Why Visualizations are Key to the Design Process

Designer, Sarah Bordeaux

Visualization opens the door to really diving into something and making sure we get it right. That way when we install and hand over the keys to the experience, everybody’s excited and there are no surprises.

A key tool for spurring client feedback is visualizations. Visualization is our way of communicating ideas and concepts to clients–the look and feel of the space, graphic design, even materials. You can only talk about ideas so much–eventually you have to show what you’re thinking.

We use graphic renderings, 3-D modeling software, material boards, key frames, hand-sketching and other tools to visualize an experience or part of that space.

Typically, clients see more loose, sketchy visualizations during the planning phase. After we receive their feedback, more advanced visualizations come during design development. During that phase, we sometimes prototype, making 3-D scale models, and also test print to see how images and graphics will look. 

We designers have to test our ideas, and visualization does that for us. Sometimes you don’t realize something’s too big, too small, or would block a visitor’s path until you put it in a visualization of the experience. Is a design element too subtle, or does it scream too loudly? Visualization helps you determine that. It definitely informs the design before we show it to the client.

The client feedback to visualizations is invaluable. I remember one client who had referenced MOMA as the visual style they preferred. So we presented visualizations that were slick, clean and modern–and they saw right away that it wasn’t warm and southern charm-y enough for them. That reaction helped us get to what they wanted. Visualization gets you to the right concept sooner rather than later.

My favorite thing about visualizations is that there are no rules. You step back and ask yourself, “What’s the best way to communicate my ideas? Is it a collage or cutout of colors or materials? A hand-drawn sketch, or a fully rendered museum exhibit space? What’s the best way to communicate this concept?” 

Sarah’s Advice:

“Be sure to take your time with a visualization and ask yourself and the designer and writer questions. First look at the whole: What’s your first impression? How does it make you feel? Excited? Like you want to go there? What do you notice first? What messages come across the strongest? What stands out? Then, after you’ve taken in those aspects, dive into the details and specifics about what’s working and what could be refined.” 

Sarah Bordeaux, Designer, has worked at Solid Light for three years. When she’s not creating designs for clients, you might find her exploring Louisville, going to museums, or enjoying time with friends.