(This article has been reposted from PeterLevelle.com, and was originally posted on 07-20-2013. It has been posted here with his permission. We encourage you to leave comments on his site, but you can leave them here too. Thanks Pete! "The check is in the mail.")
The current Architectural job market is difficult, to say the least. An Architecture degree was pretty much the worst degree to have when the economy tanked, with a whopping 13.9% unemployment. Job postings can return hundreds of resumés, and it has become increasingly crucial to stand out in the interviewing process.
In a recent interview I was looking for way to distinguish myself and to demonstrate an ability to think creatively. So, instead of creating a typical portfolio, I created a perfect-bound 7" x 9" paperback book, which I published online with Lulu.com, which is a great way to print stunning store-quality books. Their standard matte paper is excellent for renderings and line drawings.
However, a recent Archispeak podcast concerning the portfolio and some of the tools we use for presentation made me rethink my portfolio. Archispeak is Neal Pann, Evan Troxel, and Cormac Phalen having a casual conversation about all things architecture, and for me, the podcast was a great way to stay connected with the profession when I had left my teaching position. It’s a great motivator, and reminds us why we love Architecture.
The comment was (to paraphrase Evan) that in the interview process one of the most important objectives is to convey a sense of spatial understanding, and to use whatever is necessary, whether it's an iPad, trace paper, or even a physical model. The comment bothered me, because I now realized that my ‘portfolio’ was too small to fully convey design intent. I had an interview in a matter of days, in addition to an ARE exam. I had no time to reformat my portfolio, so I needed an alternative. I decided that my book worked great as a conversation starter and a large take-away, but I needed a supplemental tool to convey a sense of spacial understanding.
Enter Morpholio. It's a great app for architects to share ideas, images, and to generate constructive feedback for your projects. The user interface is slick, and it is obvious it was built with designers in mind. Users can tag other users, and those projects will automatically show up in their Morpholio. Designers can create a ‘Pin-up’ or a ‘Crit,’ where one is public and the other invited. Users are seachable, and aside from the website, mobile apps are available for the standard Apple platform. It’s still relatively young, so I imagine an Android-based app can’t be far behind.
A real development is Morpholio’s recent introduction of Trace, a sister app that works with Morpholio. The app is essentially digital trace paper, that allows the user to sketch with black or red ink over their images. The sketches can be easily saved or shared. There are three line weights and a few line styles in red or black, but it’s drawing capabilities are limited. Trace makes no claim to be a drawing program. It’s a piece of virtual trace paper and nothing more.
However, do not confuse Morpholio as an alternative to a standalone portfolio. Portfolios are inherently individual. Morpholio evolves with you, and works best as a collaborative platform. It does not offer interactive capabilities such as iBooks or Prezi, but in all fairness, that’s not what Morpholio is trying to do. It is a way to host your imagery, share it selectively amongst your peers, and to generate constructive criticism.
Also, Morpholio is really meant to be used online. Trace will not access your Morpholio unless you have an internet connection, and I doubt any guest wireless or coffee-shop access will have the bandwidth required for larger renders or detailed linework. A workaround is to sync iPhoto with a project images folder, and use Trace to access the native photos on your iPad.
While I used very little of the imagery I had stored on it, I was comfortable knowing that I had access to them. Where it did come in handy, was in the expanding of an idea. Plans in my book were inherently small, and I was able to zoom in on screen, and use Trace to diagram underlying concepts and spacial organization. While I wouldn’t have relied on either the book or the apps alone, the combination was useful.
The Morpholio Project (as it is collectively called), in digital years, has advanced past infancy and into their developmental tweens, and I am excited to be a part of it. My only fear is that it will be abused to host only final imagery and not process images. None of us should ever work in a vacuum: the world needs more collaboration between designers, and I encourage you to give it a try. Download the apps here and here, then search for Peter Levelle on the Pin-Up page to see a sample. Alternatively, send me your email address and I’ll happily invite you to a Crit now and then to see some of my current work.
I post this as a call to duty of all architects: share and become part of a larger network. For too long we cry that the Architectural industry is not doing enough to embrace change. This is a small step, and it’s your turn to do something. Be bold!
And if you were still wondering, yes, I did get the job.