Creativity through collaboration

When architect Dan Meis decided to give every employee in his office iPhone, he noticed an immediate difference.

“Because our firm is global—we have offices all over the world, and we’re doing work all over the world—accessibility tends to become a 24/7 issue,” he says. But before his staff had iPhone, he couldn’t always reach them. Some had cell phones; almost nobody had mobile email; and most employees preferred not to be reached after hours.

iPhone is different. “There is something about it that doesn’t make people feel tethered to a desk, yet they’re connected 24/7,” Meis “And that connection for me is a huge advantage, because it allows me to leverage myself far beyond what I can do. Now I have 20 people working and not feeling like they’re toiling. And I get instant access to all that talent.”

Working connected
A couple of years ago, fellow architect Michael Sedlacek and Meis merged his MEIS Architects firm with Aedas, a global architectural firm to form Aedas Sport. Together, as they’ve grown, they’ve observed how iPhone has shaped their culture.

At Aedas, designers and architects work in an almost continuous stream of communication, snapping images of designs, models, and construction sites with the camera on iPhone and then sending those photos—along with emails, text messages, and documents—around the office. It’s a highly collaborative process, enabled by iPhone.

“Once you get a new employee an iPhone, they are in” Sedlacek says. “They’re connected.” And that connection has spiked productivity—by as much as 400%, Meis estimates. Now, every new hire at Aedas’s L.A. office is outfitted with iPhone. “We couldn’t imagine letting people work without it,” Meis says. “Because that would mean they were’t connected to us. And ultimately, that would cost the business money, far more than the cost of a phone.”

Building with pictures
For Meis and Sedlacek, what began as a communication tool quickly became an important means of documentation. On airplanes, Meis sketches on napkins, takes a photo with iPhone, and emails it to the office. So it becomes a default scanner and an instant digital image.

Sedlacek documents construction with iPhone. “Say I’m on a site, taking photos,” he says.“The next day a contractor calls and asks, ‘How do you want this corner?’ I go back and check the photos.”

And designer Xan Young uses iPhone to capture stages of conceptual development. “Recently, we had a 12-hour meeting with clients from Bahrain,” she says. “And we went through maybe 25 different schemes, moving blocks around. At every interval I took a picture with my iPhone. So at the end of the day, we had a record.”

A surprising marketing tool
After their first year in business, Sedlacek and Young surprised the office with a special gift—a photo book documenting their first year in business. The images in the book, taken with iPhone, captured the inspiring story of an architectural firm getting its legs. The employees loved it, and, surprisingly, so did clients.

The book wouldn’t have happened without iPhone. The built-in camera made the development of a vast archive of visual assets possible—without planning or extra effort. Now, Aedas sends the book to all prospective clients, giving them an inside look at the talent and creativity in the firm.

That’s not the only way iPhone has helped Meis distinguish his company. Because of iPhone, clients see Aedas as different. â“I was just in a meeting in Bahrain, and I was the only one in the room with iPhone. The clients saw us as more creative because of the tools we were using.” And that, Meis says, helps him win business in a tough economy. “There are only a few projects out there going forward right now. So looking different is very important.”

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