Fancy Renders

Chatting with the boss we talked about sketch models, model making and model shops.

He said that an a unfortuate reality is the development cycle can be so fast that some clients are happy to start tooling based on a slick render, rather than a model. This really surprised me.

He also commented that some clients aren’t that savvy, and are more impressed by a photo-realistic render rather than a well thought out concept. With some clients the desire to ‘be the next Apple’ has led to them to employ a design studio to make pretty renders, rather than well considered solutions.

Is this the general experience? I would have thought spending a bit more time and money on the model development side is a small investment that leads to big returns.

It’s the novelty of photo-realistic rendering. It’s often enough to distract people away from the lack of design quality. Kind of like the movie industry - super amazing CGFX seems to justify a movie even if the story is lacking. A sad, but not necessarily prevalent, reality.

It might be an approach that someone takes once or twice. Once they realize all of the surprises that are in the finished model that were not apparent in the rendering, the trend will be to move to more concrete steps in physical visualization the next time.

It is a good tool to use to those that can’t visualize the “what if” scenerio. It’s good to know IMO to do, it’s only a few extra steps beyond a 3d model to accomplish. I think the conversation here isn’t “photo-real renderings are bad”, but bad design (in any form) is bad. Why can’t you have a good design and a slick render?

I think 3d is a fantastic tool. So much faster to visualize ideas, get feedback and send the whole thing to production.

However, it seems that people with no 3d experience will be easily impressed by it and will usually choose a fancy picture over a written/sketched idea. Sometimes flawed concepts go through because of it, competitions are won, jobs are given.
But perfect presentation using the best tech available is part of being industrial designer. So there is really no excuse when a nice image wins over your napkin sketch (no offence anyone, just making a general comparison).

sanjy: for clients with only a passing knowledge of design, yes, this is the reality.

nxakt: I’ve had to fight clients to give me time to go with a physical model even after bad results going straight from renders.

The problem with pretty renders is that most people don’t know how to properly read images/sketches. They see something photo-realistic and they think that the project is over.

I had a meeting with Target a few years ago and the buyer bought a line of plastic Back-to-School products off 3D renderings because they were so far behind schedule with their finalization process. We started tooling immediately and brought prototypes in about 3 weeks later to confirm the scale & finish.

Not exactly the norm, but it makes for a good story…

That is why “product concept,” “form factor,” and “design language” are separate project phases.

Sometimes it is part of our job to educate about a healthy process… you might not want to eat your veggies, but you pretty much have to. Physical models do bump into timeline and budget constraints, but they consistently make the final product better in very tangible ways, especially when they are used as experiments to test out different ways to resolve a concept… especially for a new product type where scale and form factors are more unknown.

One-word makes a good point, sometimes you can get buy off before the models, it happens, but at least do a few rounds at the factory.

The problem with pretty renders is that most people don’t know how to properly read images/sketches. They see something photo-realistic and they think that the project is over.



But perfect presentation using the best tech available is part of being industrial designer. So there is really no excuse when a nice image wins over your napkin sketch (no offence anyone, just making a general comparison).

I remember a few threads about how great the ability to sketch well in front of the client is, and how this can sometimes be much more communicative and persuasive than a slick render. Is the above possibly a result of just delivering the client some images (just emailing them for example) rather than sitting down with them and engaging, sketching while you present- that sort of thing?

That said, I saw a presentation of some render software that blew me away, real-time high definition material and light/ environment changing ability. It looked like what Hollywood would present CAD as.

Exactly why I try not to progress to photo real renderings until after some kind of model is in hand.

I’ve found success by implementing a few different steps in my process.

  1. During initial concept review I ALWAYS show an underlay of “battery, driver, board” layout before showing concepts and explain all sketches (pencil and ps at this point) were sketched over this volumetric study.

  2. During refined concepts I often show the concept (pretty ps render) + a lightened concept with outlines of “battery, driver, and board” overtop so it is clear concepts can be brought to reality.

  3. I don’t do much 3d, but our team often includes 3d parts of “battery, driver, and board” in a model assembly. This makes us sure to be working around realities.

This has helped keep me out of fantasy land.

D.

I’m so tired of the “fancy renders are bad” angle. A designer should be able to create great sketches AND slick renders whenever the situation calls for it. Some clients understand sketches and appreciate the time savings, while other clients are impressed with the work and detail that goes into a render. That’s just the way it is.

He also commented that some clients aren’t that savvy, and are more impressed by a photo-realistic render rather than a well thought out concept.

My question is why would anyone make photo-real renders of poorly thought out concepts??? It really doesn’t take THAT long to create a photo-real render, unless you are really bad at using CAD. So why not have a great concept AND a great render to show the client? A few extra hours to make a render could be the difference between landing or not landing the order, so why not take that step if you are trying to impress a new client?

yes, exactly. Don’t confuse the gravy for the goose!

CDaisy is correct, this is not an either or kind of situation.

This is a great point of the discussion.

I was a bit flippant in my statement…in context it holds true.

Photoreal renderings are part of the process. Where you insert them is up to you and how you work. What is being said about them with respect to how they relate to the concept being presented is bang on. Don’t go to this step if the concept is weak or not fully fleshed out (you know if it is).

Where I’ve run into this “problem” is when I’ve rushed a project based on agreeing to too tight of deadlines, or procrastination on the project because I didn’t see the solution early on, or whatever…there’s a bazillion reasons for it. But the end result is that you have nobody to blame for a poor outcome other than yourself.

Your client chose a slick rendering of an underdeveloped concept that resulted in a problems at tooling. It isn’t THEIR problem…its yours. Do better work, don’t cave into overambitious timelines, or whatever caused you to be in that position.

Be hypercritical of what caused it. Be reflective. Then, fix it moving forward.

IP: You are right.

Often, my clients can’t seem to read my sketches they way other designers can. That’s why I often wait to show renders. Luckily, I can normally go 3D to refine the basic concept that is approved by the render. In my process, model making is important to decide on proportions.

This is not a render vs sketch, this is a render vs model question. I’ll wager that many designers look at objects like I do and think, “that one went straight from CAD to production”. There is a lack beauty and gravity free proportion that is evident in some objects that screams “basic surface tools”.

Here is the example that sticks out most in my memory. The 1996 Ford Ka.

Because it is quick and easy to do, makes the poorly thought out concept look better and shinier. It can be shown from specific angles that hide the really unresolved parts.

It gets me when designers brag about doing a couple of thumbnails then go straight to CAD… As you pointed out, it often shows (though I think the original ka was pretty crazy when it came out). We should brag about short circuiting our own process. I think IP put it well, these renders can be a critical part of the process (I love em) but we must remember they are not THE process anymore than a hot sketch is or a breadboards model is on their own… And it all really comes down to the idea and the process that runs parallel to get to that idea and refine it.

As designers we need to evangelize the value of a full process and demonstrate its power and impact.

Yes, but also the process should be sketch (lots of ideas and exploring), model (refining ideas) then render (almost final). The process is also fluid, going back and forth as new things are evaluated, adopted, discarded (as constraints allow).

(I thought the KA was infamous for allowing the abilities of CAD at the time to direct the outcome- like “Hey! Look what this button does! Awesome!”).

I have recently bought a new laptop that looks nice (etched metal case). Unlike my old laptop you can’t see any of the sockets (usb, power, mike) when you look at it while typing. Plus the icons are on the underface of the edge. That would’ve made it look very elegant in a render, but you can’t even see them properly when my head is resting flat on the desk trying to see them. In order to work out which is the headphone socket and which is the mike socket I have to pick it up:

Where is it?
Laptop00.jpg
Which is it?
Laptop01.jpg
That one!
Laptop02.jpg