Could Somebody Tell me Why?

Sep 09, 1996

I have a few unanswered about the A/E/P and environmental industry that I thought our readers could help me with. For example: What do the terms “multi-disciplinary” and “multi-disciplined” mean? Multi-disciplinary sounds like a high school with more than one vice principal— you know, the disciplinarians— the tough guys in administration that we’d get sent to if we got caught smoking in the bathroom, or were seen peeling out of the parking lot during school hours in our ‘63 Impala Super Sports. When I hear that a firm is multi-disciplined, I think of a company where all the principals turn in their time sheets on time, avoid fattening deserts, and make all their assigned cold calls— they have lots of self-discipline. Why do engineers say “change out” instead of just “change”? Frequently heard: “Change out the thermostat, “ instead of just plain old, “Change the thermostat.” Where do landscape architects buy those square cut knit ties? I don’t know of a store anywhere that sells these ties, yet they still seem to be quite popular, particularly with landscape architects. The preferred color is dark blue, with a rusty brown shade coming in a distant second. Why do architects wear bow ties? When I see someone with a bow tie, my first inclination is to go up to the person and introduce myself, because I automatically assume he must be an architect. Why would a firm use “its” in reference to their own company instead of “our”? I’ve seen this in more than one brochure: “Since its founding in 1945 by John Drone, Drone Engineers has been a ......” This is very odd! Do all architects like purple, and do all engineers like blue and gray? Chances are, if an architectural firm changed their logo or color scheme in the past five years, or an engineering firm did the same, these would be their color selections. Doesn’t anyone like rust or green? Why are so many firm principals named “Bob”? At one time, we figured out that if you ran into a principal in an A/E/P or environmental firm and you forgot his name, if you called him “Bob,” you’d be right about 26% of the time! What could someone study to get a Ph.D. in marketing? A consultant in our industry has one of these. I can’t imagine what he did to earn it. Is there really that much to study? Why are management and marketing consultants for our business so often married to architects? Joan Capelin, Ellen Flynn-Heapes, Ray Kogan, and even our own Kathryn Sprankle are examples, and there are many more. Do these people have a better ability to relate to their clients? Does this mean they are literally “married to their work”? Are all “directors of special projects” people who don’t fit in anywhere else? It seems like they often are. Does anyone really like “deconstructionist design?” This is where the building looks like part of it is missing or falling down. What else can I say? What exactly is in the blue-green punch served at ASCE meetings? When I used to go to the Fort Worth chapter meetings with Bill Bell from Carter & Burgess, he called this stuff “Windex Punch.” It did pack quite a wallop, but we never found out what it was. It tasted a lot like the “jungle juice” they used to cook up in the dorms, but the color was completely different. Why would anyone use Core-10 steel? This is the marvelous stuff that was so popular in the 80s because it developed a light coating of rust and had low maintenance requirements. So what if you don’t have to paint it? It’s ugly all of the time! What does it mean to be a “fellow” in a professional society? Do women feel that this is a sexist term? Do fellows do anything? What are the duties of an associate? I see firms with a lot of people who have this title. They have associate’s meetings. What are those all about? What exactly is a “senior executive vice president?” Is this someone who was promoted to senior vice president, then who made it to executive vice president, but will never make it to president? Now the company doesn’t know what to do with him, so they call him senior executive vice president. Why do some employers still charge their employees for coffee? Come on, guys— will the ten cents a cup you get out of your people make or break your year? Does anyone really follow the QA/QC processes that they put in their proposals? Most of these were developed back in 1984 when the firm hired its first marketing coordinator, by the marketing coordinator! Why do the big firms have small Yellow Pages listings, and the small firms have big Yellow Pages listings? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Originally published 9/09/1996

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