The advent of the computer has changed how we design and build. It has created an infinite amount of potential for complexity and purpose in building design. Over the past few years, I have come to realize that all architects and designers have no choice but to increase their digital understanding and skill sets if they want to stay relevant in tomorrow’s design age. The software and tools that we, as an industry, are being introduced to will upgrade the expectations of our output exponentially in the coming years. We will be expected to deliver projects smarter, faster, and more uniquely than we ever have before and the only way to do this will be with a digital design influence. With this in mind, I’ve started the Becoming a Digital Designer series to catalog my growth as a digital designer with the hope that it might help fellow architects and designers navigate the complex and diverse world of digital design.

The core benefits that digital design brings to the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry include

  • increased efficiency in design and construction
  • more informed design
  • more creative freedom to express complex design

Although there are many firms and professional independents who are boldly experimenting and developing with these emerging ideas, the full potential of this has not yet been realized in the larger industry; however, in the coming years we will see a phasing out of traditional methods and an influx of digital methods from the next generation of designers who have a much deeper understanding of digital processes.

 

What do I mean by digital design?

In the AEC industry, there are many different ways to organize this idea. Below is a good start to understanding some of the different aspects that digital methods bring to the process.

  • Visualization: how we tell our story and sell our designs
    • 2D Media, Rendering, Virtual/Augmented/Mixed realities, Video/Animation, Web/Application Development, Augmented sketching
  • BIM (building information systems)/ 3Dmodeling:: how we document and analyse our buildings
  • Software/add-ins : How we understand our buildings
    • Tools that have been developed to optimize, inform and enhance the existing software to provide unique and specific solutions for project needs.
  • Data capture and analysis : how we inform our designs
  • Computational design : how we add complexity and precision to our designs
  • Fabrication : how we build our designs
  • Electrical/ Hardware engineering (sensor/connected buildings) : how we connect our designs

Simply put, digital design is using the computer to aid and inform the design and construction process. This translates to a variety of methods during the building process from project capture to design development to construction. Below, the diagram illustrates where certain processes may come into play throughout the project.

 

project timeline

 

Most of these digital services utilize new and different skillsets that step beyond traditional architectural knowledge. This will require most professionals to seek training and/or continuing education to attain these new skillsets in order to provide adequate processes and designs. In order to take full advantage of these services, we need to embed experts with these skillsets onto our project teams and get them to knowingly train people on the job. Without this, all the knowledge lives with a few key people and the projects suffer.

I’m not saying everyone has to learn everything; just that the more we learn the better everything gets.

The path to becoming a comprehensive digital designer is quite overwhelming for a beginner due to the many seemingly unrelated subjects; however, if taken one step at a time, the knowledge will develop to a level where the designer feels comfortable using diverse digital design methods at all stages of building design and construction. The hardest part is starting.

 

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