regards to developing and maintaining LAR skills, these questions were also meant to track shifts in graphics, identify educational opportunities and serve our reader base as a means of evaluating the financial and time commitment of making technological changes within the work place. If you've been wondering whether to upgrade an application or exchange a graphic technique, this may relieve some of those questions.

Hand Graphics
I often have professionals contact me about their interest in changing from a hand graphics medium to a computer graphic medium. Similar to the educational realm, there is always an interest to stay on high tech mode. For those of you contemplating whether you should go digital with some portion of your design work, ask yourself if you are productive with the method you are currently using. If your answer is yes, then the most practical advice would be to keep doing it. If your answer is a definitive no, check out the Applications section of this article. If you aren't sure, as in, I'm not sure whether my hand graphic methods are the most efficient or productive, or whether you should keep up you hand graphic skills, this first section might help you.

What percentage of time does your office use hand graphics? (see chart 1.)
Clearly a vast majority of firms use hand graphics less than 25% of the time in the office, but when asked "What type of hand graphic skills does your firm look for when hiring?" in chart 2, these numbers show a pretty high interest in still being able to communicate by traditional methods.

What type of hand graphic skills does your firm look for when hiring? (see chart 2.)
So it seems that although these skills are not often used in the office, they are valued as signals to someone's ability to think in those terms, primarily through conceptual diagrams and sketching but also artistically through rendering. I believe such thinking and personal artistic expression will keep LAR linked to hand graphics for some time to come. Again, if it works for you, consider keeping the use of it. If you are looking for a job, keep this skill visible in your portfolio.

Computer Graphics
As with most technology, this is where things get a bit more complicated.

What percentage of time does your office use computer graphics? (see chart 3.)
This should be no surprise to anyone in the work force, so skipping on to the next question for those of you looking for a job, "What type of computer graphic skills does your firm look for when hiring?"

What type of computer graphic skills does your firm look for when hiring? (see chart 4.)
Although there are only a few specific applications tied to the skills here, you will see a more complete list of applications in the next section. The biggest skill here is obviously drafting, with a mix of other communication skills such as Power Point presentations, which I would assume involve some speaking skills, renderings, section elevations and photo imagery. About half of the firms are also looking for perspective development, and conceptual diagrams. The 'other' category included comments like they use computer graphics for construction documents or they are not hiring.

Moving on to a bigger question in regards to a financial investment and/or a time commitment for learning new software is, "Which computer applications/technologies does your office use in-house?" The reason this is geared for in-house was to identify which technologies are being contracted out, another job avenue or marketing opportunity for those who are not currently employed in a firm.

Which computer applications/technologies does your office use in-house? (see chart 5.)
Over years of running this type of survey, I have gradually watched Photoshop climb in usage by firms and even surpass the use of AutoCAD. The top used applications in order of in-house use are: Photoshop, AutoCAD, SketchUp and Power Point. The other Adobe Creative Suite applications, such as Illustrator and InDesign, are moderately used, as is GIS.

Looking to expand or offer graphic services? This next chart might highlight some opportunities for marketing.

Which computer applications/technologies does your office contract out? (see chart 6.)
For those of you looking to bolster your resume, you might highlight AutoCAD, SketchUp and Illustrator skills, but maybe consider a class in video production and/or simple SketchUp animation.

Hardware devices have a rapid turnover rate with a heavier price tag than simple application upgrades. Looking for a new computer? Here is some feedback to consider.

Does your office use primarily MACs or PCs? (see chart 7.)

Does your office have a tablet PC, touch screen or tablet and stylus for drawing? (see chart 8.)
The heavy use of PCs is still probably a lingering effect from AutoCAD. Although there is now a MAC version of AutoCAD, it is still a bit short of a full functioning PC version. The touch screen device has also been increasing over the years, especially now with the high use of simple devices like the iPhone and iPad. It seems to have opened up the idea of screen drawing in a way to bridge the technique of hand drawing on a digital surface, especially for Photoshop color rendering.

Skills for Resume or Portfolio
This may speak directly to those of you on the job search. The biggest restraint to this statistic relates to the fact that it is geared to an entry-level position. This emphasis is primarily based on skills that someone might have to apply for an internship or entry level position either straight out of school or within a year or two post-graduation.

Rank all aspects your firm looks for in a beginning position resume/portfolio (with "1" being the most valuable to "5" being the least valuable) for as many skills as you feel are of value in regards to determination in hiring. (see chart 9.)

Personality is the number one skill firms look for, indicative of presentation and speaking skills. Writing ability is an issue for new hires. In past surveys, employers note new hires not writing in full sentences, due in part to "textese." Keep all those design sketches and changes to show design process. Keep proficient with both hand and computer graphics. Good luck new hires!

For suggestions or article ideas, please contact Ashley Calabria at

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December 8, 2019, 7:42 am PDT

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