Last year, the Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team released a survey to gather information about available technology applications currently used by landscape architects to operate effectively and efficiently. In collaboration with professors Benjamin George, ASLA (Utah State University), and Peter Summerlin, ASLA (Mississippi State University), PPN co-chairs Matt Wilkins, ASLA, Eric Gilbey, ASLA, and officer Nate Qualls, ASLA, collected over 480 responses, capturing the industry’s current state of software usage.
Software and technology are thoroughly entrenched as an essential tool for designers. However, there are many available options vying for designer’s attention and use, and it is often difficult to assess and understand the ramifications of adopting certain software packages. For educators, working to prepare students to become future practitioners, it is important to understand how software is being used in the profession in order to better train their students. For practitioners, these results may inform decisions on software investment or adoption of emerging technologies for your practice.
This data provides a detailed picture of the current state of software use in the profession and enables an analysis of how software usage varies across the discipline. Not unexpectedly, the results of the study indicate that AutoCAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, and SketchUp are the most commonly used and most important software packages in the profession. However, when factoring in the type of projects that a firm works on, this ranking changes and other software, such as GIS, Revit, Rhino, and Civil3d, become more prominent. There is also variability in what software is used based on the geographic location of the firm. Larger firms are also more likely to use and value a broader range of software applications. The survey also found that individual emerging technologies are closely related, indicating that some firms are very entrepreneurial in adopting new technologies.
Most Frequently Used Software
Which drafting software does your firm use and how often?
Which 2D rendering software does your firm use and how often?
Which 3D rendering software does your firm use and how often?
Software frequency by project type
Correlations within the frequency of use of a software:
- If a firm uses CAD frequently, they don’t use Vectorworks frequently.
- The more any drafting software is used, the more Photoshop is used, except for with Vectorworks.
- GIS and Illustrator use are strongly correlated.
- Revit use is closely associated with a lot of other software: Illustrator, SketchUp, Rhino, 3ds Max, Grasshopper, Vray, Lumion. Other than Photoshop, it is probably the most closely correlated with other software.
- Photoshop use is closely associated with the modeling and plugin programs.
- Illustrator use is closely associated with the modeling and plugin programs.
- People who use SketchUp use Lumion more than any of the other 3D modeling programs.
- Rhino is closely associated with Grasshopper, Vray, and Maxwell.
Most Important Software
Importance of software by project type
Correlations within the importance to workflow:
- GIS and Civil 3d use are very strongly correlated.
- Unsurprisingly, Vectorworks and CAD have a very strong negative correlation.
- Photoshop and Illustrator have the strongest correlation of all, off the chart correlated. Clearly if one of these programs is valuable to your workflow, then they both are.
- Photoshop has a strong positive correlation to SketchUp, Rhino, and 3ds Max, as well as Grasshopper, Vray, Lumion, and Maxwell. This indicates that designers do not believe that a modeling + rendering program produces a good enough final product. This correlation holds true for Illustrator.
- Vectorworks has a strong correlation for its use as a 3D and drafting tool.
- There is a strong correlation between SketchUp, Rhino, and 3ds Max and the plugins. The highest correlations are: Rhino and Grasshopper, Rhino and Vray, and SketchUp and Lumion. There are weaker, but still significant, correlations between the plugins and Maya and Vue.
- There is a big correlation between Grasshopper and Vray.
Which technologies or software are you or your firm not currently using but interested in pursuing?
How does your company prefer to onboard new employees with your chosen technology applications?
What programs are you using due to required collaboration between disciplines?
Correlations on emerging technology:
- Investment in emerging technologies is clustered together, and firms that are willing to invest in one emerging technology are more likely to invest in other emerging technologies. Drones and BIM use were very highly correlated.
- Similarly, firms that have expressed interest in these emerging technologies have expressed interest in multiple technologies, suggesting that the actual use correlation will probably hold true over time. Firms are more likely to invest in multiple emerging technologies than just a single one.
- Companies that take active efforts to hire trained professionals or to train in-house are more likely to be using VR/AR, drones, and BIM. Firms that have used this training method also have a high correlation with interest in adopting emerging technology. Firms that expect employees to train themselves have a high interest in adopting, but among self-training firms that have adopted these technologies they actually have a negative correlation regarding the value. This would suggest that relying on staff to self-train on emerging technologies will produce less effective results and that firms need to invest in training if they are serious about adopting new technologies.
- Project type appears to have little bearing on the adoption of new technology except that firms working on infrastructure projects are more likely to use BIM. Those working in academia are more likely to be using parametric modeling. Those working on large site planning and analysis projects are less likely to be using 3D printing.
- Firms that are using emerging technologies are also much more likely to be using software outside of the traditional top products. Some noteworthy pieces of software that are especially highly correlated with emerging technologies are: Civil 3D, Revit, Rhino, 3ds Max, Grasshopper, Vray, and Lumion (although we see that firms that are interested in using these technologies also have high correlation with using Lumion). These firms are also more likely to report that they are using Revit because they need it to collaborate.
At the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego this November, the Digital Technology PPN leadership team is partnering with the Education & Practice PPN to share and discuss these survey results during their joint meeting:
Digital Technology / Education & Practice PPN Meeting
Sunday, November 17, 12:45 – 1:45 pm
1.0 PDH, LA CES / HSW
Location: PPN Live on the EXPO floor
Technological advances in design software have opened exciting new avenues to design exploration. What technologies are being taught in academia and what technologies are most important to practitioners? Gain a holistic understanding of the current state of software usage in practice and academia through the results of two recent studies.
- John Anderson, ASLA, LEED AP, Schirmer Satre Group
- Benjamin George, ASLA, Utah State University
- Peter Summerlin, ASLA, Mississippi State University
- Matthew Wilkins, ASLA, PLA, RRM Design Group