Does 3D Rendering Programs Really Make You Work More Efficiently?

Perspective drawing in the past was used as a visual aide for the clients who were non-professional and lacking of 3D imagination, so most of the interior design majored students all needed to learn color renderings by hand at school when the 3D rendering computer programs were still at their infancy. Time passes by quickly, so does technology, there are so many 3D rendering programs out there in the market nowadays, and many design firms also start to use this technology to serve the clients better and help the design professionals designing better. Well, serving the clients better? that is undeniable; helping designing better? I somehow disagree.

The best example, I am not sure if you have encountered the situation like this: When the wall framing was up at the job site or when the project was un-finished, the clients went to the job site, and when they saw the space in 3D, they start to make changes, you told them because they saw things un-finished, they had the false impression that their spaces would look bad after completion, some of them would take your advice and not to make any change because you also told them it was fine to make changes on the approved designs but not without a cost.

Well, let the clients see 3D renderings basically just move the phase of seeing stuff on site and making changes during the Contract Administration Phase earlier to Design Development Phase, and if your firm does not have in-house 3D designers like in the old days and outsource the 3D rendering work and charge clients additional fees for the 3D renderings, it probably still has a mechanism to stop clients from changing approved designs constantly, but since 3D rendering programs become more matured, more younger designers already possess such skill in addition to AutoCAD drafting, you are very likely to hire someone who knows how to operate 3D rendering programs working full-time for you, and since you now have in-house 3D rendering designers, making revisions becomes much easier on 3D renderings, and with no extra cost, believe me, not only will the clients abuse it and make constant changes, the designers themselves do it as well. They make changes on 3D rendering drawings just all the time, anytime they feel like it, anytime they have doubt on certain designs or FF&E selections, they do experiment on it. Hey, it is in-house, and it is free!! who cares?!

Now the designers who also operate 3D rendering programs become your or the clients’ experiment robots, doing all kinds of visual experiments, mix matching and relocating stuff, moving things around, since it is so easy and free, you start to do it not only during the Design Development Phase but during Contract Document Phase, and you know how time-consuming it is when you are still changing designs while drawing construction document. You change one thing on the plan, several elevations, sections, details, specification lists or schedules will also need to be changed, and you tell me that is efficient?

I understand if your firms are doing large-scale commercial projects, constantly reviewing spaces on 3D programs becomes very necessary, but if you are doing individual residential projects under 20k sq.ft, constantly making design changes on 3D drawings is just not sustainable no matter the changes are made by designers or clients. I even think a 3D rendering shouldn’t even be created for a small-scale residential project.

Remember the old days before cell phones were invented? you probably could memorize at least 10 family members’ phone numbers by heart. How about now? How many sets of phone numbers can you remember without checking your cell phones? As design professionals, imaging and visualizing spaces in 3D by heart probably is the most valuable ability you possesses, do not let the 3D rendering programs take away that part of you. Always remember, the non-professionals like clients have every reason not to understand how things will look like in 3D by looking at the 2D plan and elevation drawings, but not you, as a professional interior designer.

Are you working for any interior designer who also involves in fashion industry? 

Fashion designers, models, fashion enthusiastic and artists have the robust creativity and imagination, and for those who are extremely talented ones, their ideas can grow beyond what you can even imagine. However, if they stay at the fashion design industry or art field, they can be outstanding artists or fashion designers, but if they cross over to interior design industry, expecting those ego infested design ideas without considering feasibility will give you hard time during the design development phase and construction document phase. As a licensed interior designer who is NCIDQ certified like you, you might already have the perfect design solutions to make things work, but more likely your design solutions will be down played and ignored by the sky high ego that is commonly seen in fashion design industry or fine art world, so if you consider yourself a technical oriented designer who is very capable of designing something that really can be built or executed, working under an artist or fashion enthusiast can be very frustrating.

Working at the design firms that are named after the owners

Besides for tax or professional regulation purposes, many design firms are named after their owners, firms like this normally limit the design styles to only meet the owner’s personal preferences, so if you are good at design Minimalist design but the owner likes high traditional design, don’t expect you will have the opportunity to design anything Minimalist in this company. However, if you are fine with designing whatever the owners ask you to, then it definitely won’t impact your career choice that much.

Things to consider if you work at the design firms that divide tasks

Many design firms divide tasks for their designers, some of them are only involved in FF&Es, some are only doing CAD drafting or rendering, and some only go to the job sites. Dividing tasks can maximize the efficiency based on each designer’s strengths. However, if you are a junior level designer who works at this kind of company, you might not be able to learn the whole design process which could have negative impact if you would like to work for different design firms or run your own business in the future. If you are a senior level designer and already know all aspects of design process, working at the firms that divide tasks may give you more opportunities to focus on the tasks you are good at which will lead to better job performance and happier you.

Myth of Multitasking

Is multitasking good? Well, look at what the researchers had found, people practicing multitasking are more likely to make mistakes and always have below average job performance. Working at the firms that always require you handle multiple things at the same time which means the firms might have problematic projet management, or the firms either have the superiors or clients who are extremely spontaneous and do not like to follow the set schedules. With crisis creators around, expecting very stressful work atmosphere. 

Multitasking may sound like a positive word to describe a work environment or a capable worker. Unfortunately, human brains were created to focus on one thing at a time. If you really think people truly can multitask well, the governments around the world should just legalize drive while texting.

Working at the firms don’t charge clients hourly

The clients pay flat fee tend to make more design changes and ask for more intense shop-arounds. Don’t blame them, cuz it’s free!!

Changing approved designs, especially during Contract Document phase can be really counter productive which also means the disasters waiting to happen. Changing approved designs for accommodating job site condition is understandable, but changing designs just for change’s sake can be very annoying and time consuming. Charging hourly serves as a mechanism to discourage the indecisive clients making constant design changes. Without this mechanism, the designers will always work on repeat tasks which can lead to overtime working easily. For those clients who like you to compare prices with 10 different vendors just for one single piece of furniture, charging hourly rate can also remind them not to try to save a dime but end up spend a dollar.

At last, charging hourly rates will force you monitoring yours and your employees’ time better and making sure the time is efficiently spent. Thus, good for your own wellbeing and time management skill.

Things to consider when working at the firm that has junior level people working there the longest

If you don’t see senior level people working at the company, first of all, that usually means the company is lacking of the opportunity to promote in terms of job position and salary, and because senior level people possess certain skills and experiences, they can make move quicker and easier, after they departed, junior level people become the people who work at the company the longest and enjoy the seniority. Employers will give these junior people more authority and responsibilities because these junior people are considered loyal, and if you have inexperienced junior level people take in charge and boss around the new coming senior level people, the work environment can be chaotic. Some junior level people even abuse their authority and seniority to take advantage of circumstance and turn themselves into underground bosses. They can do whatever they want because they can get rid of anyone they don’t like including more senior level people who were hired to be in charge. Employers normally listen to these junior level people’s words since they work at the companies the longest so they were considered loyal and trustworthy. As a new employee in this kind of company, no matter you are a junior, intermediate or senior level person, you definitely will have hard time at work no matter what you do unless you become the best friend with the junior level person who works there the longest. On the end, the only people who can thrive at these companies are those who know how to play mind game and politics, not those who are capable or working hard.

How to make Introverts’ voices heard at work?

After reading the article about Introversion and how to work with introverts, it did enlighten me and helped me understanding who I am. It also made me feel more eased about some criticisms from my ex-employers such as “Why didn’t you say anything if you saw that at the job site?”, “Why didn’t you mention that at the meeting?”, “Why didn’t you come up with any idea during the brainstorming?” I fully understand the speaker wanted to empower introverts and to encouraged them to make their voices heard. However, I also started to understand one of the reasons most of the business owners and the team leaders were extroverts was because introverts usually chose to pass on their leadership roles as the speaker mentioned in the video, and I realized it would not be easy for the introverts’ voices heard if most of the decision makers at work were extroverts.

In my 16 years of interior design career, I had worked for 7 employers, and all of them were extroverts who were very good at socializing and networking. I remember one of my ex-employers said to me “This is how my company is running, and if you don’t like it, you are very welcome to leave.” after I made some constructive suggestions. I also suggested the other one of my ex-employers not to do 100% open office floor plan for the new office we were about to move in but was quickly turned down.

So, I feel making introverts’ voices heard is like asking billionaires to give up half of their wealth and pass onto the poor, and we all know it is very hard for those who have the power to release the power, just like what happened at the brainstorming meetings led by the manager in one of my previous jobs, you only could hear the extroverts such as the sales from the sales departments, and the PRs who spoke out loud about their ideas and see the designers’ (all of us were introverts) ideas got overwhelmed, and the manager who had the authority to hush the sales or the PRs allowed it happened and never let the designers express their opinions because the manager was also an extrovert. So, I appreciate the articles and speeches out there that have raised the awareness of the existence of introverts, but if you expect the introverts’ voices will be heard or the “silent revolution” will take place, think again.

How does culture difference influence interior design?

The culture difference affects interior designers’ ways of design and the entire design company culture. When I heard the clients in the US told me I have seen this very same light fixtures at the XXX hotels or the same chairs at XXX restaurants, my reflex would tell me: “damn, I will need to find another light fixtures or furniture!” and it happened to be always the case. The clients in the US usually do not like to have the designs in their home or spaces that have been used by someone else, they prefer to have something unique to them and no one else has. This culture of being different in the US directly affects the design company culture in the US.

All of the interior design companies I had worked at in the US encouraged innovation. Design something out of nothing is so essential for surviving in the interior design companies in the US. The design hobbies such as copying or tweaking are often not encouraged, and are prohibited strictly at some companies. In contrary, design companies in China encourage tweaking and copying existing designs. Chinese interior designers always looked for reference photos on the internet and design magazines in order to tweak or copy other people’s designs.

Unlike American clients who do not like to have the designs other people also have, Chinese clients want to have the designs other people have. This behavioral trend can also be easily spotted on fashion. Americans dress to be unique; Chinese dress to blend in. So, if you have the opportunity to work in China, remember, you will need to learn how to copy or tweak other designers’ designs in order to thrive. Being creative or innovative is just not Chinese clients’ cup of tea.

Will China’s Economy Reform Fail?

When China’s GDP growth downed from double digits to 7 something percent last year, it signaled China’s economy is slowing down. Increasing labor cost and tightened regulations slowly expelled the labor intense industry out of China. Similar to what happened in Taiwan in the late 90’s and throughout 00′, China needs to transform its labor intense industry to high-tech industry. Unfortunately, Taiwan failed the transformation, and is suffering the consequences, low job growth and stalled salary. Will China follow Taiwan’s step and fail the challenge? Very likely.

As an interior designer, my job can not be classified as high-tech, but it is not hard to predict why China will fail the economy reform to transform its economy by observing how the interior designers operate in China. When interior designers start to work on a new project and prepare for client presentation, unlike what we do in the States,  we research the available materials and start to sketch out the ideas, Chinese interior designers look for project photos on the design magazines or websites, and then copy with minor tweaking the designs from the photos they found. Why do they do that?! Isn’t it violating the copy rights and professional ethics, or at least personal integrity? No, not to Chinese designers. In fact, they are encouraged to copy others’ design ideas, why? well, because the clients in China love to rush. If you think some clients in the US like to rush to get things done, the clients in China are 1000 times worse. If a project needs 1 year to complete in the States, it will be completed in China in 3 months. Super fast work flow forces Chinese designers to work overtime constantly, under the pressure, it becomes luxury for designers to have time to be creative and think about the ideas of their own. Long working hours also impairs the designers’ ability to innovate. Therefore, most of interior design ideas in China are copied.

Ok, no big deals, right? just copy an interior design idea! so?! people still make money! Well, Chinese high-tech workers work the same way! cell phone companies, automobile companies, computer companies, website companies, and defense insdustry….These high tech companies copied whatever from foreign companies without creating their own indigenous high technology, so they will always lead from behind.

When the US built the stealth fighter jets like F-22 and F-35, China followed and also built J-20 stealth fighter jets with lots of “borrowed” technology and designs. Many of you might think “see! China is strong and advanced! They can also build stealth fighter jets!” but for me , the real strong country is the one that came up with the idea – “stealth” at the first place. Now, the United States is the only country in the world has operational stealth fighter jets in service and maintains the air superiority. Innovation makes the United States lead.

So, if Chinese clients do not change the way that they want everything done by yesterday, excessive over-time working will keep impairing Chinese workers’ innovation and creativity, and China’s economy reform will be doomed to fail.