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11 essential websites used by architects and designers

Architects and designers (sometimes) need help…This article presents 11 websites that are essential for architects and design professionals who aren’t afraid to ask for a hand.

Resourcefulness. More important than design savvy, technical skill and cocktail party schooziness combined, an architect must have an abundance of resourcefulness. In a profession that relies on the knowledge and inner workings of a bulldozer full of industries and trades, an architect or designer can’t get by without a library full of information at their fingertips. Architects and designers need information to do their jobs well. They are the circus performer with the chainsaw, flaming sword and lit stick of dynamite up in the air - and they better know how to keep them all from falling at once.

Thankfully, the internet makes things easy. Well...little easier, anyway.

I’m not sure if you need me to tell you this, but the internet is freaking huge. That office wing dedicated to books, material samples, product lines, city and county and international code binders now fits conveniently inside a little digital cloud. Not only that, technology has propelled information into forms of digestion the old pen and pencil crowd never even dreamed of.

It’s a well-known fact today: that there’s no such thing as a completely original idea, and sometimes the greatest help for an architect is inspiration from what has come before. Many sites on this list serve as sources of inspiration, places where architects and designers can go to get their own creative juices gestating.

1.  I Want Hue

Colour blind architect guy says: “please...help” Yes, I’m a colour blind architect, a fact that has provided numerous comical critiques as a student and a few debilitating hindrances as a professional. Throughout my career I’ve needed constant help from peers and colleagues so as not to embarrass myself in client meetings or project presentations. It’s an affliction I’ve learned to cope with in a world where colour and perception of colour is of vital importance.

I’ve also looked to the internet for help. And even for those of you who see colour without issue can find value in I Want Hue. In addition to the clever name, I Want Hue helps you create complimentary palettes that will make any design presentation pop. The site takes a fresh approach to grouping together colours, allowing the user to create an infinite number of 7-colour palettes with an active blob meter that divides, splits, and coagulates into groups. It’s sort of like watching a virus multiply.

At first the interface can be a tad overwhelming, but with a little tooling around even a lowly colour blind guy like myself can figure it out.

2. CamelCamelCamel

Being a designer comes with a few caveats - one of which being a hoarder of all things design-y, tech-y, or otherwise otherworldly on a never-ending quest to accumulate the perfect studio space. Computers, cameras, easels and drawings boards, coloured pencils and four different kinds of Olive Green markers, stencils and organizers, pins, pens and protractors. These are the ‘things’ that designers collect in mass quantities. CamelCamelCamel is the enabler that lets that collection grow without milking your checking account like a bell cow.

The price-tracking site allows you to keep a keen eye on stuff you can’t live without. Or at least stuff you convince yourself, wife, mother and children you can’t live without. Don’t worry though, all will be well when they see the savings you’re racking up! CamelCamelCamel will send you alerts via email or smartphone when prices drop on items you’ve flagged. What that has to do with three camels I’m still trying to figure out…

3. WriteWords

No one ever accused architects of being good writers (yours truly excluded, of course!). It’s a strange phenomenon considering the artistic discipline required to practice architecture successfully. Good or not, the job requires a hefty amount of writing, whether it be through project summaries, design prompts, or angry emails to city permitting officials. Especially angry emails to city permitting officials.

Writing skills are essential. That’s where WriteWords comes in. You’ll find a useful collection of tools, tutorials, help articles and blog posts that focus on making your words more coherent, and less design-y. For example, a word counter lets you know if you’ve used the word “elegant” four thousand times when describing your new website design. A valuable tool, indeed.

4. SleepyTi.me

Everybody needs enough sleep and most people don’t get it. That’s especially true for design professionals, who voluntarily work late into the night because “it can always be better.” It’s a blessing and a curse, giving the world beautiful results while leaving the individual to slowly decay into a droopy-eyed zombie monster. I’ve seen it happen a thousand times.

The good news is it’s not necessarily the quantity of sleep that makes the biggest difference. As the legendary 90’s band with a wiry bald front man taught us: it’s REM that matters most. SleepyTi.me uses a simple formula to calculate when your rem cycles peak and valley, which is about every hour and a half. Simply input the time you’d like to wake up, and the online app will give you intervals for when you should turn the lights off and shut those eyes. 4.5 hours of sleep is better than 7 hours of sleep because you aren’t waking up in the middle of your rem cycle, which causes grogginess and low-energy.

Sleep smart people. Sleep better.

5. Creative Commons Search

One of the most notorious time sinks for any design professional is the fruitless search for quality, free-to-use stock images. Good stock image sites have rather small collections that you’ll find yourself cycling through over and over again in a futile effort to land the perfect obscure image to cherry the top of your design.

Well, you’re in luck! Creative Commons Search tracks down the perfect Flickr and Wikimedia images that are completely free to use. You may not find exactly what you’re looking for, but there’s so much to choose from there’s bound to be something you can use to fantastic effect. The time you’ll save is worth its weight in Dr. Pepper.

6. Death By Architecture

Wouldn’t that be nice? No, this isn’t a companion app to the last 14 horrible Final Destination movies. Death By Architecture is a comprehensive resource for architects and designers looking to try their luck in a wide variety of design competitions. Entering competitions is not necessarily the best way to gain international notoriety, but they are good ways to build up a body of design work that you can show prospective clients even if you aren’t raking in the awards.

DBA has an easy to use interface and a helpful calendar that visually display how far out submission and awarding dates are. While most of the competitions focus on architecture specifically, most of them are all-encompassing endeavours that require skill from all walks of design. Designers unite!

7. Design Milk

What did I say about inspiration? Design Milk is one of many design and architecture-focused blogs that provides daily doses of the best the design world has to offer. If you find yourself sitting alone in a dark room with a single window staring at a scuff mark on the floor shaking uncontrollably due to a bone-dry well of ideas, Design Milk has your medicine. Take a few minutes to browse through the thousands of projects and you’ll be back in the game in no time.

And remember: Good artists copy. Great artists steal.

8. Treehouse

Architects and designers are natural code junkies - most of them just don’t know it yet. They obsess about every detail, exude insane intelligence and talent, and will neglect health, family and pretty much all of society in favour of good ole’ fashion work. Not only that, but the skills required to be a master coder can be quite helpful for architects and designers. Coding can help designers build better websites, and architects develop scripts to aid in creating complex 3D models for purposes of rendering and presenting projects.

Treehouse is your one-stop-shop for all things coding. The web service has thousands of free tutorials and lessons that will transform you into a lean mean code writing machine. You’ll probably still get mocked online by the true gate-keepers in the code world because...well...they are the 21st century’s cyber-bully. But you’ll still be well on your way to improving your skills as a designer and, hopefully a person too.

9. Clients From Hell

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Anyone who’s worked more than a week in the design and architecture industries has had a client from hell. Do they grow on trees? Anyway, they are out there and they hunt in packs…

Clients From Hell is a place to let out that pent up anger in a safe place to those who understand your pain. You can browse pages and read about hilarious, and sometimes frightening horror stories that we fighting the good fight have had to endure. You will feel instantly better about your own screwed up situation, and maybe even give you the confidence you need to kick down some doors and give those time and money thieves a piece of your mind.

10. Map Chart

Nothing tickles the creative bone quite like a good map. Maps of Europe. Maps of the brain. Maps of my route from studio to Seven Eleven and back 27 times a day. Okay, maybe not that last one…

Map Chart puts the power of easy map making at your fingertips. It’s a useful tool for any design professional who might be working on infographics or other forms of data consumption. Being able to quickly produce colour-coded maps of the world saves countless hours stumbling around Photoshop trying to do what Map Chart can do in seconds. However, I’ll issue this warning: you may find yourself unable to stop making maps even as your social and professional life crumbles around you. It’s fun and addictive. You’ve been warned.

11. Easy Render

Cultivating design personnel with deep technical knowledge of 3D modeling and computer software can be a daunting task, especially for architecture firms. Hiring someone that can design, project manage, and blast out realistic scene after realistic scene for client presentation or competition submissions is almost impossible. Being a skilled renderer is a specialized field that takes years of dedication and focus to get really good at.

That’s where East Render comes in. It’s a professional service that pairs architecture and design firms with top-tier freelance talent from around the world. No more lost hours trying to train old man Skinner how to set cameras and apply textures while he’s looking back at his drafting board with a tear in his eye. The guys and gals you’ll find on Easy Render were born computer geeks, and will work fast and efficient and always at the right price. It’s an essential service, in particular, for small to medium sized firms.

So there you have it – 11 websites that are essential for architects and design professionals who aren’t afraid to ask for a hand.

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