Resolved: Building Your Styles is Crucial to Learning C3D

Based on rereading a few posts from Dana, and some in the Discussion groups, I’m opening the debate. There seems to be a lot of discussion about how important styles are when first getting into the C3D learning curve.

Join in the fun, and tell us your thoughts. If you’ve ever read the back page of Fast Company or any number of other magazines, you know the game. And if you want to play Devil’s Advocate, that’s good too!

JW: Styles are a crucial part of the initial training and learning experience. The typical user wants results that LOOK like a product they’re used to producing, whether that came from LDT or Carlson or EaglePoint. By preparing a good set of styles before ever beginning to teach the typical user in your firm, you give them a product that looks familiar with very little work. They recognize a profile that looks like their own, and are instilled with confidence that the product can deliver results for them. When presented with the out-of-the-box styles during the learning process, users are spending more time thinking about the fact that it doesn’t LOOK right instead of thinking about the design process.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the styles have to be built in-house to be effective. It means that the styles have to be built before beginning any sort widespread training effort. Delivering an initial positive experience is at least as important as delivering picks and clicks during the first few tasks, and styles that look familiar are the best first impression.


  1. Jason Hickey says:

    I’m going to take a similar, yet totally opposite approach (intrigued yet???)

    First, let me preface this comment by saying that styles are the 100% most important part of ANY Civil 3D training. At the end of the day, 99.999% of our customers need construction documents as a deliverable, and if they can’t figure out how to make those docs, then the software is as useless as a screen door on a submarine to them. If they can’t figure out how to make the styles that make their docs look like that, then they’re dead in the water (carrying on the nautical theme here.)

    Here’s my approach – I don’t do styles before a class. The main reason for this is because at that stage of the game, people don’t know all their options or what to ask for, so we’re working on something that’s going to need heavy revision later. I start my classes with my standard template. Standard is a pretty big understatement, because my template that I use on a day-to-day basis is loaded with goodies. We use my template for the classes with the understanding that any and all styles can be updated or changed. Then, the day after the class is over, I sit down with the company (a few representatives) and we start building styles. At the end of that day, the customer has two things that they can walk away with – a pretty decent set of styles (I use mine as a springboard most of the time, and it was based on the NCS Extended template) and the knowledge of how to create and edit their own styles. I can teach them how to create profiles and profile views all day long, but if they don’t match the way they need them to look, it’s not a good investment for them.

  2. You’re spot on Jason. I’ll clarify, I do the Essentials for the power users in the same way you do. THEN I ask the homework of style creation be done.

    I wouldn’t suggest that the core team of people do the styles creation before any training, but it’s the rollout training where I find it crucial. And this is where two of our peers have said that styles weren’t that big an issue during the training. Maybe they’ll pipe up to argue…or this will be as boring as the dirt.

  3. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    I completely agree with you on this one. I have an ongoing disagreement with my own instructor on this very subject. During my training session, only standard styles were used for examples and I heard nothing but discontent during breaks about how their boss would never accept plans that looked like that. It was seen as a major problem if Civil 3D were ever implemented in thier office. I had joined the class from outside and had been preparing styles in advance, but even showing them the changes with a different style applied to the same data they were not convinced it would ever be acceptable. This was 18 months ago and the last I heard, Civil 3D was yet to be deployed by them. A few styles prepared to display their data in a format at least similar to their own standards and this company could have been at the front of the pack using Civil 3D rather than one that may never give it another chance.

  4. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    DBP Says: the whole system is just plain flawed. I’m supposed to teach a 2-3 day Civil 3D 101 class to get people started. In that environment, spending heaps of time drilling into how to make styles is a waste of everyone’s time.

    Here is my idea scenario, and it probably fits in with what everyone is saying.

    The dedicated implentor takes a core group of people through some intro training and during that training the Implementor shows them a variety of templates and a variety of possibilites, sample work, etc. to give them ideas about how their template will look.

    then, with the help of their dedicated implementor, this core group makes a baseline template that gets most of the big stuff worked out- like profile grids, contours, alignments, etc.

    During the pilot project, the team learns what they need to in order to create styles on the fly and work out those little niddly style that you’d never think of- plus more that they never would have thought to automate.

    FINALLY- when the “real” training roll out begins, the mainstream training will be done having thing coming out exactly like the firm wants them to look.

    So what I mean when I say “don’t worry about styles” is I am NOT saying that you just throw Civil 3D to the crowd and cut them loose with the NCS template. What I am saying is that when the first person or group in the firm sits down to figure out if Civil 3D is a good fit for them and plan their attack, while gaining some skills– It would be a complete exercise in lunacy to say… Ok… here is my alignment. now before i move on to try to edit this, let me spend 4 hours trying to figure out how to get the labeling look exactly right.

    Maybe this will make me unpopular, but thought I agree with what Stephen is saying above, the early days of Civil 3D took a little bit of cowboy spirit. If a firm wasn’t excited enough about the possibilities to spend some time tinkering with styles on their own, they maybe the time wasn’t right for them to implement.

    The firms that take Civil 3D and run with it- the ones that have the most success- have a few things in common:

    -They are so excited by the possibilities and the change in their workflow that they are willing to “make it happen”

    -They realize that this isn’t something you learn in 3 day at an intro class, and they realize that, as James says, “Driving a Nail isn’t Building a House”. That they will be driving practice nails into boards for a long time and building birdhouses for awhile.

    -They seek the advice, even if only occasional and supplemental, of a Civil 3D professional with some imagination

    -As long as they can get their styles looking mostly the way they want, they are willing to either adapt their notation or find workarounds for the few gaps that we run into- because the total CIvil 3D package makes those gaps seem insignificant.

  5. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    That is a good point about the “early days” Dana. This class was taught using 2005. The unfortunate part though is that even 2005 was capable of doing what this company needed. Nothing except the stability of the program has been enhanced by ’06 or ’07 they will ever need. They were not exactly ready to take the plunge and not committed to the idea at all, but they were initially quite excited and were literally frightened away by the standard program output.
    I am not advocating spending any training time beyond a brief introduction to style creation. What is needed is a bit of time showing how the displayed expression of the model is changed by the application of the various styles.
    A set of finished design documents can provide an instructor with everything needed to compose a small set of styles that would give the very first Civil 3D output they see a familiar look for the class that will give the impression that Civil 3D CAN work for them rather than it is something they will be continually fighting.

  6. Bout time you had somebody post here who actually knew how to play Devil’s Advocate.
    So is it in your firms best interest that only a chosen few were completely exposed to the Civil 3D product while others were only allowed out with the training wheels attached? What happens when your members of the Core group take that knowledge to greener pastures? What do the half trained do when the fully trained leave?

    Pretty obvious that everyone isn’t going to master styles creation and modification, BUT how do you chose? Creating styles requires a certain discipline combined with the ability to create and stretch your boundry’s. The one’s that end up being good at may not necessarily be who you thought at the beginning.

    John P.

  7. T_Bernhard says:

    Okay, I’m going to walk the middle line here, but I’m gong to do it from a relatively unique perspective: that of the “Lone Wolf”, as Dana has put it. Small Design department (3); never got training; just stumbled in the dark for weeks on end until the combined light of personal experience, Discussion Group rants and some very helpful emails from Dana and Nick Z shone illumination on my sinful and sorry path.

    You are all correct: Styles are crucial to understanding Civil 3D and the power that it can deliver. And you are possibly correct that most draftsmen (and draftswomen, but let’s not start that debate) and designers, especially those in larger firms, will never need to understand Styles except to know that they are there, they are powerful, and somebody in the office can do miraculous things with them. But in my experience, in a small firm working with Civil 3D goes beyond people feeling comfortable with appearances.

    In a small firm (or department) especially, it is my firm strong belief that EVERYBODY needs to understand the many types of Styles available (and there are a LOT; familiarity tends to blind us to that, I think), which ones apply where, what their limitations are, and how they can link up. That’s getting even more complex with the advent of reference text. And that’s one of Civil 3D’s two real powers. If they don’t understand that, they’re only getting half the horse. And – worst case scenario – if the one person that has an entire horsepower leaves, you’ve effectively nobbled the firm, at least temporarily.

    Alignments, Profiles, Sections, Surfaces: they’re the bread and butter of civil design, they’re an integral part of what civil designers do. Yes, they’re now DYNAMIC (the other real power) – they talk to each other, update automatically, etc. But in essence, they’re already familiar, even if you have to learn to handle them with “gloves” (Layout/Edit Tools). Styles are not, especially coming (as I did) from LDT.

    Perhaps what’s needed from the reseller’s perspective is a “Designing with Civil 3D 101” course and a “Drafting with Civil 3D 101” course. The first teaches about Civil 3D objects, how they interact and are dynamic; the latter about the power of Styles. Maybe, maybe not. I’m not a teacher/trainer – though I have had to put together my department’s training docs – but I really don’t think a single mindset can properly use Civil 3D’s strengths: one’s mindset must be more dynamic and versatile than Civil 3D itself.

    So, the Lone Wolf’s recommendation: Overview of Dynamic Objects and how they’re handled; then in-depth discussion of Styles and how to control appearances; then in-depth Design with Civil 3D. Don’t let the power of Styles belong to only a chosen few.


  8. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    I’m all for the idea of having some styles set up before a Civil 3D 101 class. But nobody wants to pay me for the time it takes for me to set that up. Even a basic set of custom styles would take me about 3 days. And my time is valuable. So if you want that, cool. But pony up- it isn’t going to be free.

  9. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    as far as the chosen few goes—-

    in big firms right now, there are chosen few as it stands. I cannot take an army of a drafting department that isnt trusted beyond changing text from AutoCAD basic to Civil 3D savvy. There has to be some internal decision making about where people are going to fit in, what role they are going to take and how much they are going to be involved in the process _in the beginning_. As the implementation evolves, more people can be brought in, and everyone will be shown the power. but consdering that it takes almost a year to get the first two pilot groups going (as in one project i have right now) i can;t show all 40 other users the minuta of text attachment points and blocks vs. ticks.

  10. So far I haven’t found anybody to disagree with besides me.
    And even I’m sorta right.
    I like to think I had some input into James’s thinking, but maybe he just let me think that.
    I really think the key to this whole business is flexibility.
    By Management.
    By the project managers.
    By the reviewing agencies.
    By the end users.
    By Autodesk.
    By the guys in ManchVegas.
    By the guys on the Pilot team.
    By the implementors.
    And most importantly by the old guys who sit in rooms with no windows. 😉

    I mean if the reviewing agency says the back end of your box note has to be open ended then ManchVegas has to give us that.

  11. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    Dude, JP, I don’t understand you. Are you speaking English or some bizarre midwestern dialect?

    “I mean if the reviewing agency says the back end of your box note has to be open ended then ManchVegas has to give us that. ”


  12. Scacco says: This is interesting…arguing while all more or less agreeing. Here’s my 2 cents for what its worth. These are all more or less a combination of what others have said.

    There are two components to C3D training: 1)configuration and 2)usage (think computers and IT: IT must know how to configure windows; users just need to know how to use it, with some basic knowledge of settings, etc.)

    1) Configuration
    Call it your “core team”, call it the cad manager, call it whatever you want. There is a certain person or group of persons whose duty (whether directly outlined in their job description or just by default) it will be to set up and help maintain the cad system. These users must know the intimate details of styles creation. They don’t need to know these intimate details prior to the pilot project or even during. They need to know it prior to company-wide roll-out or prior to the firm “going it alone”, with little to no additional input from their consultant.

    2) Usage
    practically every C3D user needs to understand the basic principles about styles and know be masters at _applying_ them. They dont need to know the fine details or fancy “expert” tricks used in creating all 127 different style types.

    So what about Essentials training?

    The pilot group usually consists of a mix of both users and those who are charged with creating and maintaining.

    As Dana and James outlined, the Styles feature of C3D should be taught by building a few sample styles that the firm will actually use. This works best when all students are from the same company. In a mixed group, its more difficult, but not impossible.

  13. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    You went right where I wanted to go Trevor. I am one of the original lone wolves in a 3 man office supported by a 2 man survey crew. I am going further though and suggest that even in a larger firm, the more people who know everything they can about Civil 3D, the better off the company will be for it. Unless the final design team is going to consist of designers with a couple of rookies to do the absolute grunt work, the process is going to have to give something up for people to do that will allow them tolearn and advance into a designer role. The natural division of rolls I see is for the designer or power user if you prefer, to produce the design elements – surfaces, design profiles and corridors, pipe networks. They would give these to the rest of the crew to turn into the profile views and apply the labels. I would think it more efficient for anyone using or applying the object and label styles to also know how to create and modify them on the fly rather than stop work and go to the style guru for a new situation. Styles are the Civil 3D replacement for the old jewel point pens and leroy sets; tools of the trade that those who use should also know how to maintain. Some may never understand the art of style creation, but they should at least get the chance to learn. Without something positive to contribute beyond assembling sheets and choosing the right style name to apply to an object from a fixed list there is absolutly nothing to make a talented tech who doesn’t make the cut into the select group want to stay in a Civil 3D shop. Styles are tricky but not rocket science and I see no benefit at all in reserving style creation exclusively for the designers or one master style maker.

  14. So, which came first? The chicken or the egg? The styles or the training?

    It seems to me that in the perfect world, a trainer would take a day to set up a basic set of styles based on a company’s standard for a few “foundation” styles. (i.e. a profile style, a couple of label style for plan notes, pipe labels, an existing and proposed surface style, maybe a section style, and a few basic labels for line and curve dimensioning).

    Armed with these styles the trainer can “teach” the basics to a core group of users or train the trainer types. Having a few basic styles in a company standard will help to alleviate all the “we can’t turn this out” concerns and keep the training headed down the “functionality” path. Well meaning users will get sidetracked worrying whether or not the product will produce the end product they are used to submitting.

    Committing staff to training is never the issue; it’s taking them out of production that hurts, thus training time has to be spent teaching fundamentals of the product, not fretting over the intimate details of each and every style. (James, I bet you can’t believe you are reading this seeing that I wrote it, huh?)

    It seems to me that who is trained in “canning styles” for a firm is directly related to the size of the firm. Large multi-user firms with documented standards better have styles “defined by committee” or rogue styles will propagate themselves to infinity and quickly work to overcome efficiencies gained in C3D. We probably have a large group of end users who could care less how to set up a style as long as they know where to get it and how to apply it. Smaller and mid-sized firms better believe that everyone should know how to setup and manage basic styles or sick leave and vacations will render their shops dead in the water if only one or two folks know what’s going on.

    So, the perfect “on the fence” rebuttal says that you better have a little bit of both worlds. (I have always thought that the chicken was in the egg was in the chicken!) Any way, at this point in the products life, most firms’ standards could be emulated fairy quickly in a set of basic styles, which time could be incorporated into a consultant’s fee or a trainer’s set-up time. John P. and I work in a fairly large firm and hope that the average end users will see the “canned” styles that our core group is developing as a tool to do their job, not something that they have to edit or recreate.

    Bottom-line, define just enough styles to get out of the gate, train the trainers and the define styles for the masses. If you set your styles up right, C3D screams. Keyword: Right.

    Hope we’re right in our thinking, huh John?

  15. rgraham says:

    I can agree with almost all of the above. I had a 2 day styles creation class (actually one-on-one) and found some of it way over my head since I had no formal training as then. I have been ‘lone wolfing’ it for a bit so I kind of knew the capabilities of Civil 3D. After my training, alot more things made sense as far as styles implementation.
    As soon as I got over the ‘this isn’t how it looked in LDT’ (well, I’m still being weaned off that thought process), I was better off. Some of the seemingly easy styles that are impossible without doing an involved workarounds still baffle me.
    But styles are CRUCIAL to productivity IMO. It is the pilot project where I find what styles I’m still lacking. I liken this to a web page. I will never be satisfied, I have to see what this little thing does *twitch twitch* I’ll be better after I take my medications.

  16. MAnderson says:

    Is building Styles crucial to the company’s sucessful implementation of Civil 3d? YES.

    Is building Styles crucial to a draft-“person” sucessfully using Civil 3d? No. Built styles should work.
    Is knowing how to Build styles crucial to a designer’s sucessfully using Civil 3d? Probably.

    Thinking back to LDT, most draftmans didn’t modify the standard default settings that were set in the sdsk.dfm file. It took a designer to modifiy that, to know what to change, and how to do that.

    Am I going to teach creating styles to all of my draftsman? Maybe. Maybe points, maybe surfaces.
    Am I going to teach creating styles to the designers?
    Probably over time.

    In the mean time, we have been pushing a number of projects throught Civil 3d and it is probably time to post-mortem them and pull the styles out to see what worked and what did not. That way when we plan training for January, I might have a stylized template to train on.

  17. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:



  18. Jason Hickey says:

    Just because I’m amazed at the number of hits from yesterday, and the number of comments on this thread, I’m going to add one more kink to the conversation.

    Some people (hey, I’m on vacation, I can’t remember who, or be bothered to scroll up the page) have asked “if you show the “core team” how to make styles and they leave, you’re hobbled.” Let me explain my position on that:

    I don’t often get the luxury of working with committed companies like John Postlewait’s company…the vast majority of my clients are the smaller companies – my 4-6 member “core team” may be the only users in the entire company. Those people are easy to work with, for the most part. The reason that I try to limit the number of people in on the styles creation is simple: You’re setting up their company STANDARD. Often, with more people, it becomes an argument about what their STANDARD actually is. I’m not cheap (at least that’s what my company tries to tell you,) and you really don’t need to be paying me to sit there while you argue over various pen widths and what width goes to what color (true story, folks.) Now, I realize that’s a company discipline problem, but a lot of companies see this as a way to FINALLY get a set of well-defined CAD standards at the same time, so they go for it.

    Now I feel like Linda Richman (obscure reference here) – Discuss amongst yourselves!

  19. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    If you are going to create a feifdom like I keeps seeing described here, how do you expect the staff who do not gain entry at your company to respond? Do you think an experienced technician will be content with applying styles and arranging sheets? Harlan and I think John have both seen my resume and I am sure I could not join the club at their firm based on that document. Thus passed over, I would be gone within the hour looking for a career change, yet every day in the real world I am using Civil 3D to create surfaces, road profiles and corridors along with storm and sanitary networks – then I apply the styles and annotation labels (after creating any new ones I need on the fly).
    Dana was correct that the system is broken, but the break is this idea that Civil 3D is full of secret stuff that only certain people should get to see or use. If this 54 year old geezer with only a BA in history and 10 years of design level responsibility can take the program this far essentially on his own it can’t be that complicated.

  20. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    it isn’t that complicated, Stephen. Anyone with a brain and access to Help can figure it out if they want to.

    Civil 3D isnt full of secret stuff.

    It is just that when people are shelling out money for an implementation, I have failed at getting companies up and running enough times to know what is worth doing and what isn’t.

    What is good use of time and what isn’t. What setting up a standard template (or starter standard template since they always evolve forever) really takes.

    And i also know what is takes to unravel hoards of corrupt drawings, marry styles and clean up the mess of a haphazard piecemeal hack jobs where everyone tried to figure it out on their own and didn’t bother making a standard template.

  21. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    We are missing each other while trying to agree although I am not quite sure about that “help” comment. I have a brain and “help” just made it hurt. I am not discounting the idea of good template or trying to tell yout that ANY of your training time should be devoted to style creation. In fact, what I most had in mind when this started was for a trainer to pack up one or two styles for the various objects similar to what you have posted in some examples on this site that actually look like they might be styles that a company would use and a brief demonstration of how one was created if there was time and interest. I am just maintaining that anyone who is going to be using the styles had better know all they can about them. As you pointed out, there is abundant opportunity to mess things up with them but creating an aura of mystery and intrigue is almost guaranteed to invite someone to do just that. I think replacing the mystery with knowledge and respect will prevent the messes rather than create them.
    Civil 3D is forcing a new definition of roles for the entire design team and the new shuffle has it looking like the people I have been associated with for most of my career are drawing all of the spot cards. What I am looking for is a willingness for the designers to give up some of the new fun stuff and not push some very talented people back into entry level chores. If they don’t, I think the designers will find themselves doing everything but adding title blocks and running prints when the rest of the shop walks.

  22. T_Bernhard says:

    Okay, now that this discussion is heading towards company workflows, employee roles, etc., I’m going to try to refine one of my key thoughts so it doesn’t get lost:

    Coming from a LDT background, Alignments, Surfaces, Sections, etc. are all already familiar and the dynamic element is quickly grasped by most users. All that is needed are some rules of thumb (did someone say “site topology”?). [The trainers out there may disagree with me, but that’s my experience.]

    Styles are not familiar. They are completely foreign, and they control SO much of how you interact with the program. And that is what is scariest about Civil 3D. Take that scare factor, that unfamiliarity, away and you’ll end up with a more capable office.

    I know there’s a lot more in the detail of implementing the whole thing, but that’s the biggest single point I personally can see in this whole discussion.

  23. Quick, where’s my MP3 Player!

    It seems as if we may be getting to the root of all C3D evil. The evil is Change and not styles!

    Civil 3D brings with it the type of revolution that could be easily likened to the transition from ink on Mylar to drawing in the computer. Anyone in our business has to understand the importance of accepting changes as a challenge. Technology is changing our lives daily, yet at the same time technology has driven huge chasms between our generations in a number of areas. (And, yes for some reason I still have my pens stored in a box somewhere!)

    My easy to understand analogy of how technology has affected our lives is based on music. I own music mainly on vinyl, cassette and CD. I feel ownership when I have these tangible objects in my hands. My daughter owns music; hers is purchased via download and found primarily on the hard drive of her mp3 player. She has a different comfort level with respect to ownership of music than I do, yet we both own and equally enjoy our music. Our tools may be different, but the end result is the enjoyment of music. Thus we each apply technology to our enjoyment of music, only in differing ways. It’s simple to see how each of us trusts technology in this simple area of our life.

    This analogy is no different than the end user who uses their CADD toolbox via vanilla AutoCAD, LDDT or other means to produce engineering drawings. They find a tool, develop a comfortable working process and crank out design.

    C3D presents a number of serious generational issues that must be dealt with. The subject of if, when and who learns style creation is just one example of the changes one must deal with to utilize C3D. With the power of styles and the ability to create production worthy drawings during the design phase dramatically changes what we can expect from draftsman, technicians and engineers as we move into the future.

    The draftsman in today’s Civil engineering office can accept change as a challenge in their environment by learning to take on tasks of the design technician. A firm that has a solid handle on styles and standards need only develop a great library of details before one begins to realize the functional obsoleteness for drafters as we know them today.

    Technicians can accept change as a challenge and working to take on more opportunities for themselves in areas that might previously thought only to be an engineer’s job all the while keeping in mind that all opportunities are not necessarily technical in nature.

    Engineers can accept the challenge of change by identifying tasks that can be efficiently completed by technicians in C3D all the while freeing up more time to consider more design options or as an opportunity to generate more work, hopefully more profitable.

    Of course every firm has overlaps or differing responsibilities amongst their staff members. The important thing moving forward is recognizing everyone’s role in the C3D production environment.

    With respect to C3D styles, younger users who are not technology challenged may actually create a bigger issue in that they may be more apt to propagate styles for everything under the sun while not truly understanding the design or construction processes. Yet on the other hand, an older technology challenged user who possess’ the design and construction process knowledge may be scared away from the initial “overwhelming” of C3D.

    Ultimately, defining where everyone fits in and getting them to buy in to the change may be a much larger challenge than deciding who creates the styles.

  24. MAnderson says:

    Sorry for introducing the “roles” of employees. My goal is to get people productive and everyone working in Civil3d.

    Pre-defined styles are a way to enforce the standards. In LDT, we have locked down the blocks, templates, and some of the LDT data so that we don’t have 15 different versions of the same thing, or 15 versions of the similiarly named but different items.

    Styles are like that. It helps keep the “language” the same. Styles are like our layering Standard, as our needs arise, we revist, clarify and redefine.

  25. Chris Rosa says:

    If I might chime in . . I believe the work flow issue is extremely valid as someone was talking about role change as a standard in the field we are all associated with. I know directly or indirectly, I have had to change my role in the fact I am creating styles and many people in my office have a mentality that we are here to use not learn this amazing new program. There is a huge gap in experience and the depth in the way users in my office think. I have tried till I am blue in the face to drive home using a dwt with styles already defined, which is still in the process of being created (and is forever ongoing as someone pointed out earlier). I have recently been on the side of a reseller as an AE and “helped” train my former company. (that was awkard, and another story) I was the power user in my company as far as LDT. Once I left and no one was moving forward with Civ3D things fell to the wayside. Someone has to be identified as the “Alpha Dog”, this is a new positition IMO. Styles was not driven home as the key to drawings and their presentation, for most companies that is what their entire concern is. Styles as much as I hate to say this needs to be “sold” as a 3 day class. This company spent thousands on a 3 day class for the essentials and left with nothing in the form of a dwt. A dwt needs to built in to the class and cost. I am learning the hard way that using civ3D is not so bad, but styles . . . . they are powerful . . . as a migraine! Now that I have actually put Civ3D in to production it is going away, but . . styles as much as it is talked about is not talked about enough. Now if I may with no negative jest intended say . . I have talked to many many “AE type” people. Courses are sold all the time and not included is the dwt. The NCS will not cut it for anyone. There is a lot of talk about companies and the responsibilty of people within the company. What about the responsibility of the Consultant? The intention of training and getting a company up to speed is so a paying company will not need a consultant over and over again. Now I am not pointing fingers by any means. I just think some of the responsibility/roll of consulting firm is changing too. I guess that pretty much summarizes what I am trying to say. “Where not in Kansas (LDT) anymore”

  26. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:

    In my former role as an AE for a reseller, and now with EE, I have always done my best to give people a realistic idea about what it takes to get Civil 3D fully implemented. I remember a few months ago I had to take a follow up survey for ICE class. It asked the question “how many implementations have you done in the past six months”… and then we had some other question to answer about success stories and how many firms were fully implemented.

    My answer? Hell, I ain’t even fully implemented and I hammer at this program ALL DAY LONG EVERY DAY.

    I don’t even have to take a break to talk to the local muni about road names and I don’t have a water cooler, so ALL I DO IS CIVIL 3D.

    The point is, that no matter how much committment you get from me, the INTERNAL committment is the absolutely most important thing.

    And the truth of the matter is that the company signs the contract with their consultant of choice. You get to tell us what you want.

    I cannot count the times I have sat before the decision makers of a firm with an outline of an approach that I strongly believed would be their best shot at success- including basic training, template creation, template coaching, and pilot project assistance only to be either whittled down to an essentials class, or rejected all together for someone else doing an essentials class.

    Another potentially unpopular fact is that it is extremely hard to find an AE who can truly answer your questions and tackle your specific needs.

    It takes a special breed of Civil 3D specialist to keep their head in the design world enough to really be able to a) anticipate a lot of what you need and b)figure out the stuff they could never anticipate (plus some extra discoveries along the way)

    Right now, it is extremely rare because most AEs in the game are former Land Desktop AEs. Their production experience, if any, was in Land Desktop. They are learning Civil 3D from tutorials, scripted demos and clean data sets. They sit down in front of a real project and suddenly their world caves in.

    This situation will absolutely change as more firms adopt Civil 3D and their power users get lured into the glamourous (cough cough) world of the AE. Only then will we have a crop of savvy Civil 3D implementors who can claim to have extensive experience getting drawings out the door with the software.

    Until then, you have to ask a lot of questions of your potential consultants. Those of us who have dedicated our existence to this program and its applications make it our business to thrash through real projects in real situations. We seek out places like the Autodesk discussion groups and solve people’s problems as practice, so we know what “real people” are going through with the software.

    So when you get two proposals for consulting work, don’t just compare the bottom line. Read and ask questions about all of those other lines in between.

    If you need help with some questions to ask, read my article on this subject:




  28. Stephen R. Sherrill says:

    Yes, Dana is correct that she can’t provide what the client refuses to buy. This is particularly distressing when your boss is like mine and refuses to consider buying ANY level of training. He taught himself release 9 AutoCAD and his employees managed to eventually become competant with Eaglepoint 95 without any help. Even the rough transition to LDT 2004 was accomplished with no training so why should we need it with Civil 3D? Yes, we have wasted enough manhours many times over the price he was quoted for training, but he is still resolved we can get by on our own. This is a direct result of his personal experience with staff members of an AutoCAD reseller and reinforced with similar stories from other firms.
    Civil 3D AE’s like Dana and Jason are handicapped with the bitter taste many employers still remember from past training efforts from those who were less dedicated or knowledgable. I would like to suggest that if you are fortunate enough to get training, please consider offerring to give them a written recommendation detailing your experience and any benefit you received from their effort to perhaps add some counterbalance to the industry reputation.

  29. I agree with Dana also, all I am trying to say is from my experience, however briefly I tried the “AE” position I did not see the sort of standards that we all see in Dana. And in general I believe it needs to be part of the package. Sorry, I meant no harm or was not trying to demean the position.

  30. Jason Hickey says:

    I agree fully with Dana. I can push the full 4 Phase Implementation that Autodesk tells me to, and the number of companies who will agree to that approach will be somewhere near the number 0. It’s hard for me to see customers who buy just the essentials class and then expect to be productive, because they have a) no template to use, and b) no concept of how to create one.

    Recently, a company ordered a training class. The person in charge refused to pay for a full three day essentials class, so they just asked for one day. I told them why this was a bad idea, but they insisted. At the end of the day, I go where I’m told to by the person signing the checks, so I did it. Since then, we’ve had numerous calls to our support line from that company, and the issues are not support issues, but “training via phone.” That’s something that benefits neither my company nor theirs.

    I came into the AE game when Civil 3D was really picking up. I came from industry as a Land Desktop “guru” (for whatever that’s worth.) I saw the light, and did what Dana did – all Civil 3D, all the time. I forgot most of what I know about Land Desktop, because I know that Civil 3D is not just the future, but the present. I work on real-life projects, not some canned or scripted demo. My classes are a real dataset, not some canned class where I read from the book. Even if my students refuse to pay for the time to create their template, I provide them with mine. It’s based on the NCS Extended template, but has been heavily modified, and has probably double the content. This gives them something to get started with, even if it’s not their own standard – it’s better than what they get out of the box.

    Some people say the words “Reseller AE” and then immediately spit, as if there was a bad taste in their mouth. I won’t claim to be any better than any others out there, but be careful not to clump all reseller AE’s together. A lot of them are stuck in the LDT days and have no clue about Civil 3D in general. Make sure yours can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. That’s vital to your efforts, and all you will ever hear me say (publicly) about that issue.

  31. I am not standing in a position of pointing fingers, I was an “AE” for a little while. So I have seen both sides. Dana for instance is a incredibly knowledgeable person and she can handle on the fly questions. I also agree with all she has stated here. I have been in “training” were that was not so. Whether or not the client will accept for classes encompassing the “4 course” class, all I am saying is that is the underline problem, so I agree with you too
    Then on top of that is styles. How can you work in Civ3D without the knowledge and understanding of styles? You can’t. It is a package deal, or it should be.

  32. Jason Hickey says:

    Christopher –

    I knew you weren’t pointing fingers at AE’s – I was saying that some people do. It seems to be a dirty word in certain situations, something hat’s pretty evident.

    As far as styles – you can know what styles are and how they work in Civil 3D without the knowledge of how they are created and modified. That’s one of the arguments here, others think that you should know everything about them to be able to even open the program. I happen to disagree, but I only report what I’ve seen that’s worked or not worked.

  33. Dana Breig Probert, EIT says:


    so how do we handle this? make a styles class? better styles whitepapers? better intro?

    feedback- please 🙂

  34. T_Bernhard says:

    Well, just an idea: when I was putting together our organisation’s Civil 3D manual, I put together a drawing, based loosely on a project we where starting on at the time, that showed almost all the different aspects of Civil 3D display, whether that be Surface control, or Surface masks, Alignment appearance, Labels of I-don’t-know-how-many types, Profile Views… you get the idea. I named them all and specified the routes available (drop-down, right-click, Toolspace, command line) to create the object and to access the Style. In some cases I named the various components so that it was clear which part of which Style coloured which line/arc/number.

    It was a good exercise for me to come to grips with the whole thing (remember, I was a Lone-Wolf) and in the end it made sense to the others too. (Now I’ve got Pipes, Expressions, Notes and a couple of other isolated areas to address when I’ve got the time. The rest fit on four A3 sheets.) That seems like a good starting point, right?