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Arrette Newsletter #1

Hello, and welcome to the first Arrette Update! This newsletter is from the creators of Arrette Scale and Arrette Sketch, both available on the iTunes App Store. We intend this and future Updates to be the foundation for a robust two-way communication between us (the Arrette team), users of Arrette, and anyone interested in design and drawing at all scales.

Please take our 5-minute survey! Your responses can really help us shape the future of Arrette for iPad.


  • Who We Are
  • Behind the Scenes: What's in a Name?
  • Featured Drawing
  • Workflows: Creating a Base Image from Anything
  • User Stories
  • From Around the Web
  • Useful Things, and Things We Like
  • For New Users

Who We Are

Arrette is a company founded by a designer (John) and a tech guy (Allen) with the mission of bridging the divide between paper and digital design. Many architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and other designers still use sketches on paper to originate design ideas, as we have done for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

Designing on paper is easy and intuitive, and we want to keep that ease of use while taking advantage of the opportunities of digital both during the design process (for example, changing scale easily when you want to work on something in detail) and when gathering base information and exchanging designs. We hope you like the result, and we love to hear your ideas and feedback. What do you want Arrette to do for you?

Behind the Scenes: What's in a Name?

So, why do we have this odd name? It's a good question, and something we occasionally ask ourselves as well. We found naming these apps to be a fun yet harrowing experience.

First off, we tried to establish the parameters. There are plenty of sources of advice out there about naming apps and businesses. If you've gone through the process of naming a firm (should it be Partners? Associates? Group? Studio? Workshop? Atelier? etc, etc), maybe you've looked at some of these sources of advice yourself. In the end, we ignored most advice and decided that the name should be simple, memorable and unique. Ideally, it should have something to do with the app’s function, but that wasn't required. After all, what does the name “InDesign” have to do with laying out documents?

Also, we did want people to be able to find us, so the name needed to be googleable (if that's a word), and we did want to come before Atari in the phone book, naturally (1). And finally, for app names the screen space available is pretty small, so the name had to be short.

To cut to the chase (finally), we went through many possible names and eventually settled on Arrette, a contraction of “air charrette”, which is what one might call the way much design is done these days, as a series of electronic documents flying around through internet and resting in the cloud. It also has a nice similarity to the Greek “arete”, meaning excellence. We can live with that.

Pronounce it however you like, but we usually say “a-RET” and sometimes “a-re-TAY”. And there it is. Since adopting it, the name has quickly become embedded into our work, more like the qwerty keyboard every day. And it does come before Atari in the phone book.

(1) This is a reference to the story of the naming of Apple Computers, with the name being chosen in part because Apple comes before Atari in the phone book (whatever those are).

Featured Drawing

This Update’s featured drawing is site study by our very own John David Beutler.

We’d love to see what you’re doing. Send us something you’ve done which can be published and we may put you here as the next Featured Drawing. Fame!

Workflows: Creating a Base Image from Anything

Okay, the “Open In” system on iPads can be confusing. Different file types give different options, and the options seem to change on their own sometimes so that what you could do previously now doesn’t work. I'm sure there is a logic to it, but figuring out that logic is nowhere near the top of my to do list.

So, what if someone emails you an image and you just want to use it as a base image in a way that works every time? What if you’re reading a document or an iBook and want a graphic from the book as a base image? Our advice is, try a “screen capture”. With Screen Capture anything you see on the screen can become a base image in a few quick steps. Here's how:

  1. Open the file or image – whatever type it is, open it up on your screen and zoom to the extents of what you want to be your base image. Tip: be sure to include a scale bar or something of a known length to use later to put the image at a measurable scale in Arrette.
  2. Make a Screen Capture – to do this, simply press these two buttons at the same time – the power button and the Home button (the round button on the front of the iPad). This takes a snapshot of the contents of your screen and puts it in the Photos on your iPad. You can tell the screen capture was successful if the screen flashes.
  3. Create a base image in Arrette - You're almost done! Simply open Arrette Scale or Arrette Sketch and tap Base, then in the Base Image menu tap Photos. This will allow you to browse to the image you just created, and Arrette will lead you through the process of creating a base image.

What we like about this method is that it works every time, with any file that you can open on your iPad. Maybe it feels like a hack, but there are more important things to think about than how to create a new base image. It works every time works for us.

User Stories

We love to hear how people are using Arrette. Other than your comments on the iTunes store and user emails or questions, however, we have no idea what you’re drawing and how things are going. Besides satisfying our curiosity, this does have a bigger purpose - the more we know about how people use Arrette, the better we can plan for updates to make your experience more easy, efficient, and enjoyable.

If you have a story to tell, a cool trick for using the app, or a drawing to show off, please send it our way. With your permission, we might make you the featured user in the next Arrette Update.

From Around the Web

Spotlight: Jørn Utzon

This is an article by James Taylor-Foster on Jorn Utzon, architect of the amazing Sydney Opera House. In a sketch, this may be the building mostly likely to not look like an actual building, but still be utterly recognizable.

Michael Sorkin's "The Next Helsinki" Competition Attracts over 200 Entries

Another James Taylor-Foster article, this one is about Michael Sorkin’s counter-competition to Helsinki’s Guggenheim competition. Who doesn’t love a controversy?

London Bridge Tower, AKA The Shard

We have trouble finding anything by Renzo Piano we don’t like, including this one in London. Here’s an architect who knows how to do a compelling napkin sketch!

The Town That Creep Built

Ever-thought-provoking BLDG BLOG looks at “The Town That Creep Built”, about the affects of an active and moving fault on a town in California. The fault keeps moving, and we keep building. When will the first building come that uses this rather macabre context in an interesting way? Or, has it been done? Let us know.

Architectural Sketching, or, How to Sketch Like Me

We like Bob! If you want to read about what an architect does from someone with an engaging point of view, read Life of an Architect by Bob Borson (, @bobborson on Twitter). This post about sketching is priceless for all of us who are trying to improve our technique.

Useful Things, and Things We Like

It never hurts to have just the right books in your (digital) shelf, song in your headphones, and even movies for relaxation. Here are some of our favorites. Let us know what you like, and we'll add it to the list.

Books - For the Design Library

With an iPad, you can keep a lot of those essential books always at hand, and also spend a bit of time reading about the real or fictional adventures of other designers. Who knew you can get Frank Ching books on an iPad? All of the links below are to Apple's iBooks or iTunes if you're on an iOS device, by the way.


Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2012 International Building Code, by Francis D. K. Ching & Steven R. Winkel

2012 International Building Code, by International Code Council

NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), 2014 Edition, by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), 2011 Edition, by NFPA

The Incomparable Frank Ching

Design Drawing, by Francis D. K. Ching & Steven P. Juroszek

Introduction to Architecture, by Francis D. K. Ching & James F. Eckler

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order, by Francis D. K. Ching

Building Structures Illustrated: Patterns, Systems, and Design, by Francis D. K. Ching

Books - For Fun and Entertainment

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson (we just read the White City parts and skipped the “devil” stuff)

Movies - About Design

Helvetica – The typeface, the legend, the obsession.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? – We should all have a movie about ourselves that loves us this much.

Sketches of Frank Gehry

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Mon Oncle – This simple movie takes droll to a whole new level. For designers, this a case of being mocked, and liking it.

For New Users

Are you new to Arrette?  Check out our How To page for an overview of the app.

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