The Dos and Don’ts of Architectural Visualization

Becoming a prolific, well respected 3D visualization artist is no easy task. Not only does it call for the dedication of a Tibetan monk, it requires a unique set of skills that span a plethora of disciplines. The most important thing you can do as you begin to gain traction in the rendering and visualization industry is set up a rigorous set of rules to manage your process, work flow, and continued education. If you don’t have a solid foundation of rules to build a body of work around, your business will quickly crumble under the weight of disorganization and complacency.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts for you to keep in mind as you develop your own repertoire of guidelines. Be sure to answer honest questions about what you need personally to cultivate the most efficient, distractionless work environment you can. Everyone is different, so feel free to agree with me or throw your computer out the window in rage and disgust. You officially have permission to hulk out. Moving on.

DO accept the fact that doing the work is the only way to be good. A very select few are gifted with the natural ability to sneeze and produce profound and emotionally moving works of digital art, but alas most of us are not. The only way to be on top of your industry is to put in longer hours, expose yourself to new ideas and techniques, and invest in a home IV that circulates coffee continuously through your veins.

DON’T get discouraged. It’s easy to poke around the internet at other people’s work and immediately crawl into a dark hole comforted only by your own perceived inadequacies. I have news for you: you will fail and there will always be someone better than you. If your renderings aren’y as good as the other guy’s, it’s not because you’re a talentless schmuck. It’s because you haven’t put in the work yet. You’ll get there. Break through those mental blocks and just keep creating.

DO travel. Most architectural visualization artists are freelancers that could work from the Moon if they had a habitable atmosphere and a decent internet connection. This is the beauty of being digitally free. Take advantage. The more you see the better your work will be. Go to London. Go to Tokyo. Go to Morocco. Experiencing a rich and diverse variety of perspectives train your eye to see things differently.

DON’T do all your architectural visualization work in the same style. While developing your personal brand (or maintaining that of your employer) is important, being artistically dexterous allows you to broaden your scope of work. Furthermore, working with different rendering and visualization techniques will inevitably make the one’s you know best even better. Something about iron sharpening iron?

DO continually educate yourself. No matter how well you’ve mastered the inner workings of VRAY and Maya, the swiftness with which rendering technology advances makes it easy for you to find yourself behind the curve. Inevitably, if you are working a lot, you will constantly be learning new techniques, skills, and programs. However, complacency will rear its ugly head eventually, so be prepared by seeking out education no matter how many times your face shows up on the cover of WIRED.

DON’T be an asshole. There just isn’t any room for it in any job, but particularly the design and visualization industry. If clients or anyone else poised to hand you piles of cash find you difficult to work with or driven by your own reflection, they will stop paying you.  Getting by on talent alone will help you reach certain point, but be careful of the bridges you burn. If you aren’t, you’ll find yourself alone on an island with no one to work with but a pack of baboons, and even they are starting to give you the stink eye.

DO cultivate your passions. Chances are, you got into the architectural visualization industry because it tickled a certain unscratchable itch you had no choice but to rub against a bedpost. It’s one of the things most designers and artists share. However, it can be a fickle fire that’s easily smothered by the day to day grind of the job. The good news is there are ways to fan the flames and ensure the work never becomes stale. Take on new kinds of work. Challenge yourself. Immerse yourself in what initially drew you to the profession and be a better artist because of it.

DON’T rely on a single piece of software. There are many different flavors and varieties of modeling, rendering, postproduction, and animation programs out there, and your best bet is to become familiar with more than a few. Learn the pros and cons software like 3DS Max, Maxwell, Revit, Rhino, SketchUp and the gang and dovetail those with your specific set of skills. Learning new programs isn’t easy, but should be considered an important component of your continued education.

DO get out of your apartment every once in awhile. Gluing to your face to a computer screen for four days straight can have some seriously detrimental affects on your health (not to mention all that Mountain Dew). Take a walk, socialize, find inspiration in the real world to make your digital worlds that much more believable.

DON’T be afraid to be bold. There are a lot of great artists you should follow as you develop your skills as an architectural visualization artist, but breaking free from convention will set you apart from your competition. Take chances not only on the type of work you’re doing, but the style and perspective of the renderings you are producing. Plus, the job is always more fun when you’re pushing the boundaries.

DO keep track of your best work. Whether it’s simply a file folder on your computer you can quickly send out to prospective clients or a professionally built portfolio website that makes you look like Michelangelo reincarnated, you need a way to showcase your skills. These days, getting a personal website up and running has never been easier. Do a bit of research and make your work as visible as it can be.

DON’T forget to ask for help. Freelance visualization artists are notorious for lone wolfing their way through their careers. It’s great if you’ve recognized you work better by yourself, but without a community of friends or internet acquaintances to pick you up from time to time, that limb you’ve gone out on is going to get awfully lonely. Asking for a bit of help from someone who knows better will not only make you do better work, it may even land you a new friend or two.

Bonus: DON’T take all the advice you hear. People love the sound of their own words penetrate the psyche of others (this blogger included), so develop a good ear for it and take only what you think will assist you on your journey. Godspeed.

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