How to Transform Your Phone into an A.R.E. Secret Weapon

This post is part of a regular series on the Architect Registration Exam. The exam is often the final requirement for designers to evolve their careers into full-fledged architects.
Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

"Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in."

Bill Bradley


HACKING YOUR A.R.E. STUDY HABITS

One of the 'hacks' I used while I was studying for the ARE involved one of the most unlikely pieces of hardware you might expect - my smartphone. And before you go there, no, I don't mean take your phone into the exam so you can cheat - that's a really bad idea. For real, don't mess with NCARB's testing policies.

Instead, take a look at your phone. Right now, take your phone out and do me a favor - ask yourself what your background wallpaper is and why. Maybe it's a family member, a pet, some cool pattern, a solid color, or any other number of things. Why did you pick that? Does it have meaning? Do you like remembering something every time you see it?

The visual cue here is key. Now I want you to think of three questions:
(1) Why are you trying to pass the ARE?
(2) What do you want to do after the ARE?
(3) What will you reward yourself with after you've completed the ARE?

Consider how many times a day you look at your phone - 10, 20, 100 times perhaps? Most of that probably has very little to do with its primary purpose as a phone. You use your phone to text, check social media, look at cat .gifs, and wide variety of other fun distrations.

Instead, use your phone as the reminder of what you're striving for and why.

For my own studies, I took the lock screen and wallpaper on my phone and transformed them into a constant reminder of what I was striving for.


Step 1

DETERMINE YOUR GOALS

First, you need to understand your reasons for taking the ARE and why they matter to you. Are you taking the ARE because it's the culmination of your education as an architect? Are you taking it because it will yield an automatic pay raise at your job? Are you taking it because you can't stand existing in the in-between of intern and architect?

After you've thought about why you're taking the exam, consider what you'll do after the ARE. Are you going to switch jobs? Are you going to look for a hire position at your current job? Are you getting the ARE out of the way so you can get back to your hobbies, life, or family?

The final part of Step 1 is to figure out what you'll do to reward yourself for all the hard work you will or have put into the ARE process. Allowing yourself to find the 'pot of gold' at the end of your journey is a fantastic motivator to keep you moving forward.



Step 2

FIND IMAGES THAT EMBODY YOUR GOALS

As part of the next step, you need to find images that reflect your aspirations from Step 1. Try and find pictures that embody the ideas behind your goals so that they take on inherent, emotional values as well. Images that are captivating to you personally will resonate with you later after you've seen them over and over again.

Now, I don't ever recommend that you do this for a project or something you'll distribute, but you should do a Google search for your images and not worry about the copyright infringements. This ARE motivational collage is just for you. You're not going to be showcasing your phone to the entire world, so I wouldn't worry too much about what the wallpaper is actually made from. Again, you're primary focus is to motivate yourself. Use whatever photos you think will successfully do that.

Warning: Don't rip off other people's photos for your projects unless you have the proper authorization and/or recognition built in. The suggestion above is meant as a one-off, singular tool to motivate you only.



Step 3

DESIGN YOUR WALLPAPER

After you've gathered together all of your motivational images, you can begin piecing them together. When I did this for my own phone, I laid out the images in an intentional way that worked with both their formatting and overall graphic continuity. You, of course, can organize them however you want to.


Breaking down my own are secret weapon


I began by splitting the images into three distinct zones. As you'll notice in the image above, the balance of the overall composition favors the components of the phone that are almost always visible on my lock screen (icons, clock, and passcode key pad). This was intentional because I wanted the design to still work with how the phone is meant to function.


PART I

ARCHITECTS THAT INSPIRE ME TO GET LICENSED

After that, I found images that inspired me. The top is composed of the three architects I have admired most in my studies and as precedents for my own work (from left to right: Thom Mayne, Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier). I've had great fortune in my life to have seen all of them speak in person. They've taken chances, built fantastic structures, and created world-renowned practices. Understand, this isn't about vanity or the pursuit of fame. I hold these architects in high regard because they represent professionals whose achievements have only been possible by getting licensed.


PART Ii

ARCHITECTS THAT INSPIRE ME TO GET LICENSED

After that, I found images that inspired me. The top is composed of the three architects I have admired most in my studies and as precedents for my own work (from left to right: Thom Mayne, Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier). I've had great fortune in my life to have seen all of them speak in person. They've taken chances, built fantastic structures, and created world-renowned practices. Understand, this isn't about vanity or the pursuit of fame. I hold these architects in high regard because they represent professionals whose achievements have only been possible by getting licensed.


PART III

PROMISE TO RETURN TO MY INTERESTS AFTER MY EXAMS

The largest and final image is a promotional still from the video game, 'Destiny.' You may have realized from some of the other posts that I have a slight obsession with video games. It's true. I play games A LOT. Or at least I did before and after the exams.

Few understand until they're in the thick of it just how much time it takes to actually study for the exams. If you're working in a full-time job at the same time (which you likely are), it's that much harder to balance basic needs of your life, work, and studying over the course of preparing for 7 exams.

This is the largest of all the images because it's the easiest to forget. You WILL complete the exams. You WILL get your time and your life back. Just study now and you WILL be able to do what you want to after it's all done.


USE YOUR PHONE TO GET LICENSED

The important factor here is to remember that you want the overall composition to inspire you each and every time you look at it. When you're at your lowest lows and cannot find the motivation to keep studying, look at this image. When you're about to call a friend to hang out instead of hitting the books, look at this image. You are more likely to avoid the inevitable taunts that will tease you and cause you to fail if you hold strong, understand WHY you're trying to get licensed, and glance at your phone once in a while.


P.S.  //  How often do you look at your phone each day? Would you use it to help motivate you in your ARE studies? Let me know some of your thoughts in the comments below.

Michael LaValley

Buffalo, NY