As a young architect, I’ve worked for a number of small firms in my short amount of time in the industry. The offices I worked in only had 2 to 4 people handling everything from design, production, drafting, project management, business management and client relations, leaving little time to focus on the thing that makes architecture so fun: drawing cool shit. Doing any kind of creative visualization was something only to be handled in the cracks of our lives, and could never interfere with the “billable work” that kept the lights on. I became conditioned to believing that all that touchy-feely artistic imagery stuff that had been kneaded into my head at design school was an unnecessary expense when it came to running a successful design business.
What I’ve come to realize only recently is just how powerful jaw-dropping visualizations and renderings of unbuilt work can be. The firm I work at has gotten a little bigger, and we’ve been able to invest resources into showing off the work we are doing before it even begins construction. It’s lead to bigger, better clients, more secure relationships with current clients, and a growing buzz in the design community about the legitimacy of the creative work we are doing. It’s allowed the firm to grow even faster. And it’s lead me to believe one simple, undeniable truth:
I’d like to examine just how important it’s become not just to architecture firms, but all design offices, engineer firms and construction companies. Creating amazing, believable visualizations of unbuilt work has become a joint effort to promote the construction and design industry as a whole, not just the people who own the intellectual property. Perhaps it’s always been this way, but it seems that with the influx in software technology, online connectivity, and talented artists has made way for a revolution in how we experience un-built projects. So, when does architectural visualization and 3D rendering actually make a difference? Let’s examine.
Design competitions are obvious. While the idea behind the design in the most important aspect of a successful competition entry, the visual representation and explanation of that idea is a close second. Marking sure the jury instantly understands what the design is about is the foothold the rest of the entry needs to be properly unfolded. Often, it’s the first and last thing people will remember about you submission, and must be professionally crafted and articulated in order to give the idea behind it all the credibility it deserves.
People often think design competitions are reserved for massive corporate and international firms with unlimited resources and dedicated teams. While it’s true that larger firms have an easier time producing numerous competition entries at any given time, the benefit for small or young architecture firms entering competitions can’t be overstated. There is a lot of young talent in the design industry, and there are few better ways to get your name and work out there than by entering competitions. It does come at a risk, as you’ll likely not be winning anything before your reputation builds, but it’s an investment that can pay off if you consistently produce work that holds up with the big boys.
And it’s the visualization and rendering aspect of the competition entry that can get you there. As I mentioned, it’s never been easier to allocate talented resources and personnel that can help a small firm produce images on par with some of the most world-renowned offices. Freelance rendering companies such as Easy Render connects architects and designers with some of the most talented artists around the globe that will produce incredible work that is affordable and fast. It allows the small guys to get a leg up and start winning competitions normally reserved for a few select offices.
When you’re starting out, or even if you’ve owned your business or firm for sometime, no one will be a better advocate for your work than yourself. You can sit back and hope the awards, accolades, and story-hungry press to simply get a wiff of your talent carried to them by a seasonal breeze - or you can get your ass out there and hit the pavement yourself. This can mean anything from developing a slick new website to schmoozing with the development elite at an exclusive black tie cocktail party. The former might be a better place to start, and goes hand in hand with developing a body of digital work that shows off why you deserve and invitation to that cocktail party.
A young or recently started architecture firm probably won’t have a huge pool of built work to pull promotional material from. What they will have is a ton of interesting ideas and probably a number of good, in-progress designs to prove it. It’s important to get those designs out there and show people why your services are valuable. Nothing trumps built work, but a realistic image of something that will be built someday goes a long way to showing people why they should hire you. Do the work, and shove it in as many faces as you can find.
This is where having a good 3D rendering artists on hand makes such a difference. Throughout school and early on in your design career, you’ve probably had to rely on yourself to produce all design drawings and imagery for your work. This is the way it should at first, as those skills you learn are vital to developing into a successful architect. However, there are other skills architects possess that they must spend a majority of time exploring in order to grow a practice, and other tasks must be relegated to employees or freelancers in order to produce consistently great work. Outsourcing that aspect of your job is an infinitely better option than ignoring it completely. As I mentioned, I’ve worked for small firms that don’t invest in quality visual work, and the business suffers as a result. The design will always be yours, but in order to best promote and advocate for that design you’ll need a little help. It goes a long way to solidifying your reputation in the design world.
Architects are easy targets for 3D rendering artists looking for work, but there are plenty of other fields out there that have benefited greatly from technological improvements and resource accessibility in the industry.
Product design is an avenue explored by most 3D rendering artists, and applies to a wide variety of different types of businesses. The auto industry in particular has come a long way in how they market and promote their latest products with the use of visualization and rendering software. Just about any company you can think of that produces a ‘thing’ has used digital imagery of that thing to show off it’s capabilities. The way that product is shown matters not only to showcase what the thing is and what it does, but also the lifestyle it embodies. If the imagery is off, the product won't sell. Business owner know this, and have poured significant resources into making their marketing campaigns revolve around the artistic images they can develop.
Real estate agents and development firms are using visualizations to put home sellers and buyers into homes that haven’t even broken ground yet, all with the help of convincing visualizations of their future home. The capabilities of visual 3D artists has led to more pre-sales than ever before. It’s a promising trend that allows families to ‘see’ exactly what they are buying, providing well designed housing to those who value good architecture. Pre-sales aside, there is plenty for a real estate business to gain from a go-to 3D rendering artist. Even a space that has been around since the 1950’s can be digitalized to breath new life into it, showing it off in a refurbished state in order to lure buyers and make sales. It might seem disingenuous to pull off that kind of 3D wizardry, but the realism that artists can achieve these days can accurately and truthfully show the potential of existing space.
The ink doesn’t stop running there, either. Just about any industry in the world can be improved with the use of 3D visualization in some capacity. The fact is: digital rendering is now a firmly established and important aspect of industry and commerce, and will only prove to be more important as technology develops even further. Virtual and augmented reality is at our doorsteps, and companies around the world are already thinking about and implementing the technology to assist and inhibit growth. Applications go far beyond architectural and product design, too. Military institutes worldwide are using this technology to train personnel in ways never before imagined. Feel about that how you will, but if the military is using it, you know it’s having a global impact.
The bottom line? Architectural visualization and 3D rendering truly make a difference. It’s happening at almost all levels of design and, as I’ve said, is creeping into a great number of industries and businesses. Architects have always relied on the fidelity and legitimacy of their design drawings to be successful, something that is more true now than it ever has been. There’s no excuse anymore for professional design firms not to produce impressive, engaging imagery and content for clients and fans to get excited about. And to those small firms I’ve made my living being a part of, don’t let the stature of your team determine the quality of your work. You’re never too young or too small to be relevant, so get out there and start blowing people away!
The future of architecture depends on it.