Keeping up with new design and rendering softwares is a never-ending job. Industry standards change, plug-ins multiply, and technology simply improves. And more often than not, the onus of learning these updates falls on the individual architect or designer — school programming moves at too glacial of a pace, and employers can’t lose the time spent teaching.
To better equip individuals with the tools to educate themselves, Archinect has partnered with Black Spectacles, an online library for live, digital design workshops and courses specific to architecture and design. As part of our collaboration, Archinect is offering discounted access to five of Black Spectacles' live workshops, to attend either in-person or online.
Register for Black Spectacles workshop here. Archinectors can get $100 off a workshop by registering with the code "Archinect100".
Founded in 2010 by architect and educator Marc Teer, Black Spectacles works with architects at top-notch firms to create road-tested workshops, accessible to architects at any phase of their education or career. Black Spectacles also works directly with AIA Chicago, to create the world’s first online ARE preparatory curriculum.
Archinect is committed to making architecture accessible and open, and Black Spectacles provides architecture education a la carte, fresh and reliable. Black Spectacles can help keep skills sharp and competitive in today’s rapidly developing market, and we're excited to share their resources directly with Archinect's community.
We asked Black Spectacles' founder, Marc Teer, to give some context to his service and the people behind it. Here's what we learned:
What is your own background in architecture?
I launched Black Spectacles after practicing architecture for 12 years—seven of those years at Gensler Chicago and while teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I had also been the chair of AIA Chicago’s Young Architect’s Forum, for two years.
Why did you start Black Spectacles? Describe briefly how the company began.
I was trying to climb the ladder at Gensler, and along the way, I was attempting to keep up with everything that was happening with the profession’s move to Revit, as well as the growing popularity of Grasshopper and all of the plugins exploding around it. I found it difficult to keep up because so much was changing so fast. It seemed that every time I got a handle on a Grasshopper plugin, 10 more sprouted up somewhere else, and there was virtually nowhere to go to learn these things.
At the same time, we were attempting to reconfigure the digital design curriculum at the Illinois Institute of Technology and were running into resistance from the design faculty, which helped me define the problem—that both students and professionals were supposed to be competent with all of these tools, but no one wanted to teach us.
Universities have much more important things to teach and firms have billable work to do, so there is very little time available for training in any of the tools. Moreover, even when firms do offer in-house training, it is usually only focused on construction drawing production tools. So, there is still a big gap of software skills that you must fill in on your own. One friend explained it as “we all have this Swiss-cheese knowledge of software skills. Most of us learn software from whomever we are sitting next to at school or the office.”
Therefore, I started Black Spectacles to solve a problem that I had — I did not have much time or money to learn these things on my own. So, I wanted to build something that was really flexible and inexpensive, but also of super-high quality, and I thought it should not be super software geeky. Instead, its aim is simply to help architects do great work.
Who authors the content on Black Spectacles?
It turns out, by function of my involvement in the design community, I knew people with great software skills. Out of the gate, we started building courses that were taught by architects who were working at great firms — folks from Gensler, SOM, Krueck & Sexton, etc. What is awesome about the content is that it is not taught in an abstract way. Many online courses take an abstract approach, going through every single tool. Whereas, architects really only need to know about a fraction of the tools and commands to get their work done. When learning from architects who practice at great firms, they cut through the nonsense and get to the good stuff—the stuff that is useful and frankly just cool.
What distinguishes Black Spectacles from other online tutorial, or education, services?
I remember thinking about building Black Spectacles at a time when I was working at Gensler, and on one given day, I had used 10 different tools. We were working on putting together a presentation book, exporting plans from Revit to Illustrator to color them, and then exporting a SketchUp model to 3DS Max to render in Vray, taking those renders into Photoshop for post-production, and then bringing all of these things into InDesign. The truth is that we do not just work in one tool.
So, we decided to build courses for how an architect really works. We built courses so you could learn the individual software as well as the workflows to move quickly among software to realize your design ideas.
Who is Black Spectacles for?
Black Spectacles is specifically built for architects, as evidenced by the curriculum we just launched with AIA Chicago to help architects pass the A.R.E. We are really excited about this curriculum, especially with all of the things percolating over at NCARB, and how they are trying to reduce the friction for becoming a licensed architect.
When building a business, you must pick something to start with, and it needs to be focused. So, we started with software tutorials and have grown to add A.R.E. prep tutorials. Our aim is to continue growing to be thought of as the primary online learning resource for architects and designers.
— Marc Teer, founder of Black Spectacles
Interested in trying out Black Spectacles? Register here for a workshop with a special $100 discount for Archinectors, using the coupon code "Archinect100". You can attend in-person, if you're in the Chicago area, or online.
We'll be working with Black Spectacles more in the future, so keep an eye out for partnership perks.