Mapping The World Of Architecture And Interior Design!

September 12, 2011

Add me as a friend on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter and circle me on Google Plus, the world is becoming a much smaller place thanks to social media. We can connect with friends, family and colleagues through a multitude of platforms, each with their own unique attraction. With each platform we are opening ourselves up to a much wider and varied audience from every corner of the world, different industries and to a new and exciting mix of people. A few individuals have decided to take this one step further, by connecting us by our industry, to our peers and to potential partners who can all help each other professionally in different ways.

This is nothing new; LinkedIn groups have been providing this professional platform for years through their groups system. You can join a group for interior architects and designers that specialise in retail design, from this you can connect with suppliers or read interesting press releases about new products or new projects. The only downfall of this from our point of view is that the audience is too wide, if that is possible. Many a time we have read about a tremendous energy saving lighting product that we thought would be good to use in a project only to find that this product is only available in Argentina and cannot be shipped to Dubai unless a minimum order of 8000 is placed. I embellish slightly but this is a common source of frustration.

The answer or so one would think, would be to join a local based group and search from there, unfortunately this is more of a hassle than a help. Either the community is not active enough, the group is laced with spam or worse you post a requirement for a product and you are inundated with suppliers who don’t supply that product but do supply X product that is completely irrelevant or unrelated, oh the joys of answering all of those emails. The next step is to search an online directory but this is both time consuming and has its own pitfalls that I am sure you, our readers have come across such as out of date listings or generic listings.

However, there are a few special people who seek to change this; they aim to connect us by industry and by location and to provide an interactive starting point for designers like us to connect with suppliers in the region. Perhaps you may have heard of it, perhaps you have not, I am talking about the work Mark Schuman, Su Butcher and Barbour Product Search have done with the Architect map and with the new Manufacture map on Google Maps.

Mark Schuman and Su Butcher originally created the Architect Map on the 22nd August 2011; the purpose of the map was so that Architects and Interior Designers could connect online, pinpoint their location on the world map and add their Twitter avatar creating an arena where we can all connect, follow each other on Twitter and “start the conversation” . The concept sought to bring us all together on one platform, and with over 45,000 views since its inception they have achieved an awesome feat, still in its early days , a mere 3 weeks old, we have to say that this is only the beginning of something very special to our industry. Perhaps innovative, I for one foresee the Architect Map concept catching on with a multitude of industries, how long before we see the Media Map or the Charities Map or the Telecommunications Map?

(Above) The condensed version of the World Architect Map, users can click each pinpoint which opens up the regional maps

The true potential of the map is now only being realised, this week Mark and Su collaborated with Barbour Product Search on the new Manufacture Map. Inspired by the Architect Map, Barbour Product Search created a manufacture’s map for suppliers and manufactures in the UK, Schumann and Butcher quickly took notice and contacted Barbour Product Search, the result of which being a new joint effort. The Architect Map and Manufacture Map have now been amalgamated to provide a single reference point for designers and suppliers to search regionally for each other and to hopefully kick start some new business relationships.

Above: Here is an example of the UAE Architect / Interior Designer Map, this is the expanded version after clicking on the pinpoint over the Middle East

Above: And here we are in the Dubai Map, in close proximity to Mark. You can see how the map allows you to enter a brief blurb about what it is you do, this can be very handy for designers like us when looking to browse suppliers.

Above: Here is a snap shot of the suppliers available in our region, this is a bit naked at the moment but will soon fill up if the success of the Architect Map is anything to go by.

At Studio EM, we are not too fond of clichés, however this could only be the tip of the iceberg, this concept has the potential to develop into a serious social media machine with the introduction of a possible project map where designers and suppliers could create similar inserts on the map of projects they are working or have worked on. We caught up with Mark Schuman and Su Butcher this week for an exclusive to ask them for some more information. Mark is a Director at Davis Langdon, an AECOM Company, based in Dubai – and Su is a Practice Manager at Barefoot & Gilles Architects based in UK. Check out Mark and Su’s LinkedIn profiles also for more background info on them here and here respectively .

Firstly we asked where the initial idea for the Architect Map came from –

Mark: “Like all things which seem to work, the idea came about through a combination of factors which then developed into the idea. Firstly I had been collaborating with Studio EM and Design MENA to try and find Architects & Designers in the Middle East who use Twitter. I had often been intrigued that we often happily ‘tweet’ with colleagues and peers without really understanding where they are based or what they do, so I thought of doing a map for this region. Whilst researching this, I had become familiar with the work that Su Butcher had been doing over the past few years through her blog, ‘Just Practising’, and happened to stumble upon an old map that she had started for Architects based in the UK which was no longer working. So we got chatting and decided to mix the old with the new, try to build a global map, and here we are. Su’s influence in getting the map off of the ground is something that has been instrumental to the success of the maps.”

Su: “Ever since I started collating architects who use twitter I’ve been looking for ways to make the information accessible. One of the great advantages of sharing your work online is that people come along and offer to make it better; this is what happened with the map idea. The search-ability of the internet enabled Mark to find my work and me to pick up on an idea that had run out of steam and make it work again with Google Maps.”

What sort of reaction have you had to the concept?

Mark: “The response has been fantastic. With over 42,000 views last I checked and approaching 300 Architects, Designers and Consultants on ArchitectMap and roughly the same again on ManufactureMap, we have been very pleasantly surprised with the response. However, it is always easy to throw numbers around and we are now very keen to make this something that is useful for our industry rather than just something that was good for a time but then forgotten. Things look positive, and we have already seen instances of clients looking for architects near them and other great collaboration taking place with the maps being the starting point of reference.”

Su: “Yes, we’re very pleased with the interest, and keen to build on it. Many people are used to working with Google Maps and this helps people get started. The enthusiasm is I think related to how confusing social media can be because the internet is so huge – location information helps us narrow down to relevant local contacts. Already many of us are finding people in our locality who are active on twitter and we didn’t even know about them. It’s exciting and productive, especially when you think that by joining the map, other people you don’t know can find you too.”

Now we have a joint collaboration between ArchitectMap and ManufactureMap, what is the idea behind this or the benefit of this?

Su: “Location is increasingly important to the construction industry, both for consultants and product manufacturers. Not only is our local knowledge invaluable, but we can also contribute towards savings of CO2 if we use locally produced materials, reduce travelling time and waste movement, for example. We’ve recently completed a children’s hospice project where all the consultants and many of the product manufacturers were local companies, which definitely helped promote the project to the local community. By connecting construction consultants and product manufacturers and suppliers by location, ultimately we can bring more value to our clients.”

Mark:“Yes, this theme of connecting people is the key. The idea behind everything we are doing is to connect like-minded people and businesses, active in Social Media, with each other. Just step back for a minute and look at the array of people and businesses that we already have on the map and the knowledge that must be contained within this community. Harnessing this knowledge in some way for the betterment of each other and the industry can only be a good thing, and by using the maps we have created as a portal into this knowledge is something which is exciting. Add to that the power of social media networks such as Twitter, where knowledge is available almost instantly to those who want to engage, and then I think we start to have quite a powerful tool. The introduction of the ManufactureMap and the collaboration with Barbour Product Search has expanded this knowledge base further, and now provides those architects and designers with information that is very relevant to the job they do.”

So, with all that in mind, what can we be expecting in the future from the Savvy creators behind the Architect and Manufacturer Map?

Mark: “That is a question for us all I think. We all have the opportunity to mould this into something which we all find useful so we are always looking for new thoughts and ideas on how to make this better from those who use the maps.
I can see a future however where we begin to not only use the maps just to see who is around and to tell people what we do, but use it, and the community we build, to establish a trusted knowledge base of peers within the industry; discuss ideas collaboratively and in an open forum; discuss the industry we work within; establish opportunities to work with one another that otherwise wouldn’t have existed; and ultimately make our jobs that little bit simpler. That is where I see the true power in this. As for other things coming out in the future, it’s a bit of an open book to be honest. Su and I have been discussing the possibility of a world map of projects we have all worked on, which again not only showcases the talent that exists within our community, but also provides a knowledge resource should our peers need it. I would also love to see more video’s being used in people’s Bio’s and more links to people’s blogs and websites – you are a creative group of people, so why not show that in your Bio’s? I am also very interested in the possibilities that Augmented Reality can bring (anyone reading my tweets will know this is my latest hot topic) – bringing this technology into the ArchitectMap world is something which is very exciting and something to be investigated. Just imagine being able to hold your iPhone up to the map and a wealth of information becomes real in front of your eyes. Interesting stuff.”

Su: “What he said! But seriously, we want to encourage people to think about how they might use the map in different ways and share what they are doing so that we can all make it better. I think it would be great to get the professional institutions local offices involved, for example. The map would help them promote their members.”

I have seen ‘tweets’ from you about “Peerindex” and ranking Architects and Manufacturers – what is this and how is it useful?

Su: “Tools like Peerindex help you see how long people have been using twitter and how successfully they interact with others. They can help us understand each other better, help the newbies and find people like us. For example, the Construction Network (tCn) in the UK has been instrumental in using Peerindex to help non-twitter users understand a bit more about who is using it well – the breakthrough for them was to get into printed media like Construction News, and the Architects Journal. This has opened up the value of social tools to a much bigger audience, and like the map, because people are used to the ‘top 100’ idea of a ranked list, it demystifies a little of the technology. I wonder what other ways we will find?”

Mark: “As Su said, understanding the value of social media is important. Using Peerindex helps us understand the influence of the people that we interact with. ArchitectMap and ManufactureMap use PeerIndex to help us have an overall picture of who has this influence and audience. Once we understand this information, we can all then use this increased knowledge to help us target and form discussions with people in our industry who are able to make things happen.”

Above: Another view of the Architect Map complete with Twitter avatars

If you want to get involved in the Architect or Manufacture Map then follow these simple instructions laid out by Su Butcher on her blog: Just Practising.

You can also follow Mark, Su and Barbour Product Search on Twitter. If you want to follow the progress of the maps on Twitter you can find them using the #Architectmap and #manufacturemap hash-tags.