Digital Design Build Strategies

A New Age of Digital Design

Five designers’ tools that have changed everything


 

The existence of blueprints has been common knowledge to the general public since the dawn of man. Ancient Greek architects would provide blueprints for almost every famed structure we know and love today; but these structures took decades and even centuries to complete. Although incredibly ornate, these structures have, in many, cases, become archaic. They simply, on a technological aspect, don’t compare to the massive steel structures modern man has been constructing since the mid to late nineteenth century. The difference between then and now is like night and day, and is all relative the process in which all objects are designed, prototyped, and built. These processes are now fully integrated into the digital design world. Now, with the facilitation of fully integrated and communicative three dimensional design technology, Design build firms, graphic designers, animation houses, and manufacturers have all been able to create models of their products in three dimensional, virtual spaces. In the past 10 years or so, I have actively been searching for the right products to help designers and builders create beautiful products for their clients before even swinging a hammer.  Of the hundreds of programs and Apps’ out there, I have found that these five wonderful tools have helped me, as well as, many other designers alike.

1.  Sketchup: First released in 2000, Sketchup is a very user friendly 3D modeling and design software for architectural concept design, interior designers, and manufacturers. I must say, I have

Sketchup design done for a kitchen remodel
Sketchup design done for a kitchen remodel

been using this program since 2004, and it has become much more powerful than anyone had ever imagined. Since Google bought the product in 2006, added features like geolocation and Google earth integration literally put Sketchup on the map.  Google also used its massive storage capability to create a digital warehouse of millions of models for users to download for free. As many engineers and architects would say, Sketchup has many limitations, but it is a great way to scratch the building information modeling, or (BIM) surface. They release new versions almost every year and are now adding integrated 3d printing technology into the user interface.

2. AutoCAD Architecture 2015: AutoCAD 1.0 was released in 1982, and was strictly a command based drafting software. It has now become industry standard, and has made Autodesk a massive corporation that develops products for any field of the digital design world. Products like MAYA and REVIT have made animation and BIM modeling extremely powerful in the past 8-10 years, and additions are being made to these products every day.

A glimpse of the newest CAD interface
A glimpse of the newest CAD interface

I use AutoCAD Architecture 2015 every day, and have found it to be extremely useful throughout the entire design phase of our production process. Seamless tools, and an incredibly dialed in user interface allow me to draw very technical and accurate construction documents like I never could before.

3. Maxwell Render: Introduced just ten years ago, Maxwell render is a wonderful, unbiased 3D photo-realism rendering program, which can be used with many other interfaces.

A view of a kitchen rendered in Maxwell
A view of a kitchen rendered in Maxwell

If I create a residential interior or exterior design, and want to bring it to the next level, I will use this program to create a photo like rendering that is so compelling, it is nearly impossible for the viewer to tell if is real or fake. This is a great capability of a design/ build firm, because it showcases the digital designer’s vision behind the project through a beautiful and true presentation.

Shapeways: Shapeways, although not a program or ‘App’, has become a very powerful tool for designers and inventors all over the world. Shapeways.com is a Dutch Founded, New York based 3D printing service and market place, similar to Etsy, yet all of the products and designs located on the website are created and modeled in various 3d modeling technology suites by all of the users. Yes, ten years ago, this would of sounded like something of science fiction, but in reality, it has become an extremely useful outlet for designers looking to create tangible models from screen to tabletop.

A 3d printed model of the famous Eames Chair.
A 3d printed model of the famous Eames Chair.

Shapeways allows us to create anything from anything at any time; something that only digital designers dreamed of in the past few decades. It has recently allowed Masters Touch to create a 3D model of an entire home for a client, which helps me realize that because of this unprecedented technology, anything seems to be possible throughout the design phase.

Photoshop: Photoshop is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Systems for Windows and OS X. It has been one of the most pivotal digital design tools to graphic designers for years.

A Photoshop rendering of an exterior space
A Photoshop rendering of an exterior space

Developed as part of a cohesive suite, Photoshop is just one facet of Adobes design suite. Although Photoshop has more of a niche with graphic designers, it is also a useful tool for those in the realm of 3D modeling. This tool allows users to take exports from their favorite modeling program, and modify them to create beautiful, realistic, presentations. I use Photoshop to do everything from logo and poster design, to using filters and layering on my 3d models.

I’ve chosen these five tools for digital designers because they represent the cutting edge technology in today’s designer’s market. We use all five of these tools at Masters Touch Design Build on a day to day basis. The idea behind tools like this is to create efficient, cohesive models and presentations for our clients in order to ensure a quality product, even before the first nail goes in.

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