Architectural Visualization - Design vs Marketing

In the world of architectural visualization, design firms typically focus their efforts in two primary avenues of production: design work and marketing work. And while the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, there are aspects of each that require wildly different sets of constraints and criteria when considering visualization specifically.

This article aims to break down the differences in creating rendering and animation work for purposes of design versus purposes of marketing and promotion.

At the end of the day, these are two aspects of a complete process and workflow composition that makes up a major component of a design firm’s responsibilities (the other being construction documents/administration).

What’s in a design?

At the most basic and foundational level of visualization, a design starts with a sketch. This is the first time an idea and set of design rules are manifested in a visual representation that can be built and iterated upon throughout the design process. An architect is only as good as their ability to communicate their ideas quickly through a few simple gestures of pen on paper. The sketch is meant to convey information to the design team as a way of setting in motion the feedback loop that will help develop a design that stays true to its roots.

Then, through the magic of computers and programs like SketchUp, Revit, ArchiCAD, and 3DS Max, that sketch transforms into a building design that can be continued to be developed with a higher sophistication of visual feedback.

This is where design visualization truly shines.

3D renderings and animations created during the design phase of a project are meant to convey information that might inform better decisions throughout. These decisions are being made by the architect, of course, but they are also being made by the person with the final stamp on design approval: the client. And for the client to best make those decisions (and in favor of the architect’s desired outcome), they must be able to understand the design on a macro and micro level.

This is no easy balancing act, and must be done surgically and with a level of professionalism that won’t only result in a better design, but in an improved relationship between architect and client that will allow future correspondence to be handled without conflict or confrontation.

Design visualization helps move the design forward towards the most desired conclusion for both client and architect, and provides visual aids to help lubricate that process.

Marketing Visualization and the Final Product

Between the design of a structure then the marketing of the final product is the massive undertaking of consulting, permitting, value engineering, and construction administration - during which the design can undergo a number of unforeseen changes and modifications. And while the desired result is something that stays true to the initial images and concepts developed in the beginning, this isn’t always the case.

Marketing images, diagrams, and other visualizations are not only meant to sell people on the finished state of the building, but also convince future clients that you’re worth their investment as the designer for their next project. These images should be polished, professional, and be showcasing a few very specific aspects of the building design. Typically, these snippets revolve around context within the environment and general interior experience.

Where design visualizations are often rough, sketchy, and abundant in volume and angle, marketing visualizations are photorealistic, experiential, and offer an extremely narrow view of the design narrative. Often these visualizations are boiled down to 2-3 images or a short animation that showcases the best aspects of the finished design. They are a visual post-mortem of the design that highlight what makes the building great, and why people should be excited about being a part of it.

Marketing visualizations are tools the architect and client use to generate buzz, market square footage, and sell the general viewing public on the merits of the design and construction process.

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Architecture firms have a lot on their plate, and they use all shapes and sizes of visual information to help facilitate those many tasks. Design work and marketing work are the bookends of this work flow, and should be carefully considered how they are handled for the ultimate benifit of the building and the health of the architecture business.