Design Communications that Tell the Right Story
Today’s workplace hosts up to five generations and DLR Group is no different. Everyone processes information differently. Our projects and teams are staffed by any combination of age groups fluent in various design processes, languages, software programs, and more. And just as our project teams are diverse, so are our clients. Each client processes information differently. There is a kinesthetic sense for absorbing media, based on how that individual learned to communicate visually. If you learned to draw with pencils and ink pens, it takes time to process a digital visualization. If you’ve learned to communicate visually in three dimensions, 2D images can present challenging representations of depth and substance.
Every type of visual communication – from 2D to 3D, from a hand-drawn sketch to a digitally rendered virtual environment – has a place in a design story to address the appropriate audience. When clients choose to work with DLR Group, they are selecting our team of people, as well as our brand. We should never dictate the mediums through which those teams communicate their work, values, and passions.
Digital design modeling in the DLR Group studio. Photo © DLR Group.
Computer aided design at all phases of our projects has become an industry norm, but the ability to draw and sketch is still incredibly important. Whether designers are using paper or a screen, they are still drawing. It’s never an either-or scenario. Some of our clients have no desire for ink drawings, while some want them framed on their walls. It is our job to find the best medium to communicate design value, and the right opportunities to push the boundaries of what a client thinks he or she wants.
Today, we’re ubiquitously bombarded with technology inside and outside of work, from augmented reality for kids learning in schools to smart technology in our home tech. As a result, our clients are more comfortable with technology and it has become an important way for us to show design value. And that is what it’s really about: the design value we communicate.
If you look at digital design technology, there is a groundswell in the expectations of digital design communication. Technology that supports a value narrative is a very real component of our practice. Ten years ago, when they were the new “thing,” renderings were costly and took weeks to complete. In the last five years, finished renderings have become a standard expectation for clients. But they are static, and don’t tell the full design story.
A virtual design experience at DLR Group. Photo © DLR Group.
Pace of Design
Digital modeling, particularly immersive variations such as virtual and augmented reality, provide a new degree of communication that brings clients to a wholly unprecedented level of engagement with their projects. In a way, immersive digital environments are deceptively transparent. In virtual environments, clients can empathetically experience their projects earlier than ever before. Because of this they can also identify elements of dissatisfaction with a design much faster. And as masters of our communication tools, from parametric models to advanced computation plugins, we can iterate new solutions that address their issues on the spot.
And that distinction – that individuals can communicate their ideas effectively – is really at the crux of the design value we deliver to our clients. Yes, it is important that designers can draw, but it doesn’t have to be with a pencil. Digital design communication is an absolute must in our industry. You only have to be inside a VR model to wear the client’s hat, to see the design, to visualize your design like an end user, and to instinctively absorb the narrative of its value. This frontier of mixed reality and parametric iteration is an exciting time for design, for our practice, and for our clients.
However, as an integrated design firm, we also have to look deeper than what a client asks for; they’ve hired us for our expertise and advice, and we have to apply that responsibly. We always consider the dichotomy that technology presents: Just because we can, should we? For all the advances we have made and innovations we’ve embraced, I feel a sense of pride in our deliberate evaluation of each technological opportunity. The next generation of designers are as comfortable evaluating new tools as any generation has ever been, and I admire their resourceful confidence to iterate a new design solution in Rhinoceros and print their idea with an RFD plugin, all while on a job site. These digital expressions are not soulless, because they are putting their souls into the idea.
I’m not fearful of AI, or technology in general. I embrace it. I love digital technology, and I think it’s an enormous benefit to our industry and the value we bring to our clients. Clients want to talk to creative people who can make empathetic and compassionate decisions, and while computers can be programmed for empathy – Hey, Alexa, can you play me a song to cheer me up? – they are not compassionate or clever. We are hired not only for our ideas, but to help clients do the right thing. There always will be a place for the human touch in design.
In all avenues of design, there’s never a time when you know the exact end-result; it’s always a process, faithfully recorded through the strokes of a pen or the taps of a stylus. Part of our job as designers is to use whatever mediums necessary to tell a design story to the appropriate audience. And to craft that story, we still need thoughtful and original creatives to ask the right questions, and apply the best technologies that communicate design value to our clients.
Read more about DLR Group’s digital design applications.
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