If you want return business, make your drawings look good.

An interview with Crispell-Snyder’s Chris Elvin

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA — We at Axiom meet interesting, dedicated MicroStation users every day. This month, we’d like you to meet Chris Elvin, CAD Administrator for Crispell-Snyder, Incorporated of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

“Give someone a product that leaves them thinking of you and they’ll come back,” states 13-year Civil Engineering veteran, Chris Elvin, CAD Administrator for Crispell-Snyder, Incorporated of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

MicroStation Today: Why do you feel your company’s work stands out from the rest?
Chris: It’s a challenge to any firm to make sure they produce products in a timely manner and in a way that’s also aesthetically pleasing. I feel this is something that’s been lost because we’re in the mechanical age. I’d like to see more firms focusing on “graphic standards” that are concerned with the look and the style of the products. That approach sets our company apart and has brought us a level of return business that is vital to us.

MST: What led to your company choosing that approach?
Chris: It started like this. My company, Crispell-Snyder, Incorporated, made the decision to go with MicroStation in the early 1990s for two reasons, 1) for Department of Transportation compatibility and 2) because MicroStation is much more customizable than other CAD programs. This was crucial to us because, before CAD, our company had created board drawings that were unique to us and our customers liked them. [Editor's note: For the benefit of those under the age of 30, we thought we'd mention that before the advent of CAD software, designing was done on paper using a drafting table. These tables were often called "drawing boards" or simply "boards".] We wanted a CAD program that could recreate the look of our board drawings and MicroStation was able to do that.

MST: What makes your work so unique?
Chris: Aesthetics. Our work looks good. In my experience, aesthetics and functionality go hand in hand. The better the drawings look, the more functional they’ll be. From the beginning, our customers have appreciated our attention to detail (like the use of line weights and minimal abbreviations). In engineering, you can go to anybody and get a drawing, but are they going to give you plan sheets that are easy to use, easy to read and nice to look at?

MST: Do you really think how a drawing looks is that important?
Chris: Yes. A drawing has to be aesthetically pleasing. It has to be easy to look at. If you want your product to stand out, you can’t underestimate this point. We’ve proven that following this philosophy promotes return business — give someone a product that leaves them thinking of you and they’ll come back.

MST: That’s great advice. What else do you focus on in your position?
Chris: CAD standards library creation, management and enforcement are probably the largest use of my time. CAD software compatibility is also a big issue, as not many of our subconsultants and clients are MicroStation users. Staying billable is important to me. A good CAD Administrator must be a proficient user and one who takes the lead and sets the example. Anything to make handling libraries, files and corruption faster and easier is going to give me the time I need to be productive and in the end, productivity is what really matters. CellManager, for example, makes tedious cell library maintenance a lot simpler with the ability to split large libraries into separate, optimized libraries for different groups of users. The ability to quickly combine cell libraries is great, especially for archiving.

Google Earth’s user interface showing how a design can be referenced to satellite imagery to show drawings in a more realistic setting.

MST: What do you predict will be the “next big thing” in CAD?
Chris: Object-oriented design is obviously the next big thing in civil design. CAD, in the civil arena, must deliver a more intelligent product in a world of GIS (Geographic Information System), BIM (Building Information Modeling) and Google Earth.

MST: Tell us a little about your background.
Chris: I have been working in the Civil Engineering arena for over 13 years. My degree is in Information Technology and Business Education.

MST: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Chris: I’ll be doing the same thing, only better. I am fortunate to be in a profession that I enjoy, creating a product that I am proud of.

MST: If you wish you had written one book, what would it be?
Chris: The Bible. It is, after all, a bestseller.

MST: Thank you so much for your time today Chris!

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