Web Savvy: Mark Johnson, FAIA, AIBD, CKD (full interview)

An industry veteran shares his social media smarts
By Alice Liao
February 19, 2013

Where are you geographically?
I live near Ann Arbor, MI, a great community with all the resources offered by the University of Michigan close at hand.

Where are you professionally?
I’m an architect who moved to the building products industry years ago, earned a CKD credential while working at Whirlpool Appliances, and then moved on to KraftMaid Cabinetry. There is no better way to understand the design community than to walk in its shoes.

What is your Twitter handle?
I have two profiles. @MarkJohnsonFAIA is devoted to design, and @MarkJohnsonCKD is devoted to culinary topics. I’m close to 10,000 followers after two and a half years on Twitter.

Are you on Facebook?
Yes, I am. My professional profile is Mark Johnson-markitect.

Whom do you follow on Twitter?
I follow designers, architects and technologists from many areas of emphasis and expertise. I follow a lot of interior and exterior building product makers too, particularly residential. A few interior designer favorites of mine are @PJohnsonInt, @NoirBlancDesign, @courtneymprice and @AndieDay. Some favorite architects are @Urbanverse, @Collier1960, @RMD_Designs and @Parthenon1. Two k & b leaders with a technology emphasis I follow are @SketchThis and @Paul_Anater, both superb at designing with SketchUp. I better not name any k & b designers because there are too many to mention!

Is there someone you wish would follow you?
Well, @BobVila used to follow me, but it doesn’t get any better than @MarielHemingway. I’m glad to have Mariel as a follower, especially because of her involvement in the kitchen and bath industry.

What do you do on Twitter and Facebook?
I use Twitter to curate and share content as well as amplify my social media offerings at, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Flickr, Google+ and YouTube. I’m on Facebook because so many others are, but I find it’s really stronger for friends and family engagement than business to business.

How often do you update?
I have an approach I call “being there without being there,” only because there is not enough time to do everything I’d like with social media. I use pre-scheduled e-newspapers to update my Twitter stream automatically when I cannot be there. That takes care of about 25 tweets per day. My most active times on Twitter are when I’m guest-hosting or participating in a live Twitter chat with other design professionals. I would update Facebook more often if I had time, but I’ve integrated my profile with Pinterest, and Instagram so that my activity on those sites appears on Facebook. It’s another example of being there when I can’t in order to keep the social media content fresh and engaging.

What three blogs or websites do you read regularly for work? has been my greatest discovery in the last year. It’s the largest website for presentations on the Internet and was recently purchased by LinkedIn. Several of the social media presentations I posted on the site have gone viral. In the first year, I had over 140,000 views, more than I would ever receive on a personal blog. My SlideShare profile is I like to read SlideShare’s blog to learn what others are doing to succeed in their social media space. My favorite design industry blog is Formica Group’s Share the Love. I’ve almost always worked with mass brands and have an affinity for affordable great design. That’s a reason I like this blog. It brings great design ideas and insights to a broad audience. I’ve collaborated with Google SketchUp on various projects since 2006. I like to keep up with the latest on SketchUp, 3D design and affordable CAD solutions at

A kitchen designed by Johnson that was also featured on the SketchUp Showcase.

What are three (or less) favorite blogs and/or websites you read for kicks?
Design is my vocation and avocation so I read about design for fun too! Courtney Price has an elegant blog featuring interior design topics that I enjoy. I wish I had more time to keep up with all the blogs written by my many talented industry friends and collaborators. A must-see blog for the design community and discriminating consumers is Modenus. I’m a frequent visitor at two weekly Twitter chats, so I’m always checking their blogs to see what’s the next hot topic at and

Do you have a blog?
Yes, I have a blog at, yet I do more guest-blogging than on my own site. I write about anything having to do with design, technology and sustainability, often from my travels to trade shows or other interesting places. I like to make the posts visual and include a dash of humor. It’s surprising but has become a more important destination than my blog. I was honored to receive two Be2Awards for B2B social media marketing in September during London Social Media Week. The categories were “Best AEC PR/Marketing Campaign” and “Best Education and Learning Project” for my presentations on SlideShare.

What kind of phone do you have?
I used to own an iPhone but my iPad is so versatile that I traded in the iPhone for a simple Droid. I only use it as a “dumb” phone, not a smart phone. Smart phone screens are too small for me, and my fingertips are too nubby. I must be the slowest texter in the world. When I had to use a company-provided Blackberry, it was torture!

What do you use your iPad for?
The iPad 2 is my little buddy and goes with me everywhere. I use it for GPS navigation in the car, email, taking notes, taking pictures (low res), research, keeping up with the news, sharing my portfolio, reading books, etc. I probably use it two to four hours a day. When sharing my work, I use two destinations on my iPad. First is my infographic resume, a strong differentiator because it’s interactive. The second destination is Pinterest. I recently created a presentation called Pinterest your Resume and it’s gone viral on SlideShare. It’s a case study on how I actually used my iPad in an interview to go paperless. I’m honored that a few college professors have referred their students to the presentation and architects have recommended it to their interns.

Have you downloaded any work-related and non-work-related apps? Are there any that you can no longer live without?
I use many of the apps from Apple that are preloaded on the iPad. I use Maps, Calendar, Photos, iPhoto and iBooks a lot. I purchased Keynote, Pages and Numbers, since I use those on my Macbook Pro laptop computer and share files between the two computers. I experiment with downloading new apps weekly but the ones I use most on a daily basis are Jumbo Calculator for math, Wunderlist as my organizer, and Holy Bible for inspiration. Other favorites include Instagram for sharing pictures taken with my iPad, Brushes for sketching/painting while on airplanes, and Flipboard as an e-newspaper.

How much time during a week do you spend on social media?
15 to 25 hours per week. Probably too much time but it’s become a consulting niche. I provide social media marketing and education services to the industry.

Is this problematic?
I will continue to find ways to streamline and integrate my social media networks because it can be very time consuming. The industry does not yet appreciate the resources it takes to have a professional social media presence and grow a position as a leader in a chosen area of expertise.

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