Does digital visualization help the creative design process?

3d visualization as creative tool

3D in the creative design process.

I want to be clear that this is not a conversation about the latest and greatest visualization technology. This is a conversation about if visualization actually helps the creative process.

There is no doubt that computer generated images help tremendously in the presentation process, that part is not debatable. By and large, gone are the days of loose pencil and water color renderings, free flowing diagonal markers and slick rapidograph ink on mylar perspectives even though all current rendering software strive to emulate that old ‘analog’ look.


No question that 3D is a phenomenal tool

One cannot compete with a 3D visualization of an idea. Just put a sketch in front of a 3D jockey and she will have it ready for you in no time at all. If you don’t have a 3D person in the office, no problem, just email your sketches to India or China where they will return a very polished rendering for you (weather it’s what you wanted or not is a different story) in no time at all and for a price that competes with taking your staff out to the movies.

The ideal here would be not to hand it off to a 3D jockey, but rather create natively in 3D so that when the idea is “cooked” one just has to push the render button, and voilà, you’re done.

This is where things get complicated. They get complicated because 3D is not easily mastered by all. I’m not talking about Sketchup, I’m talking about powerful 3D, where only your imagination gives form.


However, its not a fix-all for your design

And so here is my first observation. As long as you are modeling rectangles and basic shapes, then yes, visualization not only helps but is essential in the creative process. Modeling basic shapes is in fact simple and intuitive and even an old dog can learn how to do it. But to say that all design must be limited to only rectangles and spheres and cones (called primitives), is like saying that a chef can only cook with sugar, flour & salt. Good luck with that.

My second observation is something I have witnessed many times, as well as having fallen prey to it myself, the altering of a design idea just because we couldn’t figure out how to make it do “that”. I’m talking about the inside out, upside down, concave line that needs to be coplanar to that tangent. In our minds we think we know what it looks like but we just can’t make it work in 3D. We go online to see if there are any blogs that talk about it, or with our fingers crossed, any tutorials on YouTube that show how to do just “that”. After a protracted challenge we surrender and make it do something that is a hell of a lot easier in 3D and move on to the next segment of the idea.

Alas, the elusive answer to the very question this blog is positing is yes and no.  Hear me out before you accuse me of straddling the fence.  What are you visualizing?  If you have an idea, an inspired and clear vision, then yes.  If, on the other hand, you are looking for an idea while throwing primitive forms together, then absolutely no.  It will not help you find an idea.


Paolo Bertolotti, NY