Gritdowns! Okay, have you seen “Sneckdowns” showing pictures of intersections in the winter? The snow that doesn’t get tracks in it can indicate where vehicles actually drive… and the space that is dedicated to asphalt that might not be needed.

Well… Anchorage has the same but with spring gravel (which might be one of the most Anchorage things ever?). This is a different data point, as drivers can see lane markings. This post has photos and commentary on what I see in them.

Special thanks to Jonny Hayes for coining the term Gritdowns when presented with this phenomenon.

The photo below illustrates how vehicle wheels move gravel away from the travel route. It also illustrates the misery of how much gravel can be in pedestrian routes. Imagine being on crutches, in a wheelchair, or someone super dedicated to keeping rollerblading alive.

This mini-gritdown that illustrates typical travel routes and turning movements.

A frequently used site entry where the wheels have cleared the sidewalk of gravel.

A lesser-used entry where the gravel is just doing its thing.

This property owner missed a chance to be community-minded. They’ve cleared their lot nicely but missed the opportunity to clear the adjacent sidewalk. It could actually be that some of their gravel wound up on the sidewalk. See the photos after this one to see how sidewalks actually show how pedestrian foot traffic also seems to have some clearing benefits. So, in this photo, gravel was either added, or pedestrians are walking over the adjacent asphalt.

And here we see evidence of pedestrians—both in the sign indicating their presence for the next 1500 feet and in the clearer sidewalk away from the road. There may be other factors in play for the level of gravel on the sidewalk, but stay tuned for other photos related to this.

If you look at the pedestrian refuge area halfway across this intersection, you’ll see a great example of a fully mature adult Gritdown.

Here I am at the pedestrian refuge. I’m being very quiet to get a photo of the fully mature adult Gritdown that has bedded down here. This is a difficult habitat, but it is made possible because vehicles have no reason to disturb this area.

Sidewalk time! See the wider sidewalk with maybe about 2 feet being more clear to the right? The next photo shows the same on a narrow sidewalk. A factor at play could be that the sidewalk stretch in this photo is just after an intersection. Intersections do receive more gravel.

A narrower sidewalk with the same clear area on the right is likely (at least in part) a result of people’s feet moving the gravel around. Or maybe not. This study is not yet conclusive. It’s just pure speculation at the moment.

Appreciation in Three Parts

Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate having the chance to share my thoughts with you.

…now… rewind.

A meaningful, heartfelt apology has three parts: acknowledgment, remorse, and restitution. You can find various sources online to check out how that works. It’s certainly good to know and use.

While driving with my wife, I wondered out loud whether there is also a formula behind showing thanks. I think there is.

The use of “thank you” is typically a courtesy, an acknowledgment. It’s made more meaningful when it includes recognition of the act to which you are responding. This forms a fairly complete interaction with someone: Action -> Thank You -> You’re Welcome! Done, complete, and everyone continues with their day.

When appropriate, courtesy and recognition set the stage for appreciation. Appreciation spans the gamut from making someone feel happy that their actions are useful, to expressing gratitude and insight that leaves someone speechless and perhaps teary-eyed.

When you take the time to express appreciation, you stop and take the time to see someone… and to tell them they have been seen. I believe that it is human nature to want to be seen, to be visible to those around us. We do kind things for one another for the sake of being kind, but also because these interactions validate our existence and we feel good.

When we are courteous, give acknowledgment, and show appreciation… we tell people that we see them and they have done something of merit. We have taken the time to invest in them and build them up.

Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really and truly do appreciate having the chance to share my thoughts with you.

About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has an ongoing preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see:

Our Commitments

We recently quantified what we have learned from our clients and how our clients have changed us. These discussions led us to identify what we need to do as a firm to ensure we are always growing and serving our clients better. We are calling these “Our Commitments”:

Accountability: Develop clearly defined expectations, roles, and responsibilities, founded within clear communication and explicit schedules.

Problem Identification: Identify and define root issues to ensure we are targeting the correct problem (and thus developing appropriate solutions).

Decision Making: Provide expert information to our clients for decision making.

Consistency: Develop measurable success criteria to guide and evaluate the solutions that we deliver.

Innovation: Emphasize the importance of innovation to the development process, delivered instruments of service, and built products.

Momentum: As the sum of all of the above, our critical commitment to our client is to partner with them to maintain momentum. Our highest level of success with our clients is when a project moves at a smooth pace, where all partners are enabled to work at their highest level of expertise.

Within our firm, the discussion and effort to develop these provided internal rewards. It was a valuable discussion to identify the good we have done and how to make it better… and how to make lemonade out of the lemons we have sometimes been handed (or inadvertently grown). We share these with you to perhaps use in your own growth and improvement discussions.

About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has an ongoing preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see:

What is the desired outcome?

We have all learned lessons through uncomfortable situations. In our digital world, email is likely the ‘unintentional’ culprit of many of these situations. Either through it’s inability to convey the full intent behind what we are trying to say, or the ease with which the ‘send’ button can be hit without taking the proper time to mull something over.

From a strange interaction with someone years ago, I came to the realization that emails without question marks don’t need to be answered. Just because we receive an email doesn’t mean we have to respond. In this situation, it was someone ranting… and while the situation was an odd one… I eventually clued in to the fact that it was a monologue in search of an audience. Any response would fuel the monologue… and it’s not a monologue that I needed.

A recent interaction where the communication attempt was poor on my part, reiterated the importance of understanding how an outcome relates to what you are communicating. In other words, asking myself intentionally, “What is my desired outcome?” The recipient clued me in that I had written an email with no true recognition of what I wanted to get out of it… or what I was offering. The intent behind it was honest, but the email failed in that it was open to interpretation. It should likely never have been an email in the first place(!), but in what I sent… there were no question marks. There was no interaction. It was me sending an email that was functionally useless because I didn’t think about the desired outcome. The unfortunate thing is that when you do that, you burden the recipient with something they really don’t need, want, or really know what to do with.

So it was a fail on my part.

  • Was it intended to make me feel better? Maybe? I don’t think so… but it did result in a more complex situation that didn’t feel good. So, actually feeling worse. And, it also spread the virus of not feeling good to someone else who certainly didn’t invite that in.
  • Was it intended to state something? Perhaps. That might be the only real reason to send an email without a question? Just sending an email that states something? Seems kind of weird though in this context.
  • Was it a bad attempt at working through something? That might be closer. It was about something quite complex to me… where I was having trouble processing it and didn’t even know where to start with spoken words. But… then it’s just the wrong choice. That’s what phone calls are for.

None of this changes the ‘reason’ behind the email, but it did mean that I likely lost all ability to receive validation of the concern and moving to the most important follow-up steps of clarification, and seeing what the shared outcome would be. When I spoke with the person after, I realized that I had created a wall that would likely not come down easily. So, not only do I have the complexity that I was seeking to address, I added the feeling of messing up. Without a pathway for closure. The unfortunate part is that there was a good intent, one founded in truly having wanted to build value.

Is there a silver lining? Well… getting a solid reminder about good communication. And, it’s certainly led to me trying to understand the situation that led up to it. It’s provided some good insights… and is a moment to grow on…

Thanks for reading. Hiding within the personal therapy are the two take-home messages of: “interaction should have question marks” and the importance of asking “what is the desired outcome?” The later is a great question for almost everything we plan and do, at all levels.


About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has a current preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see:

Awesome Leadership Development. Seriously.

I was just at the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Pacific Northwest Regional Conference in Anchorage (my town). I’ve attended our local chapter events, and gone to a national SMPS event before.

If you haven’t been to an SMPS event, or your peers or employees haven’t… you need to.

As a technical professional (landscape architect), most of the professional development opportunities targeted at me are… well… technical. That was perfect for much of my career to date, but it doesn’t fully match the new skills that I need as I’ve transitioned into leadership and business. When that happens, us technical types typically learn through trial and error, being mentored (perhaps), reading books and talking to people.

If you want to shortcut that shotgun approach to absorbing business development and leadership training, go to SMPS. Seriously, go to SMPS! You will be surrounded by people whose goal is to develop business and people within the architecture, engineering and construction sectors. Even if you go once, you’ll find that most every session offers you something to temper your own thinking or provide you with new avenues to consider and follow.

Like any professional growth avenue, you’ll see immediate high return on investment for your exposure and knowledge. Over time, it will decrease as you begin to focus on specific needs within your professional development. Then, if not before, you need to get your staff to attend! While they might not be leaders, exposing them to this information will help you lead. It stands a strong chance of developing shared communication and semantics. If they have some comprehension of development and leadership strategies, then they may be more open to work within those ideas and at least understand what you might be trying to do.

This is not a paid advertisement. I’ve found great professional value in what SMPS offers, and I think that any A/E/C professional will find the same value. Especially if you are at a place in your career where you are in (or entering) the world of business development and leadership. I’m surprised that more technical types don’t attend their events.

At a minimum… going to one of these will help you understand your marketing and business development people, and how you can enable them to be better at what they do. And… they’re part of your front line for business success. If they are more successful, you are too.

Lastly… it’s fun. They seem to be great people who realize that relationships, networks and friends are not only key to business, but key to enjoying our time on this planet. Just be warned that if you aren’t in bed by 10:00pm, you might not get to bed. (and to be honest, I’m in bed by 10:00… I just hear the stories the next day. The stories make me feel tired. But, I also wish I had stayed up.)


About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has a current preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see:

Pokemon Go for Professionals

Coloring Book

Coloring Book! Creative Commons Copyright Elizabeth Albert edited for size and to remove name on drawing

If you haven’t played Pokemon Go yet, you might be making a mistake. Especially if you are a design professional. Even more especially if you ever deal with the planning and design of people’s environments.

When was the last time you explored where you live with a fresh set of eyes? I know I stopped exploring  where I live years ago. By explore, I mean wandering around like I would when I’m a traveler in a new city. My lack of exploration of my home is in part because I’m goal driven, and I haven’t set goals that relate to wandering around and (re)experiencing the world immediately around me.

I typically explore when I hear of a new restaurant or destination, when we have guests in town, or during that rare instance when we choose to get out and do something we normally wouldn’t do. Like play Pokemon Go downtown.

Humans like reward. That’s why the concept of gamification can be quite successful. Pokemon Go is fascinating in that as the first truly successful augmented reality effort, it’s turned the world around us into a game’s playing surface. There are now new rewards for people to walk around and explore their environments. As a design professional, if you don’t understand and ‘get’ what this means… you’re doing yourself a disservice.

I’ve been playing Pokemon Go distractedly since shortly after it was launched. My wife loaded it onto her phone recently. We decided to go downtown yesterday and enjoy wandering around as we played the game. We drove and parked on the edge of our city center, and started walking. We developed a system for how we’d order our meandering:

  • Walk up and down the streets.
  • Within each block, we’d go to the Pokestops and try to avoid looking too nerdy.
  • We’d be unable to look anything but nerdy when we encountered Pokemon that we would then need to trap in a Pokeball. (swiping fingers on our screens)
  • We would linger at any Pokestop that had a lure activated, hopefully having it coincide with a beer and some food.

Many of the Pokestops in downtown Anchorage seem to be focused on art. We stopped a few places in the museum’s garden, and realized that we hadn’t been there in a long time. We took a bit of time to enjoy, and get some pleasure in seeing the work of friends. Around downtown, we found pokestops for art that we didn’t know existed. We walked places that we might never have walked. We looked at buildings and spaces, and learned the name for art where we have not known the name before. All the while, we had the overlay of the fun of pursuit of playing a game and the rewards within it.

KEY#1: Pokemon Go provided us with a form of tour guide that took us from place to place, with a focus on art. Since that aligns with our interests, the game provided us with a meaningful service. (note: in Hood River, Oregon… many of the pokestops focused on historic buildings.)

We stopped in for a coffee at Side Street Espresso, and as we passed Darwin’s… someone activated a lure on Darwin’s Pokestop. That drew us inside for a beer (close enough to noon to be okay).

KEY#2: Wise businesses realize that Pokemon Go exists and can be used to their benefit. We would not have stopped in at Darwin’s at that time of day if a lure hadn’t been activated. We came in, spent money on beer, and had fun.

As an augmented reality game, Pokemon Go is simplistic and in an infancy of potentials. As someone who works with urban design and planning (with a goal of engaging people into their environments), there is a fascinating potential for delivering information and the potential for interaction. At the moment, most players use Pokemon Go to “catch ’em all”, so it’s highest cultural success is likely getting people out walking. But, what’s next?

KEY#3: We went downtown with the sole purpose of meandering and catching Pokemon. We learned some things about our city in part because of Pokestops, but more so because we actually went downtown! It took a reward to get us to do that. In the future, when augmented reality tools incorporate different levels of reward, tied to local opportunities and knowledge, then they move beyond augmented reality into integrated reality. A logical step for that would be to require interaction (knowledge or activity) to get the rewards at a Pokestop… rather than just swiping the screen.

Pokemon Go is a digital treasure hunt. A pub crawl. First Friday art walks. Any community event with the goal of offering something in return for effort. It’s just a new approach to getting people out. I find it funny that many people and professionals dismiss or even sneer at Pokemon Go… as they miss the point. The point is the opportunities that it alludes to… and… fun.

Original posted on LinkedIn:


About the Author: Peter Briggs is a landscape architect who has a current preoccupation with the business of design. For more bio information, please see: