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Thread: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

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    100 Club rclayton's Avatar
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    Red face CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    I am posting this thread in the hopes of opening a dialog about some issues that frequently come up both in my office and in discussions with other CAD managers. Creativity vs. CAD ....

    I work for a Landscape Architects office. It is often argued at my office that CAD takes some of the creative nuances out of our drawings and makes then "generic". If they had their way, I am sure the principals at my office would advocate a return to hand drawings and sketches to produce our drawings. In fact we often scan hand sketches for importation to CAD to output them in titleblocks and make multiple copies.

    Products like Squiggle, attempt to bring a "Hand Drawn" feel to CAD drawings. The need to "Hand Render" sketches instead of using illustration software like Adobe Illustrator is still argued in staff meetings. I am impressed that Autodesk has started blurring the distinction that AutoCAD is a drawing tool only. Features like Gradients are starting to bridge the gap between illustration and CAD.

    Now the argument for standards comes into the mix. Users at our office will clamor for standards to make the CAD system easier to use (or perhaps to make them "think" less about using the software), but will then say that standards deter the "creative process" and "Personalized feeling" of our drawings and sketches. I am often told that this is the difference between "Art and CAD".

    Now, I am come from a Mechanical Engineering background with training in AutoCAD that goes back to Version 2.x. I am also an IT Manager that strives to deal with logical solutions to problems. I would like to hear other opinions and ideas about this topic, "no holes barred", good and bad, logical or illogical.

    Our company has embraced technology, albeit reluctantly, and we have made great strides to use the technology in all facets of our business, but this debate still is a hotly contested one amongst our users and principals. I am sure this is still true in many other Architectural firms as well.

    What do you think? ... please keep in mind this is posted with the intention of opening a dialog, not to "pick a fight". Lets keep it clean and see if we can't find a comfortable medium.

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    Time Lord Steve_Bennett's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by rclayton
    Products like Squiggle, attempt to bring a "Hand Drawn" feel to CAD drawings. The need to "Hand Render" sketches instead of using illustration software like Adobe Illustrator is still argued in staff meetings. I am impressed that Autodesk has started blurring the distinction that AutoCAD is a drawing tool only. Features like Gradients are starting to bridge the gap between illustration and CAD.
    I just saw a demo of a product called Piranesi the other day. It's like a cross between something you would do with VIZ and Illustrator. I've used MAX in the past & know what it takes to get photorealism on a rendered scene - not easy. Some cutomers don't want to see that though because it looks too "done" - just like your principles would like to go back to hand drafting.

    If you take a model thats been built by one of the autodesk verticals, you can export it to Piranesi & by using depth vectors you can paint a scene very quickly & add trees/people/etc. to the scene complete with shadows. Then you can put very soft colortones to it - almost like a watercolor painting and have something to present to the client that appears hand drawn. I was really amazed by it's speed and capability. Thought you might be interested in checking it out.

    As far as the standards go, it's just something that you have to set & move on. Try to automate as much stuff as possible like having layers activate for certain commands, assign layers to stuff that reside on tool palettes and basically keep it simple.
    Steve Bennett |BIM Manager
    Taylor Design | Adventures in BIM

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    BIM/VDC Management Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    I likely have a rather unique perspective on this subject due to my involvement in the publishing industry. I'll start with a little background on what we do and I think you'll understand why I explained it...

    I work for HDA Inc, a company that distributes Home Plans books across the country. Part of my duties are the creation of "catalog floor plans", the nice looking drawings of the floor plans that you see in the catalogues. Typically you'll see the nice rendering of the house that catches the eye and then look at the floor plan to see if that home meets your needs.

    We have in-house designers as well as designers that submit their plans to us for publication. As a result I see hand renderings and computer generated renderings; some renderings are color pencil, some black and white, some airbrush, some water color, and some computer generated color.

    My job? Besides drawing the floor plans (massaging outside CAD drawings to look good when published; formating my own CAD drawn construction documents for publication; redrawing hand drawn plans (yes many people still do this) to be on CAD and look good in publications) I also answer tech calls for people that have questions about the designs and plans.

    Now that you understand what I do, here is why I think I have a different perspective on this subject... unlike an Architect that simply has to sell to a client or a review board, we have to sell to the masses. I see examples of work and construction drawings done by dozens of different companies, designers and architects each year (this year alone we'll have in-house nearly 15,000 different plans total). I'll also answer some 1,500 calls on approx. 1,100 different plans asking about such issues as construction techniques, materials, codes, SF, etc.

    Now on to the question! I believe good design is good design. The designer we have that submits our most complicated, amazing plans does everything on computer. Our "worst" designer (if there is one) does everything by hand. We find some designs by hand are amazing and some on the computer really do lack creativity... but the reverse applies as well!

    When it comes to renderings.. honestly, a quality rendering is a quality rendering. They seem to sell the same regardless of the process. The key is that the design itself is a quality one and the rendering comes over demonstrating that design concept well.

    In fact, I've found after answering 100's of design related questions with different customers each year that the renderings that do the best are the one's that spark the imagination and the creative side of our customers. In other words... it has to say: "You can live in me, but you can also put your own flair and ideas into me too". As a result, as beautiful as some CAD drawings can be, if they look too good then that spirit of imagination is lost. The client will feel trapped within that design and if they see something they don't like they may not realize they can change it.

    Example: If the material (or pattern) used in the rendering can't be found when buying materials, the customer may not like the design in the field because you made it look too good! About 4 times a year I'll have a client call and ask about an artist rendering (usually done with water color or marker) and ask "what color siding is that?" or "what shingles did they use?" I have to be careful to not say "Ma'am, the artist used a "Gray 40" marker for those shutters. Since no manufacturer sells that, if you buy enough of them markers, you can color your shutters yourself that color too!" With a Photorealistic rendering this would become a much larger problem as imagination may conflict with reality.

    For me, design on the computer isn't all that hard... it just takes the time to learn the software in order to get used to doing it. On the other hand, I find doing 3D design on the computer much more difficult than by hand... as I have to figure out a lot more about the actual structure of the building than I would in 2D. In a 2D environment it's easier to simply sketch in something that looks good and figure out the problems later... in a 3D environment you tend to hit those problems earlier in the design process.

    So the real issue is the "design process" and how your firm handles it. In larger firms I've worked for you would have the Designer that would sketch out the project design and hand it off to the Construction Document guys to work out the issues. These guys would then ask questions they couldn't solve to the designer as the project moved along. In 3D, many of these problems will become evident by the designers earlier in the project... unfortunately, the designers (usually the highest paid individuals in the office) will likely have to spend more time in the design phase to work many of these issues out themselves. While this will cut down on errors and likely help the project over the long run, it does make things difficult for these people and will likely disrupt the methods we currently use to design and even effect the hours we charge our clients for.

    In short: I don't buy that designing on CAD effects (or in particular, lowers the quality of) the outcome of a design. A good designer will always be able to "zoom-out" and realize if a design is bad and make the appropriate creative changes. The difference is the amount of participation this designer will need to do and the level of actual problem solving they will need to do that previously may have been handled in the CD process by different individuals. My own experience also shows that the "value of computer rendering" may be over-rated as the client really simply needs his imagination sparked and perhaps not everything laid out for him. Of course, there are certain projects where doing on the fly renderings really fast will have their advantages, so I'm not saying to not do it in CAD! I am saying that traditional methods of presentation will have their place as well and there will always be certain advantages to not having photo quality presentations. My own experience has shown it places a certain level of expectation in the client's mind that might not be able to be met (due to materials, budget, etc) in the field and may limit your client's own creative process which helps make them feel the project is their own.

    Of course, these issues will be more easily resolved as BIM becomes used more in the office and the materials/objects we use will be linked to actual real world objects. In other words, what you see is what you get... and if you want to change something you'll see what these design changes will do and look like on the fly too. Also in a BIM environment more construction related issues will be solved on the fly too by the software and the objects you pick. Unfortunately, most of this technology (to this level of ease of use and data linking) is still a handful of years away.
    Last edited by Brian Myers; 2005-05-01 at 01:14 AM.
    Brian Myers
    VDC Design Office Lead | Digital Delivery Lead | BIM Management
    Visit my LinkedIn Profile for more information.

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    Certified AUGI Addict jaberwok's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by bmyers
    ........... On the other hand, I find doing 3D design on the computer much more difficult than by hand... as I have to figure out a lot more about the actual structure of the building than I would in 2D. In a 2D environment it's easier to simply sketch in something that looks good and figure out the problems later... in a 3D environment you tend to hit those problems earlier in the design process...............
    I'm in mechanical engineering, not architecture. Good design is about creating something that does a certain job; that's usually something as small, as light and as cheap to make as possible - it's NOT art. Personalisation of the product does not come into it though personalisation of the drawing may.

    But Brian's comment (above) is equally applicable. Working in 3d you discover the problems earlier - good news. You also discover the problems earlier even if only trying out ideas - not always good news. Renderings may impress the client or they may make the client realise that their initial assumptions were impractical.

    In engineering you need precision - CAD is good.
    In some areas of architecture precision is obviously not what is wanted - is CAD good?

    I used to use 3Dstudio and it was very noticeable that there were few places where it was possible to enter numerical values whilst creating or modifying geometry. The only good way to use it in engineering was to create geometry in CAD and just use 3ds as a renderer.
    John B

    "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe." - Carl Sagan

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    I could stop if I wanted to michael.12445's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    In our firm, the designers are moving away from CAD and turning towards tools like SketchUp, Photoshop, etc. (we also have Piranesi, but they don't use it). They used to use Squiggle, but found it was too hard to make it work with our output devices reliably.

    Although our clients are pretty sophisticated, most of our work also has to be presented to architectural review boards and planning commissions. Those people vary widely in their ability to deal with technical drawings, and we have found that they are just more comfortable with "warm-fuzzy" hand renderings - or ones that look hand-drawn - than with mechanically perfect photorealism.

    On the other hand, I've seen construction drawings, both hand- and CAD-drawn, that were in themselves works of art. While this sort of intangible value might seem irrelevant to a construction document, in my experience a drawing that looks good conveys an impression of competence, even mastery, on the part of its author that goes a long way towards making the construction process go smoothly. And although CAD lacks the tactile quality of pencil, it's still possible to generate drawings that are well-organized, well-composed, clear and consistent, as opposed to sloppy and slipshod.

    Of course, this is probably much more of a consideration in architecture than in manufacturing.

    Michael Evans
    Togawa & Smith, Inc.

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    Woo! Hoo! my 1st post
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    Hi everyone,

    I realise this thread is very old but I'd love to see if any of you are still out here to see how you're opinions might have changed with the development of software since you're posts. I have been a CAD user since 2005 and software seems to be becoming more intuitive and easier to use every year. As an industrial designer, 3D surfacing (particularly in Solidworks) is my main CAD tool. I think 5 or 6 years ago there was a much bigger barrier between using this sofware and creativity. As the software becomes more intuitive I think the designer is less hindered by their ability in the program. I believe the nature in which the package is taught to designers impacts hugely the fostering of creativity in the softwares usage in design activities. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this if any of you are still out there?

    Kind regards,
    John

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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    I found this content very useful to me. Thanks to all.

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    Active Member dherbstr's Avatar
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    Smile Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    I've worked for architecture firms for nearly 11 years doing everything from schematic to construction drawings. The best compromise that I've seen between "Cad" and "Art" is to declare set transition points during the process.

    Schematic Design drawings are drawn by hand, usually on trace, scanned, colored in PhotoShop, and annotated with InDesign.

    Design Development drawings are done in Cad, usually tracing over the previous (approved) schematic drawing. These are output to PDF format for both rendering and presentation, otherwise they exist in Cad.

    Construction Drawings are done completely in Cad. Even our presentation drawings are in Cad format (using a different title block which matches the sd/dd style).

    As the design process proceeds the drawings move from a loose, artsy format into a more precise, Cad format. That's architecture though, and it has a definite need for both precision and presentation.
    senior cad manager
    christopher consultants ltd
    washington dc

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    BIM/VDC Management Brian Myers's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    It's been 6 years since my last post in this thread, yes, my views have changed slightly.

    In my response above I incorporated a lot of theory that was available at the time, but in some respect I missed the most obvious point of all: design is a process.

    In architecture (my field of expertise) we don't usually build models first before creating concept sketches or before we lay out the plan, even in a generic "bubble" kind of state with general relationships. The reason for this is that it's not the right tool at that point in the process. 6 years ago we thought we needed to design in the computer because the tools were available. What we didn't realize is that in many cases that wasn't the proper tool at that stage in the design process. In time our own processes developed. Some people do use the computer and the end documentation software from the beginning... others use software that the Construction Documents will not be created in.... other still do it on paper or using other ways. What we need to do is continue to explore our technology options while refining our design processes to increase efficiency and create better (and more affordable/profitable) designs.

    CAD, BIM, Drawing by hand, Models/Prototypes etc. are all ways we explore and communicate during the creative process. At it's best CAD should enhance your iterative process of creativity. If the computer hinders it then it's not the computer's fault (but it may be a limitation of it) ... it's the fault of the process you are using to be creative.

    So be creative (and think holistically about your place in the project) when it comes to the tools you use for your creative inspiration. You are not limited by CAD, only by what you attempt to make it do when more appropriate processes are available.
    Brian Myers
    VDC Design Office Lead | Digital Delivery Lead | BIM Management
    Visit my LinkedIn Profile for more information.

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    The Silent Type Kung Fu Drafter's Avatar
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    Default Re: CAD vs. Creativity .. A Managers Perspective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Myers View Post
    It's been 6 years since my last post in this thread ...
    I have to admit that it wasn't until I read this bit of text that I looked back and realized that the OP was not a recent contribution. Isn't it intriguing to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Creativity in the CAD world is a topic that I am incredibly passionate about. Unfortunately, it is too often that the discussion is mired down in the nuance of the medium. AutoCAD or Photoshop? Tastes great. Less filling. And while I am exaggerating a bit, the truth of the matter isn't that far removed.

    In the world of modern CAD applications and all illustrative software, for that matter, the possibilities are endless. Faster workstations, diversified input devices, multiple OS platforms and lowered barriers to entry have all contributed to a democratization of design. In this day and age anyone who wants to design can design. Technical correctness requires education while proficiency requires practice. Of course both require experience.

    So why is it that this debate still lives in the offices of engineers, architects and nearly all designers?

    I think there are two reasons. The first, and most obvious (to me at least), is that applications have their champions. A long time CAD user is likely to champion his CAD software's vector line approach to a design matter. He'll cite 3D capability, ease of change and realistic approach to physics and display. A Photoshop user will champion their application's raster image approach to design. She'll talk about easy of image manipulation, artistic style and the need for an artist's take on display. Of course this combination can occur in any configuration of one person wanting what they are used to and another wanting something else. In the end, these people are being fanboys and that will rarely (if ever change). So just let it be. Everyone has a favorite pony in the race.

    The second cause of this CAD vs. Creativity crisis is that no one is actually considering creativity at all. Too often I have seen this argument play out. It always begins with "creativity" as the damsel in distress that must be rescued from the clutches of CAD or from the camp of artistic Photoshoppers. Then we must return the fair maiden to our own stronghold, which is obviously the RIGHT place where she will be cared for and cultivated. Um ... no.

    If engineers, architects and designers were truly concerned about fostering creativity then we would address the matter of creativity. Not sit and argue like adolescents sneering "My app is better than yours! Nah nah nah nah boo boo!" And why shouldn't we think our app of choice is better? We are VESTED in the success of our tools. We train long and hard to become proficient. We go to classes, get training, watch videos and read books! Damn it, we BELIEVE our tool is good and so are we!

    So ... how much time have you spent learning to be creative?

    How much is your firm's budget for creative exploration? How many hours a week does your boss schedule for you to sketch? Or to mold clay? Or to play team creativity games? When was the last time you sat at your desk and busted out the Lego blocks? I'm thinking ... never.

    Yet we are "creative professionals". We design. We draw. We THINK for a living! But our firms aren't investing in our creativity. We aren't investing in our own creativity! In the end it doesn't matter WHAT tool you use. It's all clay. It's all lines. It's all nothing until you pour some creativity in the form of design into it. So how well developed are your creative skills?

    If we all took an hour a week to sit and play or color or just have a "what if" conversation with our coworkers we would all be so much more creative. We would all see our work explode. And we might, just might, be able to come up with a better debate than "CAD vs Creativity" because I know we've had that one at my office about 100 times. And it's just getting old.

    - KFD -
    Last edited by curt.moreno; 2011-04-27 at 04:32 PM.

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