Running any small business meanings paying the closest attention to every dollar that either leaves or comes in contributing to the bottom line. For architecture firms made up of anywhere from one to twenty people, this can be especially difficult due to the nature of finding work, and delivering a quality design that can be built on time and on budget.
This can also mean small design budgets that don’t lend themselves to heavy spending on artwork or 3D renderings to help contribute to the design process. However, I hope to convince you that the difference between the success or failure of a firm of this size is in the way it is presented to the rest of the world. Completed work will always be the best measure of an architect’s ability, but having the ability to convince clients and the public of your worth without physical proof can give you a huge leg up against other, similarly positioned offices.
Here’s why 3D rendering and visualization is vital for small architecture firms.
Architecture is an incredibly complex, multi-disciplinary profession, and it takes most people decades to get truly good at. For small firms with young inexperienced principals, you might not have the most robust body of work to show prospective clients. If that’s the case, you better at least have proof of your design chops, and present the ability to craft a vision and follow it through a comprehensive process.
This is where visualization comes in. If you have people making your work look as good as it possibly can, it might not matter that you aren’t as experienced as Renzo Piano. I’d never suggest presenting clients with a fraudulent portrayal of your ability to deliver on the dream of their project, but investing in proper visualizations will let talent shine where talent lies. Your small firm will only get better with more work and more experience, so if you have to hustle a little bit to get those first few big breaks, so be it.
I often joke with my colleagues that the only people looking at architecture office’s websites are other architects. While there is some truth to this, it doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. Developers, benefactors, and other deep pocketed individuals might happen to stumble upon your site when looking for their next designer. In such an event, you better be damn sure they like what they see.
3D visualizations - whether it be renderings or animations - help explain your designs in ways not even a finished product can do. They are the thread through your process, and it is important for small firms to invest in that thread to show the work behind the conception and execution of a work of architecture. It builds a story for website viewers that help them better understand your value, and why they should hire you.
Ultimately, 3D renderings and visualizations are meant to showcase your firm’s ability to design buildings. If you can showcase the design before it has been constructed, then place it next to a picture of the finished product, you can quickly demonstrate your ability to follow a design through to completion. It’s so easy for a project to change, and for a concept to get diluted, through the permitting, value engineering, and construction process.
Ultimately, this is an architect’s greatest task, and one that can be proven by having visualizations, diagrams, and renderings done before construction begins. It shows clients your ability to stick up for the integrity of the design, and work with contractors to result in a completed project that encompasses the initial joint vision of the architect and the client.
One of the most valuable, and often overlooked benefits of having 3D renderings of your work created is how they reinforce the feedback loop and lead to better designs. It’s one thing to pan around a crude SketchUp model and critique the merits of your staircase design, but another thing entirely to see it rendered in real-life conditions with appropriate context at a human scale. Visualizations are not just portfolio puffers, they should be used as tools to help move the design forward and improve on the details that will make it great.
For small firms, it can be difficult to justify the cost of design development renderings, but with the wealth of options from an outsourcing perspective, it has never been easier to have professional-level renderings done at an affordable price. There’s no good reason not to incorporate it into the design process, and make sure the work you are sending to the construction site is the absolute best it can be.
Your next job may depend on it.