New Media for Designers and Builders (Book review)

Mouzon image
© Steve Mouzon

The first thing one might ask about this review is, "why is this on TreeHugger?" Firstly, it is by Steve Mouzon, author of the Original Green, a critically important idea and book about sustainable design. He has been a profound influence on me and my spare time gig as a heritage activist with the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. You can see his fingerprints on much of what I write about green building. (See my valentine to him here)

Secondly, Steve is part of a transformation in the way we work in the world of design. The profession of architecture has not recovered from the Great Recession or the computer revolution. Architects have often notoriously bad in marketing themselves, from making incomprehensible websites to speaking and writing in impenetrable jargon. Steve has reinvented himself as an author and a speaker, using every technique and technology available to market himself. He writes:

We all can see now that the ways we've marketed our services for our entire careers doesn't work anymore, and many of us are turning to the New Media hoping for better ways of surviving, then moving from survival to stability to success and even on to significance.

Thirdly, Steve uses e-book technology to in a way that demonstrates how it can actually deliver a more useful experience than a conventional book. There are endless links to internal and external resources and a link back to a website where there can be a conversation about the contents. While there are limitations to reading on an iPad (like no back button or ability to copy and paste content easily) the ability to link gives the reader, as Steve notes, three times as much content.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, he says nice things about me in the book.

© Steve Mouzon

Why-to more that How-to

In a lot of ways it is less than an "how-to" book and more of a "why-to." Before you get to the tools, there are discussions about The Smoking Ruins of the Architecture, the Failure of Marketing, and the Death of Advertising. Where business used to be about quality, speed and economy, Steve claims that now, it is all about patience, generosity and connectedness. He suggests that we may be at the beginning of a new era.

As dreadful as conditions have been in the place-making professions, I believe we could be on the brink of a new Golden Age because of the inventiveness this new age of great necessities will foster… if we can get beyond the trauma of our recent past.

Finally, after getting you all inspired with references to everyone from Seth Godin to Zig Ziglar, gets down to the mechanics of blogging (speak with a human voice) tweeting (one of the essential nodes of the new media) , speaking in public, doing video. The website design section is particularly useful for architects, who are notorious for doing incomprehensible websites. Steve says: Keep it simple, keep it up to date, post interesting content and have a call to action.

The book is rounded out with lists of people to follow, books to read and some great links.

© Steve Mouzon

As the design professions atomize and dematerialize, more and more of us have to figure out how to do all of this stuff by ourselves; it gets expensive to hire outside help. However it is just as important to know our limitations and figure out when we should hire an expert to help us out. In my review of Steve's book the Original Green I complained about the graphic design and I am going to do it again here, from the lozenge buttons and graphs to the page layout, where too much real estate is left blank as a left rail for head shots. Given that the book is all about putting the designer's best face forward, I think the graphic design could have been punchier, photos bigger.

On the other hand, Steve is consistent in his graphic design through all his websites, so I may just have different taste in design. It is a trivial complaint about a book that is going to be indispensable for anyone trying to figure out how to get themselves heard above the din.

Get your copy of New Media for Designers and Builders

Steve Mouzon on Learning from Old Buildings from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

Tags: Book Reviews | Urban Planning

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