Designers create visuals for clients and for sharing information with other design team members. You'll need to know how to select the right visual for the right use at the right time. Designers also use different communication tools for analysis, data, research, and conceptual and planning diagrams.
Learn which types fit the goal. It's all about show and tell (or sell).
Small residential projects with one decision-maker usually need an informal meeting with a copy of the report and a few visuals.
Larger projects, especially commercial projects, have several stakeholders. These often require a formal written report with presentation boards or other visuals.
Regardless of the project size or complexity, the goals are to get:
- Client comments and feedback
- Approval to proceed with design and continue to the next project phase
Presentation formats include face-to-face or virtual meetings, such as Zoom.
Presentations are typically done at the end of these two phases:
- Programming phase — to proceed to the Design Development phase
- Design Development phase — to start preparing Construction Documents
The goal of the design presentation varies with the different activities in each design phase. The designer should consider the types of decisions and desired outcomes of the presentation to determine which type of visuals are most appropriate.
This phase is about demonstrating that the design solution meets the project's functional requirements. Visuals used to communicate design solutions during programming can include:
- area requirement summaries
- parti diagrams
- concept sketches
- adjacency diagrams
- bubble diagrams
- stacking diagrams
During the design development, the designer refines the physical solutions. The designer's goal is to gain approval for final plans, specific materials, and furnishings. The goal is to get client approval to proceed with construction documents.
Rendered floor plans illustrate the design solution in 2-D. These show the client the layout of the building's construction and how the furniture fits into the space. Floor plans also illustrate adjacencies, clearances, and traffic flow throughout the space.
Material boards show the finishes selected for the project. It's ideal to have a sample of each material on the board showing the texture, weight, and accurate colors. Samples displayed on material boards may include:
- Millwork finishes/wood stain
- Hardwood flooring
- Window shades
- Drapery fabric
- Upholstery fabric
- Bedding fabric
- Decorative pillow fabric
Many people find understanding floor plans and elevations challenging. For larger projects, renderings and models show the design in 3-D to help the client better understand the volume of the space.
Study models are sometimes prepared during the design development phase for use in-house by the design team. These are sometimes crude and made out of cardboard or foam core. These study models, also known as concept models and working models, are usually made at a 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch scale.
Presentation models are more common for larger projects. They're most often used for formal client presentations. Detailed presentation models are now easier to fabricate with techniques like 3-D printing. They're often used for architectural projects and show the whole building.
A mock-up is a life-size model of design. It can be a single piece of furniture or a construction mock-up of an entire space.
A prototype is similar to a mock-up but offers the opportunity to test the design. A model hotel room is a good example of a construction prototype. A mock-up of the room itself with samples of all furniture allows for testing the function of the space. Do the bed lamps on the nightstands reach the outlets? Is there enough space to pass between the bed and the desk? Does the bed coverlet pool on the floor?
Ultimately, the designer must remember the goal of the presentation. When the goal is for client decisions and approval, the project can progress.