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Capturing Architectural Vignettes on the iPad Pro

An Interview with Architect Justin Smith

Architect Justin Smith shares his optimal design workflow for his practice.


"The ease of whipping out my iPad to quickly show an idea has transformed the speed in which we can convey our thoughts."

Hi Justin, it’s great to meet you. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself? What is your background and what do you do? What are your design goals at Vinyet Architecture?

Justin Smith - Nice to meet you as well! I’ve enjoyed trading emails with you and am excited to share a little about myself and my company. My undergrad degree is from Clemson University and after graduating with my Bachelor of Architecture from UNC Charlotte in 2009, I formed Vinyet Architecture as a response to a growing local need for residential design in my hometown of Rock Hill, SC. For the first few years I focused on just residential, doing work throughout the Carolinas, but in 2012 I partnered with a good friend, Myles Alexander, to open offices in Asheville where he is located, and Charleston, because who doesn’t want to be in Charleston!

A development for a new home in Daniel Island, South Carolina.

We now have a growing list of projects ranging from restaurants to plastic surgeon offices to million dollar homes along the coast. Our general goal is to help our client’s vision come to life. I was trained to hand draw designs to present to clients and my partner has always been pushing for us to be more “current”. He is actually the one that suggested I get an iPad and start using Concepts in lieu of my typical Staedtler pens and trace. The ease and adaptability of my new system makes me wonder how I ever got along without it!

A house development for a new home in Charleston, South Carolina.

What are your preferred tools for design? How have mobile tools like the iPad and Concepts App affected your creative process and made a difference to your workflow?

I use an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. The ease of whipping out my iPad to quickly show an idea has transformed the speed in which we can convey our thoughts. Our name “Vinyet” stems from "vignette", roughly described as “a small thumbnail sketch utilized to represent a grander idea.” Sketching in Concepts has allowed us to to do just that on a consistent basis.

"I always have a notebook beside me that has a lot of my “brain purges” - they really don’t make sense to anyone but me."


What is your creative process like when sketching for a project? Where does Concepts fit into your workflow?

My process has evolved as technology has. In the past I used to sit at a drafting table with a straight edge and scale, creating blue lines that I would then ink with rapidiographs, scan in and present to clients. Now, I actually lay things out in AutoCad, print to PDF and import that base drawing into Concepts. From there, I outline and detail the drawings, quickly exporting it to clients for their review. A lot of our clients are from out of state, and with the pandemic, emailing conceptual sketches and hopping on a Zoom call has helped streamline the process.

A development for a new home in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Do you have any advice for others about discovering creative habits or communicating goals and ideas? 

You have to find what works for you. When I’m designing, there is always an “aha” moment that gets me excited about the project. I do whatever it takes to get to that moment because once it happens, I get into the zone and won’t stop until everything is out on the screen / paper. I always have a notebook beside me that has a lot of my “brain purges” - they really don’t make sense to anyone but me.

Design sketches for commercial projects by Vinyet Architecture.


Justin Smith - Holding degrees from Clemson University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Justin is a local that has a finger directly on the pulse of the Carolinian vernaculars, from mountain homes to coastal retreats. After receiving training from one of the Southeast’s most respected residential designers, Vinyet was created in 2009 as a direct response to the growing need for fresh approaches to design. He employs the services of new technology while holding true the artisan values from which the profession was first realized. Bungalows or compounds, Justin has designed it all with the same level of detail each customer deserves. Although he and his family have lived in various cities throughout South Carolina, they currently call Rock Hill their home.

Find Vinyet on Instagram, Facebook and their website.

Interview by Erica Christensen


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