The Art of Construction Visualization: Problem Solving through Storytelling
Visualization has been prominent in the AEC sector for decades, but within the last few years we have been experiencing a surge in its use unlike anytime before. Nowadays, site logistics plans, construction sequences, site fly-overs and project walk-through’s can be found in just about every RFP submission, project interview and presentation. Corporate giants Autodesk and Adobe have contributed to this wave introducing new software packages and features that make 3d content creation accessible to the masses. Rendering engines from game developers such as Unreal and Unity have opened the door to virtual and augmented realities. The demand has steadily increased over the years, reaching a point to where marketing and design firms of all sizes now include 4D construction sequencing as part of their service offerings.
Within the larger construction firms, we’ve seen a rise in the employment of 3D artists, graphic designers, web and game developers; not just compliment their VDC/BIM teams, but to help win work. All over the United States clients are rapidly growing accustomed to having complex processes explained with the support of graphics and animations. The affect it has had on the industry has been undeniable powerful. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this method of presenting your execution plan is quickly approaching, if it hasn’t already reached, standardization.
Traditionally, especially within the construction industry, the role of graphics has been the equivalent to that as garnish in a meal; it’s primary purpose being that of decoration adding some color to the page or screen to make it look “pretty”. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything particularly wrong with this approach, but if the imagery you are commissioning isn’t communicating in a manner that allows the reader to relate to and understand the associated content, then what real purpose does it serve? What value are you, and the client, getting from your efforts? After all, content creation, especially if we talking about 3D renders, is a time consuming process.
Problem Solving Mindset
Regardless of the medium or tools used, your visual concept should be reinforced by and aligned with your strategy. One of the your more common goals should be to help the client make an informed decision based on the distinctions between the choices they have. In general, your visualization should simplify the technical complexities of the construction process. When you really think about it, the visualization is being developed to serve the needs of your client. What’s key is that they understand and embrace your message. When used properly, visualization is a tool that focuses on educating your clients on how you plan and operate your projects, with the goal of differentiating you from your competition.
Asking yourself a few simple, but crucial questions, will help put you in the mindset necessary to develop successful visualizations.
- How is this visualization going to not only support, but add value to my message?
- Does it demonstrate my understanding of the project?
- How will it differentiate us from the competition?
- How does it benefit the client?
- Does it demonstrate capability for this specific project?
Aesthetics aside, the purpose of the visualization is to communicate the objective that you’re driving towards. Understanding the role graphics play in your overall strategy is key to creating content that speaks to your audience.
Visualization, at its core, can be thought of as “problem solving through storytelling”. Every project presents a unique set of data that can be mined from a number of factors such as location, environment, schedule, or budget. When that data is extracted, structured and presented in a way that allows for the clear unfolding of an idea, you have the makings of an interesting story. By using a similar approach to that of any good book or screenplay, your data can be broken down into a 3-act story consisting of:
- Beginning (where information is set up to provide context. It answers: who, what, when, where, why)
- Middle (where we encounter conflict and challenges while attempting to achieve our goals)
- End (resolution to the conflict/presentation of your solutions)
If you’re having trouble seeing how you would make the connection of a 3-act story to say, a presentation, just look at it from this perspective: your story has a protagonist (the project or client), an antagonist (usually budget and/or schedule) and a slew of supporting characters (community, contractors, agencies). These are all elements that are already being dealt with in one way or another throughout your deliverable. With a little ingenuity, you can transform your submission into an experience that sets you apart from your competition and re-enforces the perception of you as a creative thinker in the eyes of the client.
In the digital information age, visualization should be one of the primary tools in your communication arsenal. How many other approaches allow you to create an experience that literally leaves a imprint in the clients mind? And while it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more valuable is that picture when designed with the purpose of being informative, educational or simply inspiring?