The blurred line between Design and Visualisation – Rigby & Rigby

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The blurred line between Design and Visualisation

Written by Kay Sames (3D Studio Manager)

In today’s design industry we are required to meet nail-biting deadlines, create original concepts and facilitate the needs and desires of our clients. As with most industries, technological advancement has given us elevation in our offerings. The main technological advancement that has affected all areas of design is “Computer Aided Design” otherwise known as CAD. 

In 2020 Rigby and Rigby, a multidisciplinary company for many years opened their own 3D Studio to blend the process of design and creation. No longer using external 3D resources they have brought the process in-house. This has created a streamlined creative practice with a focus on design and development with designers and 3D artists working in tandem – now having the ability to problem solve sitting in the same room. 


, The blurred line between Design and Visualisation
TX-2 Computer (Source: Ballistics Research Laboratory Report 1115, March 1961)


Having grown the 3D department over the last 2 years, we looked back to how we have been able to come to this point through a historical and contextual lens.

Visualisation has been around for hundreds of years and used to be provided by draftsmen in 2D format. now Visualisation as an industry, which creates 3D graphical content for a multitude of purposes and trades, has become an essential tool which has only recently seen a huge growth. 

To understand why, we need to look at the restraints and historical context which has, up until now restrained its prevalence. 

Sketchpad was a program created by Ivan Sutherland and was the predecessor of all design programs we know today. Sketchpad’s initial release was in 1963 and was the first ever CAD program. Though simplistic to look at from today’s point of view this revolutionary piece of computer software was designed with the intent of helping engineers, draftsmen and scientists. It was initially run on a computer at MIT Licoln Labritory called the TX-2 and had the ability to interact with an intergraphical display (the predecessor of our touch screens today). The TX-2 that Ivan Sutherland worked on at the time had 320kb of RAM, 8Mb magnetic tape and a 1024×1024 pixel display with the aforementioned pen touch display. This hardware was so big it took up 93 square meters and the memory took up 1 cubic meter. Though I am unable to find the cost of such a machine, at the time in 1972 the cost of a basic “HP 3000” was sold for $95,000 which if you include inflation is worth about $657,065.91.


, The blurred line between Design and Visualisation
Elevation of Admiralty Arch in London, 1907 (catalogue reference WORK 30/3276)


Relating this to accessbility of this advancement in the design world we can see that most companies would have been excluded on cost alone, let alone accessibility to the space to have these machines and the talent required to run them. 

In 1990 Auto Desk’s 3DS Max (a well-used software for visualisation purposes even today) released their first program originally named 3ds Studio DOS, in 1994 they released version 4 and recommended computer ram was 8mB (to put this in perspective an iPhone 13 starts at 123GB -which is 123000mb) and although the cost per mb fell from $106 in 1990 to $1.12 the cost in memory alone has not been feasible for small companies or individual users until recently. 

Hence in the 1990’s, companies were created specifically for the construction of digital imagery for designers called ‘visualisation houses’. a purpose built company which specialised in the creation of 3d images for designers and architects. With a industry so young the talent pool was limited and the purpose built studios were essential for the large investment needed in software and hardware. 


, The blurred line between Design and Visualisation
Inhouse Visualisation (2021)


3D design is now in a  Renaissance with the converging of the lowering cost of hardware, the leap in useability of software user interfaces and the expanding talent pool of 3D artists; 3D has never been so accessible. 

Speaking to a london recruiter who has been in the industry for 10 years and has seen 3D trends coming and going within Visualisation he said –

“I am happy to say that I believe there is very exciting times ahead for our Arch Viz world.

Finally we have hit an equilibrium of talent and technology, software and artistic ability and storytelling, coupled with a balance of remote and in house working, with a strong preference to learn from the community of amazing artists we have here in the UK and globally.

For the majority of those years I have been working with Design and Visualisation teams and educating companies on the strategic importance of having that Pre Construction Visualisation function and team, in house, sitting with their Designers, Architects and Engineers every week.

This personal and professional collaboration, in house with each other, allows a greater understanding of each team members requirements, timings, importance and allows a greater ability to collaborate, bounce ideas off each other and create the best options for the end client in the most efficient ways.

The ability to have a single talented 3D artist, or better yet a team of them, in house to discuss, develop and deliver Pre Construction, Planning or Marketing visualisations opens up a number of possibilities for clients, both internally and externally. 

3D Visualisation is not purely just the final photo real marketing image that many of us outsiders see, there is so much more involved in this collaborative and artistic process.

3D Visualisation helps with design development, planning applications, construction sequencing, resource allocation, finishes and fixtures, as well as furniture, space planning and sales.

3D Visualisers are now more and more being used as a design development tool, enabling designers to “design over the shoulder” of an artist in house, communicate different options and preferences and do all this ‘live’, which allows multiple options to be produced, discussed, debated and agreed upon.

Team engagement is so important, and having this function and team ability in house, allows constant communication, development and organic evolution of projects, as well as saving time and money, by not allowing these decisions to wait until they are on site to be identified and rectified with a better alternative!

I am not saying that outsourcing options are a bad thing for our sector, at all, as there are hundreds of very talented artists who have gone out on their own and started Visualisation businesses, who do dedicate the time, energy, engagement, effort and communication to their chosen clientele. The difference is that these 3D Artists are able to juggle those multiple clients, as they have normally had the professional experience of learning their craft inside a wonderful team, who allowed them to learn, progress, make mistakes and grow, in a fertile, safe and supportive environment.”James Chapman, Austin Recruitment


, The blurred line between Design and Visualisation

, The blurred line between Design and Visualisation


In the last two years of bringing 3D into an in-house capacity, Rigby and Rigby have been able to not only see improvements in the output of 3D but also in the fundamental uses in early design development.

Starting with a designer’s rough sketches and concepts, to having a supporting 3D designer help problem solve and develop these ideas, has led to better final results in design and construction as well as client communication and satisfaction. We are excited by the immeasurable potential of 3D and design delivery which we believe will be a very substantial part of Rigby and Rigby going forward.


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