17.08.16

Project Design: Valuing Visualisation in Integration Plans

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In an industry where we literally put our heart and soul into designing and installing systems which provide the very best of quality in audio and video entertainment, you would be forgiven if you thought that providing visualisation as a service would be a no brainer! However, it's something which is less commonplace than you may think. Let us begin to ask ourselves what is it that we are so scared of.

Let’s glance at one of the most powerful industries: advertising. Each day, the amount of times we as consumers are bombarded through cleverly placed visuals is unfathomable. Pictures, when used as a medium to sell products is undeniably extremely successful — not least because consumers habitually reach for what is familiar. Visuals form what could be argued as the largest initial role when selling a product or service and how brands raise awareness, as they aspire to become that market leading household name, which consumers subconsciously reach for without a second thought!

However, since our products and services are not to be found on the supermarket shelves we still need to ask ourselves what exactly can be learned from this?

In the digital world in which we find ourselves occupying and competing in today, exactly where and how consumers absorb advertising content has changed. Marketplaces now overflow with accessible competition, and this offers the end-user choices.

Take a look at any automotive manufacturers website. I’m sure you will find a tool which allows the customer to choose (and see) the model of car, determine its exact specification and personalise it by changing anything from the colour of its paint to the stitching on the seats — then you can spin around it to see it from any number of angles — and all of this before it’s even been ordered let alone built! You can bet that the investment in such a tool would be substantial, but brands are constantly looking for new ways to bond with and engage the consumer in order to form closer, personal connections — the value of which surpasses the cost of the initial tool.

But the reality of our industry and businesses is that we operate within much more of a niche, bespoke sector than that of a global automotive manufacturer. As a result, the general consensus regarding visualisation is often much more simple; it can be used to sell a concept as well as give the end-user an idea of the look and feel of the finished design. More often than not the two questions we go on to ask are: Who’s going to foot the bill for the service? What value does all of this effort add?

Some suppliers already use visualisation to sell equipment where the cliché “a picture paints a thousand words” holds true. People like to be able to see what they are getting for both desirable and financial reasons. This service enables them to have input into the final aesthetics and products used and in turn can benefit the installer and the manufacturer.Project Design_visualisation_Ashforth_2

We need to put some thought into how powerful and effective the tool of visualisation can really be to us.

However, we need to put some thought into how powerful and effective the tool of visualisation can really be to us, since there’s a world of difference between a functional visualisation and a well executed photorealistic picture which encapsulates the feeling of how a design will look and the emotion it could convey in order to build up this desire. Both are valid and each has their place.

Consider looking at someone else’s holiday snaps and I’m sure we can all appreciate that this can be hard work since you’ve probably never been to the place and have little or no connection with it. But then imagine if the pictures allowed you to stand in the same place, feel the sunshine and look around. The value of being somewhere and sharing that experience is immeasurable. Advancing immersive VR Technology now makes it possible for us to experience (and sell) the ergonomics and functionality of the design, it’s equipment, and to also showcase a fully functional space.

"Being able to provide the client with the ability to visually conceptualise a representation of their desire, and then working with them in its refinement, is without a doubt a benefit to us all."
Many of the largest brands having already begun manufacturing and selling this cutting edge tech directly into the mass market meaning that VR is already accessible to the mainstream consumer. To name but a few, Facebook, Linked in and Instagram have already demonstrated the value of social networks and because of this, ultimately contributed to offsetting and driving down the cost of once expensive equipment in order to make it accessible, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and Samsung Gear VR. As a result, such technology platforms now stand as an affordable and viable proposition to many more niche industries.

Add to this realtime game-engine technology, much of which is now free to download and use, and you have many of the tools you need to begin pushing high-end realtime visualisations where there are pretty much no limits to its application, and commonly compatible with geometry exports from mainstream Autodesk software as a starting point.

The principal values of characters with a visual modality are dynamism and perfection. Being able to provide the client with the ability to visually conceptualise a representation of their desire, and then working with them in its refinement, is without a doubt a benefit to us all.

Kelly Ashforth is partner in designflow, a London-based AV project management and systems design firm. Awarded in interior design, AutoCAD and 3DsMAX throughout her college and university career, Ashforth gained her CCPD (CEDIA Certified Professional Designer) in 2008 when she joined a successful AV installation firm—becoming a systems designer and one of only two women in Europe with this accreditation at the time. Since then she has freelanced for numerous AV installation companies designing and project managing.