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.

Low salary contributes to higher competitiveness?!

I just read an article the other day saying low salary in Asia actually increases the competitiveness for these low salary countries which a lot of European countries and the US envy greatly. What kind of non-sense it is?!

I am not so sure if the writer of the article has ever heard a word called Brain-Drain? Does he think the people in those low salary countries are so stupid so they will stay at wherever they are for the rest of their lives?! When majority of the workers leave the country, it will fundamentally devastate the country’s competitiveness as a whole. The low salary countries eventually become education and training facilities for those countries with higher salary levels.

Two major reasons cause brain-drain: 1. Low salary. 2. Long working hours. Paying capable people good salary not only increases workers’ productivity which will eventually contribute to the company’s growth but also eliminate the competitions for the company. Many workers quit their jobs and start out on their own is because they are not satisfied with their pay and want to make more, so when those employees establish their own companies, they eventually become their former employers’ business competitors.

Making workers work overtime is also a commonly seen phenomenon in the low salary countries, I always heard the employers tried to defend it by saying if I do not take the jobs with unreasonable deadlines, someone else will in a heart beat and even ask for less. Well, who do you think those “someone else” are? a lot of them probably used to work for you, dumb dumb! If you keep taking those jobs that have unreasonable deadlines and making your employees work overtime all the time, then you will expect many more such competitions in the future, and those who stay and work will also become less productive or creative workers due to the long working hours, so while the workers in the countries with higher salary invent good stuff and make money out of the patents and enjoy their lives on sunny beaches, your less creative workers will still work like dogs and never be able to invent anything. Now, tell me where is the competitiveness brought by the low salary?!

Senior Designer Job Interview Trap-Part I

Some interior design firms posted ads on line to hire senior designers, but actually hiring someone was their last intentions. Instead, they just wanted to see the senior designers’ portfolios so they could possibly borrow some of the design ideas. Constantly monitoring the companies’ websites and see if any of your idea was used without your knowledge should be the key. Also, don’t email your portfolios to these kinds of design companies before a face-to-face interview will also be essential. If you have encountered the similar situation, please contact me as soon as possible.

Disappearing Taiwan

If you ask a group of 10 in the US has anyone been to China? 6 out of 10 people will most likely say yes, but when you ask the same group of people if anyone has ever been to Taiwan? it will be very lucky if one person says yes.

When visiting China, I realized there were so many things there looked like they were from China but actually were from Taiwan. You might say, Taiwan is a part of China. Well, according to Chinese government and many ass-kissing governments in the world, it is, but for the government and the people in Taiwan at least, those days that Taiwan belonged to China were just a remote memory, just like the United States to the United Kingdom, or Norway to Sweden.

Since the Nationalist party led government of the Republic of China lost the civil war in 1949 to Chinese Communists, The Nationalist government retreated (escaped) to Taiwan and settled there till today. In all these years of separation, the Nationalist government had successfully defended Taiwan against Communist military’s attack in 1958, and transformed itself from an authoritarian government to one of the most dynamic democracies in the world. The Republic of China or R.O.C., according Chinese Communist version of history, has eliminated by the People’s Republic of China or P.R.C. in 1949, but in reality, the Nationalist party led R.O.C. survived the 1949 Civil War and flourished in Taiwan till this very day.

China opened its door to the rest of the world in the late 80’s and started to establish some communications with the Nationalist government in Taiwan. Since then, China started to send scholars and historians to Taiwan and re-learned the Confucianism and other Chinese traditions and histories that were wiped out during the event of Culture Revolution in China but preserved in Taiwan. Taiwanese businessmen also started to establish businesses in China and introduced the free market system to China years before any other country entered the Chinese market. Taiwanese food, local culture, drinks, pop musics, TV programs, movies, and even slangs, all started to get into China.

When I visited China, I constantly heard Taiwanese songs sang by local singers, TV programs looked so much like Taiwanese TV programs many years back, and popular Taiwanese small eats such as bubble tea and pineapple cakes. Maybe some of you will think it is great to see these things unique to Taiwan are flourishing in China, but I fear Taiwan has started to lose its identity and visibility in the world.

As I have mentioned in the beginning of this article, most of the visitors around the world have visited China but not Taiwan, many of those visitors will never know many of the culture and history stuff in China were restored with Taiwan’s help, and they will never know those pop musics, food, drinks, or restaurants they enjoyed during their visits were actually originated in Taiwan. Once again, Taiwan has disappeared in the world just like it had back in 1949. Chinese government has even changed their police and military uniforms to look like those in Taiwan and imitated Taiwan’s health care law, road system, food culture, and so on…. for only one purpose, to confuse the world and make Taiwan less visible to the world as a different sovereignty but just a part of China. For many, disappearing of Taiwan is just one of China’s domestic affairs, but for the people in Taiwan, it means a democratic way of life is taken away from them forever.

Brainstorming or Brainthundering?

Does brainstorming really work? That is the question I have been always wondering. I always felt my ideas were blocked during the design meetings by certain people who were holding higher positions at work, and I found a great article on UT Arlington Magazine written by Camille Rogers which is right on! Here is the article I would like to share:

Does brainstorming really work?

Scientist’s research sheds light on the effectiveness of group creativity

Brainstorming—a technique to get the creative juices flowing—may not be as effective as many people think. According to College of Science Dean Paul Paulus, group brainstorming tends to be unproductive.

“The formal brainstorming process is the exchange of ideas under conditions that encourage individuals to exchange as many ideas as possible without worrying about quality,” he explains. “The assumption is that through the uninhibited exchange of many ideas, more good ideas will be generated.”

Advertising executive Alex Osborn studied group idea generating in the 1940s and coined the term “brainstorming.” He proposed that group brainstorming is more likely to generate a higher number of good ideas than will individual brainstorming.

Contemporary research, however, suggests otherwise. Most current literature asserts that group brainstorming is half as effective as individual brainstorming.

But that hasn’t stopped the practice.

“It is widely used in creative industries like design, advertising and film, although it takes different forms,” said Robert Sutton, co-director of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford University. “And the question of whether it is effective is, in my view, completely unanswered by rigorous research.”

Dr. Paulus has dedicated the past 15 years to researching group brainstorming and making it more effective. He has conducted dozens of experiments in an effort to demonstrate the presumed benefits of group creativity.

For up to two hours, subjects, predominantly university students, were placed in groups of four and told to generate ideas on a topic of interest. They typically interacted face to face but sometimes were asked to attempt computer-based idea exchange.

Paulus’ findings were consistent with other studies. Group brainstorming did produce a number of ideas, but few were any good. He compares group brainstorming to a thunderstorm.

“There’s plenty of rain in the storm, that is, plenty of ideas falling from the sky. But there’s not much lightning—the exceptional ideas that have the potential to set things on fire.”

Group brainstorming becomes ineffective when “blocking” occurs—when group interaction inhibits an individual’s flow of good ideas or limits the ability to contribute. Thus, groups provide the perfect environment for some people to do nothing while others do the work.

Paulus says these kinds of barriers are especially detrimental for professional groups like those in the lab-based sciences. “If we care about staying ahead in the innovation race in this world, it would seem important that we use the most effective means of tapping our creative potential.”

Most people apparently are not even aware of the factors that sabotage their group brainstorming. Ironically, many groups deem their sessions productive. They have become accustomed to unproductive brainstorming sessions producing few quality ideas. Bad group brainstorming is the norm, so participants have the illusion of being more productive than they actually are.

Paulus and researcher Vince Brown (who now works at Hofstra University) developed a cognitive model of group brainstorming that predicts positive effects.

The model is based on the idea that creative group interaction consists of both cognitive and social dynamics. The collaborative exchange of ideas between members introduces them to new ideas and allows them to discover connections in their “knowledge network” that they may not have been able to create on their own. For productive group brainstorming, the benefits of cognitive stimulation should be heightened and the negative social forces limited.

To “get the most out of group brains,” as Paulus puts it, participating members should be able to process as many of the shared ideas as possible. One way is to eliminate the blocking effects of face-to-face interaction. He has found that two techniques alleviate the problem.

“Brainwriting” and “electronic brainstorming” enable people to share their ideas via pieces of paper or on a computer network, respectively. A high number of ideas can be generated because members don’t have to wait their turn in the discussion process. But there’s a drawback: People can become so wrapped up in producing their own ideas that they don’t take time to process those produced by others. They must fully pay attention to the ideas being shared if they want a quality brainstorming session.

Face-to-face interaction is usually more feasible than brainwriting and electronic networking, though, and Paulus has also identified what enhances this more traditional approach. People tend to perform better with enhanced motivation, like providing group members competitive feedback about each other’s performances.

The same can be said for the cognitive process, such as asking group members to focus on the quantity and not quality of their ideas. Facilitators are also useful in maintaining productivity. They can guide a group away from negative behaviors like individual domination, criticism or getting off track by telling stories.

Another way that face-to-face brainstorming can enhance group productivity is to alternate between group and individual brainstorming. Ideas may be stimulated during group interaction, but a subsequent period of solitary brainstorming may enable an individual to effectively build on those ideas.

The attitudes of the group members also come into play. People who have a positive attitude toward working in a group tend to perform better than those who do not.

Recently Paulus helped organize a National Science Foundation workshop that focused on summarizing the implications of the group creativity literature for innovation in science and industry. Already this year he has presented his work at a conference sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that focuses on improving analytical processes.

His findings are being incorporated into textbooks and applied by practitioners. He hopes to do studies in professional organizations that demonstrate the efficacy of various techniques for enhancing group innovation.

So, if your company is still using this old fashioned way to generate ideas, you might want to think about changing it.

Are On-Line Networking Sites for You?!

Everyone knows how important networking is for building careers. However, networking for extroverts are much easier than the introverts. Many people might think the networking sites will be the solution not only for introverts but extroverts, but I disagree.

Before the on-line networking era in the 90’s, I had been to many networking events as an interior design majored student, despite my introverted nature, I managed to chat and meet with strangers at those events, I kept doing it for my entire senior year, but it failed to land me any job after graduate.

In my early career as an interior designer, I got more chances to go to those networking events, again, I chatted and met with strangers, and hoped to meet my mentors who could help me launching my career to the next level, well, it did not happen, either.

Here is the catch. Many people head to those events for networking with people in order to generate business leads, and hopefully those leads will turn into future clients, but what do you think networking with an interior design majored student or an interior designer who works for someone else will somehow turn into business opportunities? Of course not, no wonder when I went to those events as a student or as a designer working for someone else, people all cut the conversations short and went for someone else after I introduced myself. People were all looking for the affluents, a potential client, a well-known designer who owns his/her own business, or a person who knows a lot of affluent people. Unfortunately, this situation happened off-line, also happens on-line.

In conclusion, I do not think joining the on-line networking sites will help someone who are not a well-established or an affluent person. However, your contacts will definitely become theirs.

Service Related Businesses in China

In order to have good service related businesses, you must have more polite and nice people in the society. After decades of prosperous economy development driven by mostly manufacturing in China is slowing down, China is trying to promote service related businesses at home such as senior caring facilities, hotel and restaurants…etc. You might think China will have no problem to make this smooth transition since the economy development in last few decades in China was extremely fast. Well, I will say it will take China much longer time to have top notched service related businesses in all spectra, and the very reason is because of China’s super fast economy development.

The extremely fast economy development in China has elevated many people to middle class, millionaire or billionaire status, but it failed to elevate most people’s sense of responsibility, integrity or etiquette in the same time. In contrary, the fast boomed economy made people become greedy money chasers, they became very selfish, rude, and hostile to others. Everyone became everyone else’ competitors, For being successful, stepping on other people’s backs in order to climb to the top becomes necessary. People lost the compassion towards others because they were not considered as human anymore but competitors, and if they are my competitors, why should I treat them nicely? Having that in mind, you won’t be surprised to see people often arguing on the streets, pushing people hard and fighting for seats on subway trains, or cutting in lines in China, and you will also be shocked to hear people say thank you or excuse me over there.

Therefore, when you go into the stores to ask the clerks directions or any other questions without buying anything, the only answer you will get is “I do not know.” No extra assistance or advice. It will make you feel those clerks are so unhelpful or unfriendly and you just do not feel like going back to the store as customers in the future. While visiting restaurants in China, most greetings sound very superficial and machine-like. The waiters will sit you down and disappear, you usually need to yell at the waiters and tell them you are ready to place orders. Otherwise, you will sit there forever and no one will come to you to take orders. I even encountered waiters who ignored me on purpose when I waved and asked them to come to take my order in many occasions, and if you keep yelling loudly, then you will see the waiters coming to you with very stinky faces.

On the end, you can give those waiters, waitresses or clerks any training you want, if they are not nice people naturally, they will always treat their customers with fake smiles, machine-like greetings, ignorance, or big attitudes. You can build infrastructures in few months but you won’t be able to make people friendly or nice in just one generation. Having top notched service related businesses in China? well, wait for another 20 years.

High-End Residential Designers Deserve More Respect

Being a high-end residential designer, the hardest part is to be looked down by the commercial designers. It is hard to be hired by commercial design firms as a high-end residential designer. I know most commercial design firms think we high-end residential designers are decorators who do rich people’s draperies, but in fact, we do know more technical and structural stuff than you think. When we worked on projects with different professionals such as architects, structural engineers, AV consultants, GCs, landscape architects, lighting designers, millwork shops and so on, we actually worked very closely with these professionals in much detailed manner.

Most commercial designers worked on large-scale projects with very tight schedules, so they overlooked the details and focused on the overall projects instead, and because commercial projects were usually in large square footage, commercial designers’ tasks were divided in order to focus on certain tasks. For example, some designers will always do CAD drafting but will never write any purchase order. Some designers will always specify FF&E but will never supervise the job sites. Without knowing the full procedure of design, it is not possible to create any well thought through design.

Many commercial designers usually will not consider the small design details such as how the materials should meet or end at joints as carefully as the high-end residential designers. They won’t bother to know how the AV consultants to wire the automatic draperies or how the metal shops to weld or plate the metals, either. I believe they honestly just do not have the time to really care about these things, so they handed these things to other professionals completely and let them take care of the details and moved onto another project. Therefore, it created a situation that you let non-designers handle the design details. That is why many commercial spaces look great from far distance but when you walk closer, you will spot many poorly designed or executed design details.

Sometimes when I read some articles talking about luxury stuff for the hospitality projects, I was like, what?! you are talking about this in 2014?! I have used this stuff way back in the early 2000! That is right! When the high-end/high-tech stuff just came out to the market, they were usually expensive and limited in quantities, so they could not be used in the commercial projects which usually have more restricted budget and require larger quantities of products in stock, whom were those high-end/high-tech products sold to if they were too costly for commercial projects? well, to the high-end residential clients, and after few months or even few years later, cheaper knock-offs came out, and then you started to see these products pop-up in the commercial projects such as hospitality or retail spaces everywhere. So, high-end residential designers always got the chance to experience the cool stuff before anybody else.

One last thing I think most commercial designers never can achieve is having the luxury design taste or the ability to tailor-made very unique designs. The stuff they designed or specified always have, I am sorry to say, the cheap and modular look. I know they try hard to make some of the spaces they designed look luxury and custom designed, but even I stayed in some of the super high-end luxurious presidential suites at 5-star hotels, and when I paid attention to some of the designs such as coves, moldings, base boards, cabinet kicks or drawers, I was always amazed how cheap those details looked and how much the millwork looked like modular furniture.

I am not saying commercial designers are bad. I simply just want to let you know if you are looking for a designer to design your luxury home, please look for the designers who are specialized in high-end residential design or the commercial designers who also have extensive high-end residential project experiences. If you hire a commercial designer who does not have any high-end residential design experience to design your luxury home, I do not care how famous the designer is, he/she might not meet your expectations, and will be very likely to disappoint you throughout the process.

Can Creativity be Learned?

I have been working with lots of co-workers during my 15 year interior design career, and one thing I find is that most designers can master computer drafting programs better and draw faster, gain more job site or construction experiences, and become more good at running their design businesses throughout the years when the designers keep working in the related fields, but for those non-creative designers, no matter how many years they are in the design business, they are still not creative.

Many people will disagree with me by saying when designers have seen many projects, furniture, or accessories…, they would become more creative because their aesthetic senses are getting better, but let’s be honest, those people are simply acting like a computer hard drive that got lots of information saved in the system, and when they need to design something, their big memory systems started to select the existing ideas from the systems and combine, mix-match and turn into other ideas. They are not becoming more creative but becoming more resourceful.

A real creative designer will show his/her creativity from their very early career, just usually the ideas coming from more junior,  inexperienced designers can’t be executed smoothly due to his/her unfamiliar with the material characteristics, engineering procedures, structural integrity, or the budget and regulation limitations. On the other hand, the design ideas coming from more senior and experienced designers usually are more matured and can be executed better. As of non-creative designers, no matter whether they are junior or senior designers, they just do not have any creative ideas but bunches of copied or tweaked ones.

In my opinion, being creative is a gift, a talent, not a skill that can be learned. However, creativity is not the only factor to be successful in the interior design business. Marketing strategy, personal charisma and credentials also can play important roles. One of my classmates in college who drew so ugly, and her designs were so boring and non creative, our professors always gave her low grades, but she was very talkative and had very excellent presentation & communication skills, she became a carpet sales person after graduated and made huge deals. She made more money than any of us who graduated in the same year, and soon was promoted to the district manager. So, if you find creativity is not one of your strengths, stop wasting time on any of those “ways” to learn how to be more creative. Instead, focus on your strengths and work hard.

Faster isn’t always better

When my wife and I went to buy coffee at coffee shops in Shanghai, my wife usually went to find seats, and I was the only person who ordered the coffee. I told the cashier that I wanted a cup of Cafe Americano and a cup of Latte, but every time, the cashier put Coffee Americano into the machine first, and when I said I also wanted a cup of Latte, the cashier always canceled the Cafe Americano and then put in the Latte. Well….I wanted both Cafe Americano and Latte!

I was always wondering why the cashiers kept doing that in Shanghai?! Finally, I know why. If my wife was with me at the cashier, this kind of situation would not happen, but when I went to order alone, it happened. Because the cashiers always assumed I was alone if I ordered alone, so when I ordered the second item, they automatically thought I changed my mind on my first order and canceled it. The cashiers in China tried to be faster, so they thought by assuming things for me ahead which would shorten the ordering time, but they did not realize when they did that each time, they actually made me angry. They tried to expedite the ordering but lost the quality of service. I also saw similar situations occurred in interior design business over there. Enough said. Faster design is not always better design.