Poor Communication Is Costing You More Than You Realize – Part 2


After laughing at the cartoon above I want to consider why we laugh. Do we laugh because this is far from reality? Do we laugh because this is how our competitor operates? Or do we laugh because this is capturing a truth that speaks to the difficulty of every project? I have to go with the latter. Every human relationship involved two or more parties. The difficulties presented in this cartoon are going to be present to one degree or another in every project because they involve more than one person.

What is missing? Communication of course. The answer is simple but the solution isn’t always easy.

As an offsite design company, Gould Design, Inc. is even more removed, not just from our client, but from their client! So how do we ensure that the service we offer meets and exceeds everyone’s expectations? We start by defining those expectations.

Defining Expectations

How do we solve this dilemma? At Gould Design, Inc. we have a thorough client startup process with the goal of determining exactly how this particular client designs and builds their manufactured products.

We have developed an outline for asking questions so that we don’t miss anything. We dig past the surface to capture design practices and standards that are more nuanced. For instance, say a client uses the “California Hip” method for their hipsets. Is that all we need to know? No.

Many more questions need to be addressed:

  • How do they do corners?
  • Do they stack the rafters?
  • Do they use a single rafter with an end jack or two supporting the rafter? (Click here for an article on this)
  • Do they use corner girders?
  • Do they include loose material for partial hips?

You see; if we stopped at “California Hipset” we would be shooting in the dark when it came to the design.

So, we establish a benchmark:

  • Settings used by in-house designers
  • Inventory; lumber, plates, hangers, LVL’s, EWP lumber, etc.
  • Hip style used; California, Stepdown, Atlantic, etc.,
  • Typical setbacks (preferred)
  • Typical loading and deflection rules.
  • Layout presentation
  • Web optimization and configurations
  • Bracing rules
  • Et cetera (I could go on, but want to be under 1000 words!)

After capturing this (and more) information, we compile it into that client’s design practices and standards. (Click here for an article on this)

Honing the Defined Expectations

Once we have our draft we immediately start designing, right? No, that would still give us results like the cartoon above. Instead, we send the draft to our client for review. What are we doing here? We are taking what they say they want, putting it down on paper and adding some pictures which gets us to 90-95% complete, then we hold it up and say, “Is this what you want”?

The client can then look it over and start redlining, “It’s close, but we don’t do our webbing like this, we run the webs this way” or “I think you misunderstood me here, what I want is…” or “This detail reminds me about something else we do that I forgot to tell you”. You see now we are moving away from the cartoon being a reality and the client actually getting what they wanted.


It is much simpler to refine a criteria when most of it is complete which allows you to hone in on those more pesky details that would otherwise remain unnoticed (until we started designing jobs, then they pop up and hit you between the eyes). Once we make those changes, we send the criteria one more time and if all is well it becomes the official design criteria for that client.

What Does This Mean For You?

Seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? There is no denying that communication takes real and qualitative effort, but it is well worth the time and cost. It prepares the business relationship for fruitful collaboration on many projects going forward, it helps reduce calls to you as the client on design practices and standards because we already had the conversation. When the proper groundwork is laid, we become an effective extension of your design staff allowing you to generate more bids and produce more trusses.

With nearly 200 clients GDI has worked with over the years, how many do you think have been able to give us this information? 75%? 50%? 25%? Wrong, wrong and wrong. Try 2. No, not 2%, a total of 2 (two). Somehow, they want you to produce as they expect without telling you what that is. In other words, every person in the office is doing it different from the next and that’s ok. Yet management wonders why their margins remain inconsistent. Mind boggling!

If you are not one of those 2 that had all their information on paper, we can help. Contact us today so we can help you company become more consistent and profitable. If you don’t want to use GDI as a design service, that’s ok. At least let us help you put your design requirements on paper for your internal staff to use. For a flat fee, GDI will do this for you and give you the means to continually update it on your own.

With nearly 300 years combined experience, our team of professionals can also be of service to you by coming to your location for an Efficiency Consultation. GDI can also provide Professional Development training of your staff (in-house or remotely). With over a decade as an independent design firm and with experience in nearly every region in North America, you can reap maximum benefits by utilizing an unbiased, impartial source that has its focus on what’s most important in your business…Communication!

Are you ready to start the communication with Gould Design, Inc.?

Read Part 1 in this series here.

Poor Communication Is Costing You More Than You Realize – Part 1

Communication. This one single word touches every part of our lives, business or pleasure. With interpersonal relationships, it is essential that communication be above par. Communication is a make or break in any business. Most people take those simple, yet profound ideas for granted. And it costs them. BIG.


Communication does not have to be complex to be effective. In fact, the simpler it is and the more transparent it becomes, the more effective and long-lasting the results are. Indeed, in this day and age of technology, we think we know about communication. But do we? Or have we only scratched the surface?

Here at Gould Design, Inc. we effectively communicate by using a peer mentoring system so that any team member can ask for a solution at any time. Maybe it is a common problem. Maybe it’s not. Either way, the issue can be resolved efficiently and in a timely manner. After all, none of our customers send us anything easy, why should our problems be any different! We threw away the “cookie cutters” long ago. With the method we employ, every person has access to every solution to every problem ever encountered. The benefits here are incredible for fostering growth through  experience.

How it works

Initially, each team member is assigned a mentor. The mentor guides the mentee along the path of success. Sometimes that path has bumps or roadblocks and there are questions that need additional assistance to be answered properly. The answer from the question at hand could be from that designer’s own mentor that was assigned or it could be an open query so any of the available colleagues can help. Not everyone has seen everything that may come up, so it is important that our team of remote designers have access to all team members that work in different locations than they do. GDI uses Skype to accomplish this.

What we do here at GDI is use group windows for certain talking points. There is a main group window where all team members can converse about any subject (and where we encourage the most activity). Then there are separate windows associated to each account where questions are posted for individuals that relate specifically to that particular account. For those questions that are account-specific, they are posted there.

By attacking the problem this way, every person has access to every solution to every problem EVER encountered.

Additionally, if the problem is encountered again down the road, that person can search for the words and locate it quickly without involving anyone else again or taking up their time. Talk about efficiency! I dare you to try it.

This is a very enriching system. Why? Because designers not involved in that particular problem can proactively learn and be aware of ways to deal with these types of issues even before they face them. Our team, many of which have never met each other, communicate better in most cases than people sitting next to each other all day. This simple discipline has caused our team to grow their own skill set faster and more economically than I can put into words.

By utilizing this type of communication, each and every person on the team has the answers to each and every problem that arises. Some they already know about, some they have never seen before. Some say that failure is the best teacher. Others say that it is experience. GDI says: Why must failure be a part of the equation?

What failure means








How else does a “junior” designer learn other than training, experience or failure?


Well, for GDI, failure is not an option, so we enhance the training experience!

This day and age, we have so many abundant resources available to us. More so than at any other time in history! So why not use them? Why would a company specifically train each and every person on the same thing over and over again if they could do it one time, for one cost, and have the training available at any time the trainee needs to access it down the road? It just doesn’t make sense. What makes even less sense is that there is no training at all and the repercussions that come from dissatisfied customers. I won’t even go into detail about the lost revenue…

Applying communication in real life

Have you ever considered your company’s contingency plan for production in the event of a disaster?

Consider this: The Florida market didn’t concern itself with updating the Building Codes until after the 2004 Hurricane Season. The devastation in the wake of successive hurricanes was incredible. If you lived somewhere else in 2004, you were lucky! Well, I did not. I lived in South Florida at the time.

After all was said and done, it was apparent that the Florida Building Code (FBC) needed some more attention. There was so much destruction and failed building structures, it was simply heartbreaking. Today, the FBC is the most stringent in the United States. Did you know that Florida is the ONLY state that has its own building code?

Here’s what happened in 2004 for those that may have forgotten:

Charley hit Aug. 13, 2004 on Florida’s west coast. Click here for a video of news footage.


Frances hit Sept. 5, 2004 on Florida’s east coast. Click here for a video.


Jeanne hit Sept. 26, 2004, with only an 11 mile difference from exact location of each storms center where Francis made land fall. Click here for a video of news footage.


These storms hit the coast of Florida within 3 weeks of each other, with such ferocity that power outages lasted for weeks and some areas up to months.


Is this what you want for your business? One disaster after another? This is what poor communication is doing to your company.

In the truss business, design and shop production came to screeching halt. Completely! Resources become scarce. Hundreds of thousands of people were competing for the same needs.  How valuable do alternative solutions start to become. Some companies had to travel out of state for any viable type of resource from basic needs of food and water, to specialty items such as generators to power their homes.

If this happened to your company, how would you survive? Would your company be able to “weather” the storm? Sure, you say, that’s what the insurance companies are for. But what about those unfortunate folks that did not have any insurance?

That’s what GDI is here for. We’re the type of insurance you pay when you need us, not just because you must have it for some reason or another. But if you don’t get your “policy” in order and in place before you need it, it will not be available when you need it, right?

Why consider using GDI to help?

Are your company’s salesmen holding back on for any of the following reasons?

  • Design department overwhelmed with work Load?
  • Timelines are beyond comfort level.
  • Experienced designers hard to find and could come at the expense of a recruiter.
  • Bottle neck of completed design to overwhelm production facility.
  • Lack of qualified design employees to handle the type of jobs that the salesman could bring in.
  • Builders in too much of a hurry to fast-track jobs, with project documents that lack information.

Perhaps communication can help. All great endeavors have a back-up plan. Consider having an additional resource to handle the spikes in your workflow should be an agenda item at your company’s next planning meeting. After all, would you like to communicate to other drivers or to your lender that you do not have any insurance? What do you think their response would be?

I am not sure that any insurance company will pay out a claim on a policy that was never implemented or on an overdue premium. Isn’t it worth communicating the importance of having a little insurance for your company?

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series when we dig a bit deeper and put things in a different perspective.

Construction Terminology Tools for Training Junior Component Designers

Here at Gould Design, Inc., we are firm believers in Professional Development and efficiency training to enhance each designer’s experience level and help each individual to reach their potential. As a company, we have spent tens of thousands of dollars, year after year, to produce effective and high-quality training tools.

Having perfected many of these tools through combined experience and a humble dose of trial and error, the time has come for GDI to offer them to the public.

The one I want to highlight in this article is Construction Terminology. Our staff has taken the time and made the effort to put together a comprehensive terminology glossary with pictures and definitions for each of the following categories:

  • Code/Legal Terms
  • Foundation
  • Plans/Documents
  • Truss
  • Walls
  • Wood & Building Materials

Combined, these six items relating to terminology are over 400 comprehensive pagesthat include title, description and a picture reference as shown in the sample below from Code/Legal Terms:


Each of the six categories focus on one area and can be a great learning tool for those new to design or those looking to “fine-tune” their skills. They may even prove to be an affordable tool that is beneficial to experienced veterans looking for a “tune-up”, or to continue their growth into other areas of component design.

We want to offer these tools to anyone interested for an inexpensive flat rate as follows:

  • Any 1 (one) subject = $24.95 (pdf format) or $49.95 (PowerPoint format)
  • All 6 (six) subjects = $109.95 (pdf) or $229.95 (PowerPoint format)

We also have compiled a similar type of tool for the varying types of hip end conditions (Atlantic, California, Midwest, Stepdown, etc.), but more on that in a future article.

Please email us at admin@goulddesigninc.com to place your order or with any questions you have.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and live up to our Vision Statement!


Drag Trusses: What Are They? Why Are They Required?

Drag Trusses: What Are They? Why Are They Required?

Let’s start with the definition of a drag truss according to the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA):

Drag Truss: “A truss or trusses designed to assist in resisting the effects of seismic events by acting as a drag strut. This drag strut, drag truss or collector is a single element or component designed to transmit lateral loads to lateral load resisting systems that are parallel to the applied force.”


Wind and earthquake forces place loads on a structure that must be considered. Building Designers will call out “drag trusses” or “collector trusses” to be installed to help resist these loads. For those of you not familiar with this type of truss, this article will help you to understand how this works.

As component designers, we lovingly call these loads that are applied “drag loads” in the MiTek software.

As MiTek’s guide for applying drag loading states: “While the application of wind and earthquake loads is very different when it comes to truss designs, they both are designed as if they are horizontally applied to the structure when considering the overall resisting system.” 

As you can see in the picture below, the building designers has placed drag trusses as several locations to “square off” the building and transfer loads from one wall to another. This is done by aligning trusses perpendicular to walls and applying a load that is then transferred through the truss.


Why are drag trusses necessary?

MiTek’s guide goes on to state: “Wind loads develop pressure on the wall and roof elements. The magnitude of this pressure is proportional to the square of the wind speed. Earthquake loads create ground movements and the structure within the specific earthquake zone must be able to withstand the lateral accelerations caused by these movements. Both wind and earthquakes create powerful torsional forces within the structure what can shear a building apart. Wall, floor and roof systems must be designed to resist these lateral forces in addition to supporting vertical loads. In accordance with ASCE 7, a Drag Strut is a structural element (could be a truss) installed parallel to an applied load that collects and transfers diaphragm shear forces to the vertical-force-resisting element or distributes forces within the diaphragm or shear wall. Properly designed drag strut trusses, shear walls or roof diaphragms and their connections will transfer lateral loads to the foundation and then safely into the ground.

The truss is then connected to the building structure using a special connector, like the one shown here, a Simpson DSC.


Applying drag loads in MiTek

Using MiTek, application of the loads is simple. Click here for a detailed, downloadable pdf guide on how to input them into MiTek.

It has been my experience that:

  • Drag loads are very much misunderstood outside of a seismic region
  • Drag trusses are not used in high wind zones and, if they were, could prevent some of the failures that happen when a hurricane or other wind storm makes landfall
  • Truss designers are given very little, if any, training to fully understand just how critical they are to a structure’s stability

In reality, all load bearing walls are “shear walls”, whether we call them that or not. But we will save that for another article…

Why is it that only the seismic regions use drag trusses? Why aren’t drag trusses and shear panels used everywhere?

Tedious (And Sometimes Insane) Design: Attic Bonus Rooms

Tedious (And Sometimes Insane) Design: Attic Bonus Rooms

Truss designing can be a relatively tedious job, day-in and day-out designing buildings that may just seem to have the same conditions from job-to-job. Surely, house designs can and do differ, but at the end of the day, a hip roof is a hip roof; a gable is a gable; a coffered ceiling is a coffered ceiling. Rarely, an architect comes up with some off-the-wall idea to tier a tray and then coffer ceiling, or a vaulted ceiling with a coffer. This does not mean that architects do not constantly push the physical limitation boundaries of wood plated trusses with a wild promised dream to a client; it just means they are not reinventing the wheel.

Most commonly, I have noticed on several of the high-end homes I designed trusses on, lean towards a higher ceiling and then the builder framing down coffers below the plate height. From an efficiency point, nothing beats having trusses with all flat bottoms. I am thinking the same thing right now, “Can I have some cake with that,” and “where does the physical limitation boundary pushing come from with a flat bottom chord?”

A personal favorite of mine, the bonus room truss. Something that seems so harmless, but can cause such a headache!

Is the pitch steep enough that we can achieve a desirable head height?


(Bonus room with a 12/12 pitch, too tall to ship without a piggyback, but still too tall to piggyback above the collar tie. Instead, we split the truss into two and tail bear the upper on the room walls.)

Is there enough width to provide a cozy room size?


(Maybe not the largest room, but for a 50’+ truss, with a coffer and bonus room, it looks cool!)

Is there a dormer or a deck coming out of the bonus room?


(We have a cantilever deck, coming out of the bonus room. 44’ Main span, split into 3 spans plus piggybacks to accomplish this goal.)

Do they need an elevator recess built in?


Just some of the questions I am sure the architect thinks of while talking with the client. Nevertheless, some questions the architect may not consider, truss-shipping height, tying in that cantilevered deck, or span-to-depth ratio. When designing a house with a bonus room or multiple bonus rooms, tedious task goes out the window and it becomes a “truss-design” obsession that sometimes requires a couple of Excedrin to finish the endeavor.

What types of things have you seen with bonus rooms?

Neil Laporte – Project Manager

Gould Design, Inc.

Tricks of the Trade: Hip Rafters

Tricks of the Trade: Hip Rafters

One way I try to continue to grow as a designer is by observing my employer, co-workers, and my clients. In order to constantly learn, I must continually ask myself the following questions:

  • How do they design their projects?
  • What method do they use for time-saving shortcuts?
  • How do they arrange their days to maximize productivity?
  • How do they tackle with various problems that come up?

There isn’t a handbook that covers every single problem we might run into, so it’s important to take what we know and apply it with creative solutions.

At Gould Design, Inc. we are an extension of our clients’ design team in every possible way. As such, we must be able to adopt the design style of that particular team so that there isn’t a variance between our work and that of the in-house design staff. We simply cannot allow either the shop or the end-customer to be able to see the difference in our designs. There are often multiple ways to “skin a cat” and today I want to tell you about one I learned recently that I really like.

On California hip sets, the hipmaster or #1 hip is setback 6′ or 8′ from the wall edge (in most applications). Some kind of corner rafter is typically used, either stacked or a single rafter or a diagonal hip girder. This particular client uses a single rafter which at first glance it would seem like we would be asking for deflection troubles. The first image shows our typical California hip set with our main focus being on R01 and J02.


Here is J02 as it comes in by default:


The R01 is a single 2×4 Corner Rafter and clear spans (from the wall to the hipmaster) and supporting the top chords of J01, J02, J11, and J12. We can see that we are having issues with deflection:


The solution is as simple as this. We will first remove the bearing from the top chord of J2 that is being applied to the corner rafter. I like to do this in MiTek Sapphire before importing the truss.


We’ve adjusted J02 to remove the bearing condition at the end of the top chord. We’ve added a diagonal web with a level “seat” cut to support the corner rafter and added a point load for the corner rafter.


Finally, we manually add the bearing that J02 now provides the corner rafter. It runs just fine. The point load being shown is just from J12, as J02 is now supporting the rafter.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this creative approach at solving this particular problem. How do you all handle corner rafter deflection issues?

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.

The (Unfortunately) Never-Ending Plight of the Truss and Panel Industry

The (Unfortunately) Never-Ending Plight of the Truss & Panel Industry

In construction, many different skill sets are required. Builders, roofers, designers, engineers, and etcetera come together to form a cohesive finished product. Whenever people from different factions come together on a project, there are challenges that must be overcome. Communication is key; however, the concept of give and take isn’t without it’s merit. Every group has their niche to fill, each of equal importance to the end result. Unfortunately, the importance of the integrity of one group to another gets hazy when it comes down to the “all-mighty dollar”. Greed and disrespect can sometimes create a hostile atmosphere while doing business in the construction world. Component manufacturers are usually left take the brunt of the hostility in their professional dealings due to the fact that they supply a pre-fabricated product.

To get a feeling for just how far this goes, please take the time to view the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiNDXvNCzY0. Pay attention to the dynamic between the two parties. Take note of how far each side is willing to go and where there allegiances lie. Take note of the integrity of each party.


Throughout the scenario presented in the video, the truss & panel industry is represented by “Mr. Non-Profit Lumber” (Mr. NPL). The first thing Mr. NPL heard was “Go Away!” Generally speaking, acquiring a new customer can be much the same way. Resilience is a required quality. Like Mr. NPL, the component manufacturer tries again and again by offering a bid or price quote. At this point the customer may reconsider. Though “Mr. Builder” (Mr. B) did just that, his list of stipulations was appalling. So much so, in fact, that during my first viewing of this video, laughter was rendered as this scenario was perceived to be a cynical and cheeky joke. However, when Mr. NPL said that he wanted to make a commission and his request was declined, the reality of the situation set in.

Mr. B goes on to say that not only will he not pay Mr. NPL a commission but that his intentions are to backcharge Mr. NPL. Truss designers assume a great degree of responsibility. We are tasked with catching architectural mistakes, pre-planning the build, and accounting for cost efficiency all while satisfying the demands of both the homeowner and their customer. Back charges, late payments, and fruitless labor were guaranteed by the customer in the video. Mr. NPL’s response was grateful in nature. Because the truss design industry accepts so much responsibility, we humbly appreciate the terms in a very similar fashion. We drive ourselves to perfection and attempt to cover any potential hiccups that may occur should a build commence. We look out for the architect, the manufacturer, the builder, and the customer. We strive to avoid back charges through precision. But who looks out for us?


The aforementioned late payments are a constant battle. There is a bit of a double standard in the area of payment. The customer creates a due date for the truss design. The component manufacturer strives to meet the deadline and resolve all the issues that may be present. However, it seems that once the product has been exchanged, the payment for services rendered isn’t quite as urgent as the due date the customer proposed. Still, the truss industry remains patient and considerate.

During the second session of demands, Mr. B is basically asking Mr. NPL to do the job without actually giving it to him. Mr. NPL is asked to put in the time and money as if though the job was his and still advised that he wouldn’t be paid for his efforts. For component manufacturers, this is called a bid or quote. Time is spent doing the leg work, knowing that there is a possibility that the job will be under-bid and be lost altogether. How many times have you been asked to match a competitor’s layout? Like Mr. NPL, again we agree to the terms.

The word “customer” has been used extensively up to this point. There is purpose in this action. According to Merriam-Webster, a customer is “someone who buys goods or services from a business”. Mr. B asks for customer treatment without being a customer. Mr. NPL concedes to putting himself out more by including all of Mr. B’s employees in a “customer” dining event and providing a vacation for Mr. B via a trip to a trade show, though Mr. B is not a customer. Another request for commission is declined. Greed and disrespect are very evident at this point. Integrity and maturity are absent. Win-Win is nowhere to be seen. Win-Lose is in full effect. As Dr. Covey relates in Habit 4:


By this point, the apparent “customer” has revealed their true colors and has exploited every angle of this transaction. Mr. NPL is still agreeing to the requests even though they are multiplying like crazy and remains willing to do the job even though his actions aren’t reciprocated.

The truss industry exhibits the same type of commitment as Mr. NPL!!! Truss companies and design firms go to trade shows, industry events and conventions where they try to strengthen and build relationships, hoping to drum up new business. We wine and dine potential and current customers, hoping to obtain or maintain their loyalties. We remain kind and thankful to the customer throughout the transaction, regardless of our potential for loss. It is difficult to get ahead in a reality like this, but the truss industry continues to thrive. We take care of our responsibility and compensate in any way possible. We provide a valuable service and we stand by our product. We have integrity.

Conclusively, we need to collectively grow a backbone. Just kidding! In reality, people just need to learn to treat each other better. They need to practice Habit 4. Don’t expect something for nothing. There is no need to gain at the expense of others. The component manufacturing industry will soldier on this way without too much complaint, but try to imagine how far we would get if we amicably sought the same goals. The sky would be the limit!!

How have you handled this experience in your profession? Please leave your comments below.

Go for the GOLD!

Go for the GOLD!


The 31st Summer Olympic Games have come to a close.  I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of the Olympic Games.  I have always enjoyed watching both the summer and winter games.  I believe the first one I really remember and paid attention to were the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY (OK – dating myself a bit here). This was the games that included the “Miracle on Ice” US men’s hockey team gold medal victory.  That may have started my interest in the games – not sure – but it was something about the Olympics that made me look forward to the next time the games would roll around.

What are some things that we can learn from watching the games and how can that can translate to everyday life for those of us that are not Olympic athletes?

Being successful takes time and effort

The athletes that you see performing in the games make things look easy. I’m amazed at watching sports like gymnastics where you see athletes flying through air, twisting and flipping and landing perfectly.  And in some cases, they are doing this while on a 4” wide balance beam.  You see athletes like Michal Phelps who has amassed a record 28 Olympic swimming medals over the 5 games that he has completed in.  Truly amazing to be able to compete and win at that level for all those years.


But what people don’t see is the hard work and sacrifice that is required to be able to accomplish these feats. The amount of time they dedicate on the track, in the gym or in the pool is amazing.  And the sacrifices that they make to get to this level can be significant.

This is not only true for athletes, but for anyone that wants to be successful and perform at a high level in whatever endeavors they pursue.  You see people who have achieved a certain level of success.  What you don’t see are the long hours, sacrifices and dedication to get there  (See 2 of our blog articles on hard work  here and here).  You may have heard about the 10,000 hour rule.  That it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to achieve mastery in a field.  Whether that is true or not is a discussion for another time.  Either way, there is effort and time required to become proficient and successful.

Pain is temporary………Gold is forever

Sports can be grueling, testing your physical and mental toughness. Athletes push themselves to the limit to get to the finish line.  The pain they feel is nothing compared to the feeling of achieving their goals and winning an Olympic medal.

I have run a few mini-marathons in my day. Certainly not trying to compare myself to an Olympic athlete, but nonetheless, the experience of going through the training and having that goal in mind of getting to the finish line was rewarding.  Those last few miles of each race were tough, but I did my best to push through and get to the end.  The feeling of seeing the finish line, people cheering you on and finally crossing the line is something that I will always remember.  And I did get a medal too (everyone gets a medal J)  I can look at those medals as a reminder of what it took to get them and know that the journey to get them was worth it.

Life a can be challenging. Everyone goes through “stuff” (fell free to add your own four letter word here).  Can you push through the pain to get to the other side?  Can you see the finish line?  That is a question that everyone needs to ask themselves.  There will be hard times along the road, but we hope that we get to where we want to be, thru it all, and get our medal in the end.

When you fail………keep striving to reach your goal

One of things I enjoy most about the Olympics are the stories behind the athletes and their journey to get to the games. In particular, it’s the stories of athletes who have dedicated so much to get to the Olympics and have high expectations of getting on the medal stand, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t happen.  They fail.  You see the anguish and pain on their face and the realization that their dreams have been shattered and knowing that it will be another four years before they can even have a chance to try again.  Yet they take their failure and disappointment and focus it on getting back to the games to try again.  And then to see those athletes return and able to deliver and reach their goal of a medal in the Olympics is just great see.  You can see the complete joy and relief and satisfaction that their hard work has paid off.

One story that comes to mind is Dan Jansen, a speed skater for the US.  His first Olympics were the 1984 games as an 18 year old.  He narrowly missed a bronze in the 500m and his Olympic career looked to be very promising for future games.  Dan came to the 1988 winter games as a favorite in both the 500 and 1000m. Early in the morning on the day of the 500m he was informed that his sister had passed away after a battle with leukemia.  After his mother urged him to compete in the 500m, Dan would fall in the first turn and not finish.  He would also fall in the 1000m.  Four years later in the 1992 games Dan would again come to the games as a favorite.  He had been performing well in World Championships and setting records.  The games would prove to be a disappointment, finishing 4th in the 500m and 26th in the 1000m.  The next games would held in 1994 due to a change by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to allow for a winter or summer games to occur every two years.   So this was Dan’s last chance to finally get the Olympic medal that he had been striving for all these years.  During his first race, the 500m, he had a slight slip which caused him to touch the ice and, therefore, deny him a medal.  It all came down to the 1000m.  Dan got out to a world record pace through 600m.  Despite a small slip during the race, Dan would finish the race with a world record time and secure the gold medal.  Truly an amazing journey of accomplishment, disappointment, failure, determination, hard work, sacrifice and a will to succeed.

There are going to be times in your life that you may fail or get knocked down. It is what we do after that which will make a difference in our lives.  Do you quit or do you continue towards your goal like Dan Jansen?


Whether you are an Olympic fan or not, I hope you can find some benefit from what I have gleaned from watching the games over the years. I hope you can take some of these points and go for your own personal GOLD!!

Bill Hoover – Design Manager

Gould Design, Inc.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 4)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 4)

In the last few articles, we have investigated the ideal uses for 4k monitors and how to decide if they are appropriate for you or not. We also made a distinction between monitor resolution and monitor size, which often trips folks up.  Today we’ll make a few more subtle distinctions in the hope of setting you up for an equipment purchase (or perhaps purchases!) that you won’t regret.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Color gamut


Different brands & models of monitor use panel technologies which vary in the way they represent color.  It doesn’t seem like color reproduction would be of importance to a truss designer, as opposed to, say a photographer or a graphics professional.  We are judging quantitative data on our screens, not qualitative appearance; yet take a quick look at the comparison between two panel technologies shown above, and decide which would be more pleasant for you to gaze into for upwards of 8 hours per day, 5 days a week – the majority of your waking hours?

The most inexpensive panels, known as “TN” technology (shown on the right), tend to have a narrow color gamut, or range of depth, between bright and dark.  These are the favorite of management, as they can be had in large screen sizes at low prices.  The most expensive are “IPS” panels favored by digital photographers, shown on the left.  In the middle are a variety of “VA” panel types, such as MVA; these are not favored by gamers as they don’t have the lightning-fast response time that video games require – but the colors are lovely and rich, roughly on par with an IPS panel – and are easier on the wallet than IPS. VA panels are recommended for truss designers.

The gamut shown by these panels are typically expressed as a percentage of the “Adobe RGB” theoretical color spectrum.  When comparing two monitor models, say, from two comparable manufacturers, try to choose the one with the highest percentage rating of the Adobe RGB color space.

Brightness & Contrast

It is also worth comparing monitor models based on the number of brightness nits they can reproduce.  A high contrast ratio will allow you to control the darkness of your black levels, and whiteness of your whites, relative to each other.  Particularly if you are in a very bright or well-lit office, a bright monitor will allow you to bring the screen brightness up to the level of ambient light in the room.

Similar screen size

Unless you can convince your IT department to completely replace all your monitors at once, it is common to end up with a mismatched assortment of screen sizes. If your coworker quits and you inherit a 27” monitor, matched with the 30” you already have, and in the interest of gaining more screen real estate you add the 22” that was gathering dust in the back of the stock room, you may think you have achieved a sort of nirvana, with more pixels on your desk than you ever thought possible!

But not so fast; as you move your mouse around in your new digital playground you become irritated at the awkward transition of the cursor between the upper edge of the tiny monitor – the short one – and the upper edge of your 27” monitor, which will be proportionally higher up in your field of view. If the two are mismatched in resolution, you now find the mouse even more unpredictable as the difference in pixel density between the two will mean that the top of one screen might only correspond with the middle of the next screen, making it quite frustrating to navigate quickly from one screen to the next, say, to change a “Yes” tally to “No” in the Properties menu.  Love for all your screen real estate quickly morphs into a game of ‘whack-a-cursor’ where you dread moving from one screen to the next, lest you have to motorboat your mouse around on the desk in giant, overstated circles, just trying to locate the cursor on a monitor, any monitor!  Upgrading one of the monitors to 4k resolution exacerbates this problem to the extreme, as the 4k engulfs the resolution of the smaller HD monitor by a factor of four; the smaller one always will feel out of balance.

So, I recommend if at all possible, try to at least keep the physical size of your main monitors equal, if not the resolution.  Maintaining alignment between the upper and lower margins of your screen will at least keep the cursor roughly aligned at the mid-point as it jumps from one monitor to the next, thus saving you from having your concentration broken perhaps five hundred times a day; and we all know the importance of maintaining concentration!

Mouse velocity

Along these lines, a caveat to weigh carefully before purchasing a 4k monitor is the issue of mouse velocity.  Basically, your mouse and computer currently have a setting where a one-inch movement of the mouse on your mousepad corresponds to a certain number of pixels on the screen; if you are using an old, large-ish monitor with low resolution (ie, with large individual pixels), the cursor will appear to move quite quickly across the screen.  But be aware that with the addition of a 4k monitor, after transitioning from the old screen to the new, that the cursor will all of a sudden appear to have donned a pair of lead shoes, slowing to a crawl across the 4k landscape.

When I first worked with a high-definition monitor, my mouse settings were such that occasionally I had to physically pick up my mouse and make several “swipes” of it across the desktop to traverse from one border of the screen to another. This can be quite annoying, and is an ergonomic price paid for commanding such an incredible number of pixels in one screen.  This is also the reason I did not recommend using a 4k monitor for tasks that require a constant stream of fast, cross-screen movements of the mouse, such as the Engineering software; the canvas at 4k resolution is simply so enormous that an expert user of Engineering will immediately to feel that he is swimming slowly against a tide of thick gravy.

As I became accustomed to the quirks of my 4k screen, I position it away from the center of my desk; it is now the outer monitor (on my left, as it happens), so as to be most convenient for reference to PDF plans, but clear of the “high speed traffic area” which is at the center of my vision.  I love the 4k screen for its density, its ability to present me with a phenomenal amount of visual information without panning or zooming; but the effect it has on my mouse velocity limits its use to information intake, rather than high-speed work.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Thanks for reading this series. I hope it has provided you with a few things to consider for your next monitor purchase from a design point of view. Please chime in below and leave some comments on how this may or may not affect your design efficiency.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 3)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 3)

The last 2 weeks we explained details and definitions of 4k monitors and introduced the idea for their use in component design. Before reading this week’s article, please click here to review Part 1 and here to review Part 2 in this series so that you can follow along in this article coherently.


Working Distance

We learned from the last installment in this series that not all truss design tasks are optimally suited for high-resolution monitors. We made a distinction between the resolution of the monitor, which is a literal count of the number of pixels built into the screen; and the size of the monitor, measured in inches.  I had suggested grouping a designers’ tasks into three categories, with the following recommended ideal monitor resolutions – of course, with design software other than MiTek, your mileage may vary:

  1. Plan reading – 4k. This would be for examining architectural or structural drawings, normally in PDF or CAD format.
  2. Layout – QHD or WQXGA. Something in the 2560×1600 neighborhood seems feels pretty natural for laying out a building’s worth of trusses
  3. Engineering – HD. A standard, inexpensive HD monitor seems to play pretty nicely with MiTek’s Engineering software.

We also learned that humans can only resolve a certain level of detail, and that with a good set of contact lenses or glasses your eyes will be ready to perform at their greatest potential, like they were looking at an optometrist’s chart on a far-away wall. When considering monitor resolution and visual resolution as two sides of the same coin, the new variable we will consider today is the working distance between your eyeballs and the center of each monitor that feels most comfortable to you.

While it may seem natural to jump to the question of “how large a monitor can I buy?” the truth is that working distance is a more important question to consider before going shopping for a new screen, because a high-resolution monitor won’t help you if you can’t visually take in that many tiny pixels from long distance.  Conversely, if you prefer to work close to a screen, a large monitor will actually work against you because it will take up a significant amount of real estate on your desk, requiring you to swivel your head around unnecessarily to view a second monitor – when a much smaller monitor at extremely high pixel density would be sufficient for your needs, assuming your eyesight is up to the task.

So take a moment to move backward and forward in your chair right now, and ask ourselves a few different questions:

  • First: quite subjectively, “Am I enjoying being this close, or this far, from my screen? Do I feel that this this is the best working distance?
  • Second: “Am I working at an uncomfortable distance because my desk is poorly designed, or a bad fit for my needs? Are the arms of my chair hitting the desk edge? Or is it that if I sit too far back I get glare from the window?” Etcetera. There are a multitude of reasons that we feel forced to sit in a non-optimal position in relation to the screens.
  • Third: “If I feel like I would prefer to be closer or farther from the screen, and nothing else seems to be stopping me, is it perhaps that the screen is too dark and dim or too bright to handle at that distance?”

Take the time to resolve any of these issues which might prevent you from working at a comfortable viewing distance. If your desk constrains you into working in an ineffective manner, stop now – put the funds you would have spent on a new monitor into a more flexible desk setup which gets your aligned more effectively with your screens.  We all like new electronics and a new desk may feel a bit dull, but truthfully, no replacement monitor will help you if the desk it sits on forces you to locate it in an awkward way – and larger monitors are even more unwieldy and hard to position than small ones.

Having settled our desk or workspace questions, we can now measure the distance that feels most comfortable to us. I like to hold a folding rule (remember those?) next to my skull and extend it straight out in line with my vision, measuring from a spot in the center of my monitor to a point on the rule which is exactly in line with my eye.  I find that 30” works pretty well for me; I don’t feel any significant ‘strain’ or tension in my eyes when I work at this distance for long hours.  Your results might be different.

Horizontal arc

Having settled on a working distance, we need to now settle on what I call, for lack of a better term, “horizontal arc”. This is a circle segment in which you should imagine yourself, more particularly your head, at the center.  Sitting in your desk chair, start by turning your head left and right; as you swing your head from side to side, find a maximum amount of “swiveling” in your neck that you feel comfortable with.  Some folks are fine with craning their neck every-which-way; others prefer to keep their heads absolutely still, or nearly still.  Keep in mind that a horizontal arc that initially feels comfortable might not feel so comfortable when you have to repeat this motion every five or seven seconds.

Next, without turning your head from side-to-side, simply look back and forth, trying to determine the area of your vision in which you are actually comfortable working. The portion of your vision which includes the highest density of optical receptors is actually rather modest, compared to your peripheral vision, and the boundary between the two is less of a dividing line and more of a long, smooth transition.  Think for a moment about where you want to effectively draw the line between your central (working) vision, and the more peripheral (useless, for our purposes) portion.

Now combine both motions, both turning your head and swiveling your eyes, not further than the limits you just set for yourself, for both.  This is your horizontal arc in which all important monitor information needs to be placed in order to be useful to you.

Monitor size

As you may have guessed, your correct monitor size is now one which, when placed next to your other monitors to create this rough semi-circle at the proper working distance, falls within your horizontal arc.  Experience has taught me that screen area which falls outside this area is almost useless to me; I cannot force myself to put important information in these areas, since my mind and body don’t want to look there.  As you might imagine, very large screens become difficult to fit into the horizontal arc, unless you are blessed with extraordinary eyesight and prefer a very large working distance – and have an enormously deep and wide desk surface to work with!

When shopping for monitors, look for the physical width of the screen you are considering purchasing; many monitors have a thick band (bezel) around the screen which adds bulk and takes up some of your horizontal arc. Also, realize that the listed size of a monitor is a diagonal dimension, measured from corner-to-corner.  Even with thick bezels, a 28” monitor might only take up 25” actual width.


To summarize, we have distanced ourselves from our screens as much as is comfortable, settled on a maximum horizontal “zone” in which we feel comfortable working, and divided up this zone into “segments” which each represent the maximum monitor size we can purchase.  For myself, I have found that two 32” monitors, with an additional 27-28” screen, maximizes my horizontal arc.  As you might imagine, the monitor I dedicate to plan reading is a 4k monitor, my layout monitor is WQXGA, and my Engineering monitor is HD, with the added bonus of touchscreen functionality.  So far this has been the most satisfactory combination of the many I’ve experimented with, and I would recommend it to anyone who had similar preferences.

The 4k resolution has been a worthy purchase – but with a few caveats, and in the final installment of this series, we will examine some monitor-related issues which should be thought through prior to purchasing a 4k monitor, a word about mouse movements, and some budget ideas for how cash-strapped design departments can cheaply outfit old PCs with a third monitor.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Stay tuned for Part 4, the final article in this series.

Has this brought to mind some new considerations for your desktop setup? Please leave your comments below.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 2)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 2)

Last week we explained details and definitions of 4k monitors and introduced the idea for their use in component design. Before reading this week’s article, please click here to review Part 1 in this series so that you can follow along in this article coherently.


Fact or Fiction?

One might infer that more information is always better than less, and that therefore the highest resolution possible should be used at all times. This is true in the abstract, but 3 (three) practical considerations cause us to reconsider:

  1. First, the human eye is only capable of capturing a certain level of detail. You’ve become aware of your natural limitations at an eye checkup, right? You know the one where the optometrist challenged you to read successively smaller lines of type on a distant wall. At a certain point you gave up; your eyes simply couldn’t resolve the optical detail of the tiny letters, so far away.
  2. Second, you only have one pair of eyes. Their health should be the deciding factor in the choice. Until you know the status of their health from a professional, the monitor choice should NOT be made. If your eyesight fails, you will be looking for a new line of work.
  3. Third, cost should not be the deciding factor. Can you put a monetary value on your eyesight? The deciding factor should be based around what is best for your eyesight.

A word from your optometrist

The place for any designer to start is actually with their eyesight. What good is a fine-pitched monitor if you can’t make out the details?  You may not have considered it lately, but when were your eyes last checked?  The American Optometric Association recommends that adults between the age of 19-60 get an examination every two years, and annually past age 61.

Your eyes are constantly changing, and each eye changes independent of the other. Since one eye is normally stronger than the other, constant and heavy workloads in front of a computer will not stress them both equally unless you have a proper prescription.

Once you are satisfied that your prescription is correct, or that your eyesight is satisfactory, I would highly encourage you to invest in quality eyewear, and to keep your glasses scrupulously clean and free from scratches.  If you wear contact lenses like some do, read the manufacturer’s instructions on your contact lens fluid and follow them to the letter.  Remember #2 above!

Contrary to common practice, you do not “clean” your contacts by simply storing them in saline! It is amazing how complacent some people are in this area. Buy high-quality name brand cleansing fluid and scrub/de-protein your lenses daily for the recommended amount of time.  Rinse them very thoroughly.  If you suffer from slightly red eyes at the end of the day, it may be time to re-examine your contact lens hygiene. You will find that “new lens” clarity of vision lasts a lot longer with each pair.

Task Categories that Factor in the Final Decision

For truss and panel designers, we have (3) fairly discrete categories of tasks which are best looked at individually:

1. Plan reading

Back in the “day”, some of us had the dubious honor of working off ARCH “D” sized building plans. These were commonly printed on a substance called “paper”, and in special cases of quasi-religious significance, on a vaguely disturbing substance called “vellum” which may or may not have involved the harming animals in manufacture.

These paper plans were not only large, they were sharp and easy to read. These were plotted at 300 dots per inch resolution.  If “dots” sounds like “pixels” to you, it should.  The entire architectural drafting industry was based off this size, and all modern CAD standards such as text size and scale of leader arrows are based off 24 x 36” drawings.  So in the interest of understanding the scope of the issue, let’s look at the effective resolution of a 24×36” sheet of paper:

24” x 36” x 300 dpi = 77,760,000 pixels

Yes, you read that right. 77.8 million pixels!  Let that sink in for a second.  The next time your nephew goes on excitedly about his new gaming “high definition monitor” at 2.1 million pixels, patiently explain to him that those old blueprints in the rack, the one with the rubber band around them, has his monitor beat by a multiplying factor of thirty-seven.

Of course times have changed, nobody wants to roll out a large set of plans, or turn the pages (how annoying was that?), not to mention store them.  What we want, what we need, is a monitor up to the task of replacing these plans and doing the same job, preferably better, because, well, technology demands it, right?

If you took a sneak peek back at the first chart showing monitor resolutions, you may have been a little disheartened.  Because truthfully, nothing will ever compete with a good plotted set of plans for communicating written information.  They simply are the best.  But it should be clear that for plan reading purposes, a monitor should be the highest resolution you can possibly afford, and that your graphics card can handle without physically melting.

2. Layout

Whatever your choice of truss software, a truss or panel layout can become a very complex drawing, with lots of detail to keep an eye on (pardon the pun). As a proportion of a 24×36” set of plans, I estimate that a proper commercial-scale truss layout might incorporate perhaps half the detail of a dense, 1/8” = 1-0” architectural drawing.  After some experimentation, I believe that at double the resolution of HD, a solid QHD or WQXGA monitor at 2560 x 1440 or 2560 x 1600 resolution is probably your best bet for this task (see note about Mouse Velocity in Part 3).

3. Engineering

Under the current MiTek regime, the truss design software package is pretty well optimized for an HD resolution monitor.  There is a tiny fraction of information presented by the Engineering software, compared with the detail on an architectural plan.  Unless you change the display settings to display dimensions at insanely small size, there is probably no need for a resolution higher than HD.  If the option is available, I would highly recommend the slight upgrade to 1920 x 1200 which affords a little more vertical height but can be resolved by most commonly available (inexpensive) graphics cards.  In fact, you may find that your speed may actually be hindered by an unnecessarily high-resolution monitor in this application, for reasons which we will explore next time in Part 3.

When we publish Part 3 next week, we will give you things to consider from a totally different viewpoint.

Read Part 1 here.

Please leave your comments below.

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)

4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)


The last five years have been very, very good times for anyone interested in flat-screen computer monitors. If you are a truss designer interested in gaining maximum, military-general style visibility into all the inner workings of your computer, exploiting the potential of your graphics hardware to the maximum and pumping as many LED-generated, pixel-popping light waves into your sore and bloodshot eyes, this has truly been a good time to be alive!

Here is why:

  1. The size of available monitors has increased. Not too long ago, Apple was astonishing the world with very expensive, beautiful 30” (!) monitors which exceeded the budget of most non-graphics-oriented professionals by probably a factor of 4x. For PC users, 27’-28” was essentially the maximum screen size available. These days, 30” and 32” monitors are pretty common, with hybrid TV and computer-monitor models available in 40”, 50” and even 60” neighborhood for those interested in upgrading their cubicle footprint to the area of a small aircraft hanger.
  2. The variety of large-sized monitors has exploded. From cheap, gray-market Korean makers like Crossover and Achieva, to high-end makers Samsung and NEC, there is a wide and smoothly segregated set of price points for each size of monitor larger than the (formerly standard) 24” screen size. 28” is no longer considered a “specialty” size by most makers; 30” and 32” is now fairly standard as a top-tier diagonal dimension and most every major maker has models (or even several models) in these categories: each offers units meant for gamers, casual users, business professionals, and expensive color calibrated screens targeted toward photographers and video editors. No longer is a buyer stuck with an “all or nothing” option – we can all pick our price vs. quality point.
  3. Panel technologies have diversified. In former days large-scale monitors were only offered in a very basic “TN” technology which offered quite flat color, boring low contrast and limited viewing angles. Today, you can walk out of any well-equipped electronics store with a huge monitor in your choice of TN, VA, MVA, S-PVA, or any one of several high-dollar IPS flavors, depending on your taste in color quality and on the heat of your wallet.
  4. The features and color quality of large flat-screens have improved drastically. It wasn’t long ago that CRT monitors were the gold-standard in color fidelity and ability to reproduce close to full Adobe RGB color space. No longer. The newest panels, especially the MVA, PLS, AHVA and IPS designs, have incredibly wide color range and impressively dense black/white contrast ratios. They are engaging to look at and make the old CRT technology seem impossibly dated, even for critical applications like photography. Also, the old “faded edges” of large screens, where the brightness varied significantly across the expanse of the monitor, has disappeared, as manufacturers seemed to have worked out all those kinks.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly for this article, the resolution of monitors has increased. For many years we bumped against the limits of so-called “HD” resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, with some business-class monitors at the slightly taller 1920 x 1200 resolution. Today HD is still the standard resolution, but within the last two years there has been a huge increase in availability of the following resolutions which should interest design professionals the most:


As a truss/panel designer, what size & resolution monitor should I buy?

What a great question! With so many choices, I’ll share my approach to choosing a size & resolution combination, because this is the critical question.  Realize that monitors of a certain resolution which work well for a certain task, at a given monitor size, may not work as well in a smaller/larger scale.  With this in mind, there is a proper approach, which is to start by establishing the task, find the proper resolution for that task, and then choose a screen size which is appropriate for that resolution.

Choose task -> Match with resolution -> Establish distance -> Select screen size

Finally, a little background definition of terms and concepts:

  • Pixels are individual points of light on a screen which can render any number of colors
  • Resolution is the actual number of pixels (width x height) the monitor is made with.

The “visual information” a monitor is capable of conveying to the user is directly related to the resolution (pixel count). This directly affect the quality of the picture and the stress on your eyesight.

When we publish Part 2 next week, we will give you specific things to consider from the truss/panel design (and your doctor’s) standpoint. See you next week!

Please leave your comments below.