June 10, 2013

Renderings Part I: Inside Academia

Last week I came across Arch Daily’s article, Are Renderings Bad for Architecture?That article brought up to issues concerning the allure of renderings and its truthfulness. It brought up issues surrounding questions on what should students learn in school.  Is seductive imagery a true measure of a good designer? Sure, digital renderings are important to market and sell our ideas to a client but to what extent do you have to be good at rendering as an architecture student? You'll need a base level to present your work in order to sell your presentations and portfolio.
I was never a great renderer in architecture school. The only rendering machine I was somewhat decent to master was Mental Ray with 3D Studio Max and I did very diagrammatic renders with v-ray for sketchup since I like the toon materials. Even to this day, I wish I knew how to render like the cool cats in school (and believe me, I have learned some tips and it requires hours of photo manipulation on photoshop)

I was never a quick renderer and there were times that I struggled in studio. That inability did hurt my academic performance. It is frustrating as a student to not be able to crank out the images you need in a timely manner because it sells and convinces people about your project and imparts your design intent. The rendering can convey the quality and characteristics of a space much more effectively than an orthogonal drawing.

Give yourself ample time to explore and pick up the software early on in your educational career; early on in the onset of a studio project.

If there is anything I admonish my readers, take some time during the summer to push yourself to learn the software. I must warn it is easier said than done - you get busy during summer break. Once I began falling behind in architecture school you have a greater load to catch up on and if you think your summers will be your saving grace – it’s difficult when you have other obligations while telling yourself you’re going to learn the software. It was only during portfolio time when I was focused on Photoshop and rendering out my projects to present my projects in a job interview. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would've chose to explore and play with the different software programs that were available to me as a student instead of struggling outside of school.

So from a student point of view – renderings are CRUCIAL because:
  • You need to convey your vision of your studio projects which compliment your drawings to help your professor and studio jury understand your design ideas during a review.
  • You need to convey your design and ability to create 3d-spaces. This makes it easier for employers to judge your design and thinking when they look at your portfolio.

So since it`s summer time for some of you...you might want to brush up on your rendering techniques. Here`s some tips to help you out:
  • Continuing Education courses – This is the priciest of the options. I did learn how to render from continuing education courses at my school, and they did help.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice – Use one of your projects from the past year to learn and explore rendering software.
  • Google and YouTube it! There`s some good tutorials, tips, and tricks if you carefully look online. Some great rendering sites by bloggers dedicated to teaching renderings and some universities offering tutorial sites for the software. You just have to be resourceful and the search engine is your key to the city.
  • Online courses – cheaper than the Continuing Education courses. I’m on a subscription to Lynda.com and they provide tutorials on a variety of software beyond architecture related programs. I suggest check if your school has a subscription with them, or go for the monthly subscription (just, realize that you have to UNSUBSCRIBE when you’re done or else your visa will be charged)
Next entry (just to shake the sh** and show you to be balanced and not be one extreme or the other), I’m going to shift gears and go against renderings based on my experience as a recent graduate working in the field. Cheers.



  1. Nice post! I found that archdaily article intriguing as well. I have to say though, architecture students in the midst of applying to jobs must know renderings are what set students apart. if you are a student right now, LEARN REVIT or master sketchup and a rendering plugin. I know it's awful but that is what every firm is using and with the cloud renderings can be finished in minutes. sad to say, renderings are really your best bet at getting a job right now. that or an inside connection... :/

    1. Thanks for the comment Pat!

      The thing is, (well wait for my next post), I'm thinking renderings might not be the sole determining factor to getting a job. It's about work experience, but ensuring that your portfolio has all your skills shown - renderings, 2d drawings, details, hand sketches - it all has to sing.