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9 Things That are Considered Tacky in Architectural Visualization

Architectural visualization is about communicating with an audience. This means that there are certain things you can’t do when presenting your visuals.

Architectural visualizations can tell a fantastic story. At the same time, they can give valuable insights into how working or living would be like within these buildings.

With new, improved tools, architects now have the option to create incredibly detailed, photorealistic visualizations. However, it’s not all about the tools. Visualization is one of the jobs where people have a lot of creative freedom.

This means that they can easily get carried away and miss the point altogether. Misleading visualizations can easily lead to a loss of trust between clients and architects. This is why you should learn about the things you shouldn’t do when doing your renderings.

Too much reflection

Some of the most challenging things to represent truthfully in visualizations are mirror surfaces and glass reflections. If a glass has too much transparency or the mirrored facade is “perfect,” your whole visualization will be misleading and look much different than the actual building.

Getting the reflection right is a test of how good a visualizer is actually. It requires the use of advanced tools, but with the right dosage. Going over can look worse than not adding reflection altogether.

When clients see that the real results aren’t anything like the visualization, you might get into big trouble. Learning how to control glare is one of the best ways to stop doing this.

Trying to make the whole thing look sci-fi

When it comes to architectural rendering, one of the most critical rules everyone needs to remember is to stay within realism. However, this is often not the case. Visualizers have a lot of tools at their disposal, and they get carried away.

Of course, architects do many things to make their designs more impactful, but crossing the line might have a counter-effect. Clients expect to look at designs that are going to resemble real structures. Even though it’s a visual representation of something that doesn’t yet exist, it needs to be realistic.

Once it loses its realism, the story-telling effect of visualization gets lost as well. On the other hand, as much as it is crucial to create impressive renders, you need to know the purpose of your work. You aren’t making a sci-fi game for kids. Keep it professional and within your niche.

Adding too many stock images

Originality is significant in architectural renders. Making sure that you add natural elements is crucial. Make sure to create as much of your visuals, look to showcase their quality, add cohesion, and establish your style.

Even if they aren’t the best, they will leave a better impression than combining random events you found online. In most cases, visualizers overdo it by adding too many stock images. When you make your visuals, it will be easier to fit them all together.

Additionally, taking shots on your own will allow you to get the right resolution. Stock images are more difficult to appear genuine and unique. Furthermore, people can often recognize them as they’ve seen them elsewhere.

Trees on skyscrapers

There has been an argument in the architecture world about whether or not it’s possible to grow trees on tall buildings. Yes, it’s possible. However, this doesn’t mean that every visualization should have trees on top. The issue is not if a visualizer can put them there or not, but whether they are needed there.

Even if there is a plan for a garden on the roof, it doesn’t mean that trees will grow. Furthermore, not all roofs are suitable for such kind of pressure. You need to be practical and stay on the realistic side.

We’ve seen a lot of examples of trees on skyscrapers, but in reality, this is a rare practice. It’s impractical to do this and requires a higher investment while not bringing any noticeable benefits. On top of that, this is an old trend, and nobody is impressed with trees on roofs anymore.  

Adding irrelevant details

At first, architectural visualization was all about presenting the project and nothing else. Structures mattered only and nothing else. However, with the advancement of visualization tools, it quickly became necessary to add details, surroundings, and details that will enhance the look of the main object.

The building is still the main focus, but it has additional elements that all work in making it look even better. A lot of architects misunderstand the role of these details, and they end up focusing too much on them. With this kind of approach, clients will be able to see a lot of irrelevant information that won’t tell them anything about the structure.

Nobody wants to see how good you are at highlighting small details that don’t carry that much importance. They want to see a realistic presentation of architecture and how it interacts with its surroundings.

Leaving a bleak atmosphere

Leaving a melancholic and grim atmosphere isn’t the best approach unless this is the overall tone of the rendering narrative you’re following. Don’t try to make your visualizations depressing; there is rarely any need for that. After all, your work is focused on user experience.

There is a need for your narrative to lead to a happy ending in which architectural visualization is realized. When a client looks at the project, he or she shouldn’t be consumed by thoughts of Armageddon or sadness.

Instead, they need to have a positive outlook on things. The construction needs to inspire feelings of well-being, prosperity. The whole idea is to make people like the concept and want to go through with the project.

Recycling the same elements

Naturally, sometimes you will have to use visuals from somewhere else. This is fine just as long as you don’t overdo it. However, a lot of architects get lazy over time and find models or elements that perfectly scale in their projects. They repeat themselves many times and add the same things they’ve used before.

This is an easy way to make the whole process faster and easier. However, it loses originality and doesn’t look genuine. Recycling some minor elements from time to time is not a big deal, but if you do this very often, people will see through it when they check out your work.

A lot of people like to recycle scale people. This can be distracting to viewers, and at some point, it may become ridiculous. Additionally, even if you are using template elements, you need to put in the work to incorporate them into your presentation so that they don’t look unnatural.

Not enough light bounces

A lot of people try to cut down on their work by adding fewer light bounces. They do this because this is how the rendering will last a shorter amount of time. However, light bouncing is very important as it affects the way the shadows are rendered.

It’s also called indirect lighting or simple global illumination. When there are several light-bounces, all of the shadows will get dark. Your whole project won’t be visible and will seem unnatural. This is why it’s essential to take the time and add more bounces.

This is a huge issue when it comes to photorealistic presentations. However, as visualizations need to be as realistic as possible, it’s become essential to add enough light bounces here as well.

Trying to be cool with a fly-through view

Almost all architectural renderings need to have animation. It can help sell the idea and communicate the overall project to the client. The problem is that most designers go with a fly-through view. Even though this method is useful for showing the sides of a structure and the features, it can be dull.

Everyone is doing it, and it doesn’t leave any particular impression on the viewer. Instead, look to break the whole animation into multiple scenes. It does require a bit more work and time, but it’s so much more versatile and dynamic.

You can add dramatic cameras, design snippets, and unique viewpoints. These work together to excite the audience and get them involved in what you’re trying to present. Additionally, using scenes makes it much easier to present essential features and potential ideas.


Like all visually creative work, architectural rendering needs to be done with style and modesty. Adding too much detail or doing too little when it counts can make your final design have less impact. This is why you should pay attention to these nine mistakes we mentioned today.

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