JMD Design Process A.jpg

Here is a chart that communicates the likely order a project can take but keep in mind that I can tailor a design process for your specific needs and timelines. 

The OVERALL design process between me (Jonathan Miller) and you (the client) can be summed up in 5 easy steps:

1). CONTACT - Through e-mail, Skype, In person, Phone.

2). DISCUSS - I will learn about your company and your awesome project. We will discuss your vision and ideas as well as budget and timelines. Together we will decide if it is a good fit and if we want to work together.

3). SIGN - We will both sign the agreement and the check for the deposit (50% down for new clients) will be received by me (Jonathan Miller).

4). DESIGN - You will be able to preview updates throughout the whole design process to make sure it is going in the right direction.

5). APPROVE - Once the final design is approved and your balance is received, I will release the digital files in the agreed upon format.

The design process steps differ between types of projects. For example a kiosk design might have fewer required steps than a fly-through animation. For this reason below I have listed below the typical design steps that go into common project types.

Detailed Display Design Process (Exhibit, Kiosk, Window)

  1. Contact from client
  2. Talk/Meet with client
  3. Determine end product
  4. Request reference material
  5. Determine what will be seen and the level of detail
  6. Create a production timeline
  7. PSA (Professional Services Agreement) creation
  8. Receive signed contract and deposit
  9. Create project folders
  10. Create sketches of concepts (usually 3). Hand drawings or 3-d Model roughs
  11. Choose concept direction
  12. Model the elements
  13. Texture the elements
  14. Light the elements/scene
  15. Create Test renders for client
  16. Fix/change revise as necessary
  17. Create production renders (as many views as agreed upon)
  18. Post production (photo-shopping color correction, placing people or objects into rendering, etc...)
  19. Delivery of final product (in agreed upon format)

Detailed Architectural Visualization Process (Still Images/Animations)

  1. Contact from client
  2. Talk/Meet with client
  3. Determine end product
  4. Request drawings (.DXF/Revit/FBX)
  5. Receive/Inspect drawings
  6. Determine what will be seen and the level of detail
  7. Create production Timeline
  8. PSA (Professional Services Agreement) creation
  9. Receive signed contract and deposit
  10. Create project folders
  11. Drawing verification (current?)
  12. Project break up into manageable pieces
  13. CAD line work cleanup
  14. Import line work
  15. Model building elements
  16. Model site elements
  17. Merge background rig
  18. Texture building and site elements
  19. Merge lighting preset
  20. Create animation paths
  21. Create test renders
  22. Fix/Change Animation
  23. Create production render
  24. Post production
  25. Delivery of final product (in agreed upon format)

Crafting a typical architectural visualization image.

JMD BB Skyscraper building only

I crafted this image for a design competition. It uses 2 different blocks to construct a city sized skyscraper and surrounding park. The design is open and allows for a nice balance of green zones, retail and living quarters. I used stylized geometric trees and kept it simple so attention could be kept on the building itself.  Great images usually start with great models so i took the time to model every last floor and tree so that the detail showed up in the final image. Here below is the Ambient Occlusion pass to give you an idea of detail. I made geometric trees and painted them on as objects (with random height settings enabled). and suggested cars and green zones. nothing too complicated. It's good to just suggest things and let the viewer fill in the blanks.

Once I had the model where I wanted it I ran all my different passes so I could then compile them into photo-shop for final compositing. I ran a base render, an Ambient Occlusion pass and then a Z-Depth respectively. Normally I would run a reflection pass but I wanted to experiment with the type of reflection so I left that off on this one.  

JMD bb Skyscraper A/O Pass

JMD bb Skyscraper Z-Depth Pass

Once I have these I put them into layers in photoshop with the base render at the bottom of the stack...Here is my stack below:

JMD bb Skyscraper Phot0-shop Stack

Here is a quick fly-through I crafted for this presentation as well.

It's important to note that this image could be taken a lot further but in the production environment what you want is the most bang for your buck. This simple stack can produce a really good looking image fairly quickly and as we all know time is money right! In post I am dialing things in like opacity levels and blending modes. Generally your A/O pass is on Multiply blending mode, your Z-Depth is inverted and set to screen blending mode (same with flares) and finally that reflection was the background sky set to overlay on just the building parts. The birds I just used a photo-shop brush of birds and set the opacity level down a bit. Final Image below.

Crafting a typical exhibit design presentation.

Most exhibits and displays have things in common in the practical sense. There is a reception desk for introductions and lead retrieval machines, demo kiosks for viewing or demonstrations and a small meeting area (usually semi-private) for closing deals. All of theses elements are generally tied together with some larger identity up top to announce the companies name as demonstrated in the image below.

This is a very simple version of what could be expected of a client and no two are ever the same but these are typically the core elements that are requested. So lets look at an actual creative brief and explain the process of executing the ideas. Below is a request: 

Remotely Trade Show Island

Creative Brief

General Description:

This 20’ by 20’ space should promote the remotely brand including color, logo and typography. We will need to demonstrate remotely home automation--including both our app software and vendor hardware. Tablets and smartphone working to control devices in the space. The resident experience could be the draw from the exterior, then the interior can be a more intimate display of the property manager  remotely experience. The exterior space should be a 360 with max height to make way finding easier. The interior space should be roomy and easy to move around with storage/counter space for laptops and takeaways (i.e. postcards).

Tradeshow requirements:

1.    Hanging 360 circular signage

2.    3 demo kiosks with shelfs for devices and counters to mount ipads and android phones and printed surface

3.    2 counter height tables (interior)

4.    2 bar stools

5.    2 laptops

6.    2 large printed surfaces

Creative Direction: Meta concept: Always within reach.

The space should feel innovative and modern. The space should also leave one feeling inspired and feel more comfortable technology. The product interface should play a prominent role via devices with the app loaded on them everywhere. The printed designs should be simple and graphic (less is more) with lots  of “white” space.

Kiosk Concept:

Each kiosk should focus on one value proposition with corresponding hardware and messaging.

Value Propositions:

1.    Keyless Entry

2.    Piece of Mind

3.    Always Within Reach

So after reading this I understand that the core of what they need is a hanging sign, 3 kiosks and a meeting area. I will make sure that the graphics on the physical structures will match up and communicate the main tag lines they want to include. For this concept for ExhibitQuest the decision maker Mark Boulding already had a good idea of what he wanted to do with this one and actually sketched something out for me to follow.

Pretty great right! This is a time saver and allows me to spend time on polishing the presentation. After receiving this I dig in and start modeling the exhibit using existing templates and pulling from a large library of components. I like to model the components first and place them into position before I will go in and texture and paint it all.

So first I model all the pieces.

Then texture and paint.

Now I set up the can be a frustrating thing to master but after many years of experimentation I have systems set up to make it fast and effective.

Now I am finally ready to render out all my view my views. I always want a main perspective shot, a good floor plan, a good Isometric and a close up of the kiosk as well.

I like to provide these views singularly with the the exhibit house logo, clients logo and some people for scale on them. To go further I put what I call a composite together. This last composite image has most of these main single images put together on one board so as to make referring to different elements of the display easier to call out in a presentation setting.

After a successful presentation, ExhibitQuest wins the CFP (Call for Proposal)! Now my job is done and the production of the display goes into action. Below is the end result at its first show looking good and pushing sales!


Crafting a typical interior Still Image.

It goes without saying that 2-D still images are easier to craft than say an animation but I have seen people take it very far. For a production set-up, I try to keep the process as quick as possible. Because the client usually want things yesterday, I have come up with a system that produces a high quality image in an accelerated time frame.

Depending on the project I will usually start with modeling the walls and core components touching base with the client along the way. I will keep everything grey at these early stages as it helps more easily see how the elements of the room are weighted visually.

Now I will select and add the furniture. Most times the client will be fine with something that is close to the final but sometimes furniture has to modeled from scratch. This can be very time consuming and I will often advise against too much custom furniture. In this case just a few pieces are needed for a small lobby. I will also craft any additional items needed like the logo on the back wall.

Now I will add all my textures and color everything. I wont worry about getting it exact right now but I want to make sure to hit everything with what I think will work.

Now its time to add the lights. It is possible to simulate actual store bought lights so I have some in the ceiling and a few up-lighting the reception desk as well. Lighting can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately I have produced many templates that cover a range of settings I can for the most part plug into the scene.

Now for the raw render. One thing to understand is that with these 3-D software packages it is very difficult to get everything done within one piece of software. So images are crafted with several layers of very specific data that go into enhancing a "raw render". But first the raw render. I adjust the lighting this way and that until its just right and render out something that looks like this.

So it doesn't look too bad right. To send out a raw render is not uncommon and will often suffice in most cases. However with a few extra steps this image can be elevated to a more professional level. One thing that can be done is to out-put an image called an Ambient Occlusion pass and blend it together with the above "raw render".

This image is rendering just the shadows where objects meet. It really helps to define shapes and brings an extra layer of realism to the image. I see some "opportunities" in spots though. That reflection in the floor could go away and light needs to come back through the box under the logo. I would also like to see a person for scale and it would be nice to have the lights glow a little. 

Below is the final image. I added some glow for the soffit lighting around the red wall element to the left and the same for the light above for drama. I fixed the floor in the middle below and added a person for scale. It is important to note that there are a lot of other things that can be done to improve the image (reflective pass/Z-depth pass/etc...) but I have found that these base steps give you best quality for time spent. I hope this helps to enlighten my typical process of producing an architectural still image. 

Crafting a typical window display.

Typical Showcase Window 84"x84"x24"

Here is an example of a typical window design process. When a request comes in it can take many forms. It is usually just an email laying out what each concept might be and some attached images for reference. On this one the client said they wanted a one concept to resemble a poster they had and another to be based off a photo they had and the last one was to be up to me. So I came up with three marker concepts that took about 20 minutes and sent them off just to make sure before I got started modeling.


One would be a giant vinyl frame out with an upholstered back wall and an under-lit pedestal.

One would be a wood shop with a giant bottle just having been carved from the back wall and a gallery of their photos.

One would be a wood shop with a giant bottle just having been carved from the back wall and a gallery of their photos.

One would be based off a photo of their chalet made to be 3-D like a giant doll house.

One would be based off a photo of their chalet made to be 3-D like a giant doll house.

After the client said yes to moving forward I begin modeling all three concepts starting with the bottle and any other product specific items that need to be done from scratch. 

JMD Window Process Modeling

After a few hours I have a front and side view of all three concepts for review.

JMD Window Process Concept A

JMD Window Process Concept B

JMD Window Process Concept C

After these were approved and passed onto the end client, a choice was made on concept "C". This concept can now be developed into the final product and goes through several minor tweeks (in red) before final approval is given below.

JMD Window Process Final Adjustments

While constructing the models for the renderings thought goes into how to actually construct the various parts of the window.  This is where aspects of industrial design come into play while making decisions through out the process on what might be made of what and how. For this design just printed foam core and glass vinyl are needed to construct the individual parts while dummy bottles were provided by the client. Below is a document provided along with the renderings that helps illustrate how things go together.

Exploded parts list of individual components

And again the final design set into the side of a building to complete the illusion of reality and help justify the design. A front, side and close-up views are provided to aid in visualizing the concept.

Typical Showcase Window 84"x84"x24" Front View

Typical Showcase Window 84"x84"x24" Close-up View

Typical Showcase Window 84"x84"x24" Side View

Crafting a typical sci-fiction illustration.

Final rendering

There are many ways to go about rendering one of these images and what follows is how I typically construct my illustrations. Sometimes I will sketch out what I am thinking before modeling and others times like on this one I will just get started modeling first and see how it developes. 

Base model side view

Starting with just one tower I get the base shape where I want it and then refine it into a more acceptable level of detail by adding doors, lights and vents.

Birds eye view of general layout

Now I arrayed the towers across a rough set of planes and set up a camera to start dialing in my view. I noticed at this point I need another tower shape to compliment the larger towers and give them a larger sense of scale. So I added those in at this point as well.

Main view adding new smaller towers

Now here is my final view I will be rendering. I angles the ground plane for more excitement and movement and added even more towers in the back ground for an even greater sense of depth. So now we start rendering our different types of rendering passes that we will blend together later in photo-shop.

Base Render

Base Render

Reflection Pass

Ambient Occlusion Pass

Ambient Occlusion Pass

Now that I have my base elements for my image I can start putting it all together in photo-shop. Below is an abbreviated step by step showing what was added to the image and when.

Step by Step

JMD Illustration "Wolf Realm" 2014

And here again is the final illustration. Again there are many ways to craft these but it is generally done the way I have show here with multiple passes blended together in photo-shop for more punch. Thank you.