Updated: Sep 16
When we set up our company 21 years ago, we were one of the first – and so one of just a few – companies offering digital visual representations for architectural designs.
Nowadays, we're one of many.
Visual technology such as CGI and animation has gradually become the norm when it comes to presenting developments – at pretty much all stages of a development project and for all manner of different stakeholders.
And for good reason. It's without a doubt the best way to illustrate an architectural design to its fullest and greatest potential.
But with this increase in its usage and popularity has come an influx of companies offering architectural visualisation services to the industry… plus of course, many architectural firms now having their own in-house teams. Which in turn has led to many clients facing the age-old problem of, 'with all this choice, how do I choose the right/best one?' – a problem that we have, unfortunately, seen and heard the repercussions of many times.
With the vast number of options in the market comes an inevitably vast range of pricing. Price is often a tempting thing to focus on when comparing choices, and many people find themselves persuaded to take the cheaper option. It's understandable – budgets are always tight, and development projects certainly aren't cheap to begin with. Nor – as we all know – do they ever come without unexpected additional costs somewhere along the line. So, the cheaper options will always be tempting.
But there are many risks that come with choosing based on price alone...
A big one is that you ultimately end up spending more – costs of 'fixes', costs of 'redo's', costs of delays, costs of the visualisations just not delivering what you needed them to.
Bigger still is the risk of significantly underselling your scheme and its wider proposition to your audience. Something that often can't be recovered from.
Which means that low prices, while tempting, should always be weighed up against the following, more important, question: 'Will they get it right, and will they get it right first time?'
The risks of choosing the cheaper option
We've been undercut on projects before, where the clients have later come back to us – having been let down by a poor-quality job – in order to get a 'proper' job done.
This, of course, at great expense to the client in question. Not only in terms of the money they have lost from the first attempt, but also the time… which typically, particularly in the world of developments, also equals money.
Other clients have told us of companies they've used where they have had to pay for images or even entire films to be redone, as the original work simply hadn't done what they needed it to… hadn't been a high-enough quality to reflect their brand, or design, or overall proposition… or hadn't provided them with the solution or the results that they commissioned it for.
Should the client be the one to have to pay for the 'redo' in that case? I personally don't think so, but perhaps it all comes down to different expectations?
From where I stand, the client should be able to expect to have the job done well, and 'properly', the first time. And the visualisation team's expertise, background and project planning and processes should be based around exactly that expectation – the expectation of 'getting it right the first time'.
But that's why we're not one of the cheapest in the market. Nor do we want to be. Because getting it right the first time is an art… and it is an art that takes more time and thought than only superficially fulfilling a short brief…
The benefits of choosing the 'right' company for the job
Beyond the more obvious examples of a cheap job done badly, there are other reasons it's important to carefully choose the right company to produce the visuals for your development project.
The main one being the additional value that a good job can bring.
'Getting it right' means 'delivering exactly what you need', which is far more than just providing you with a visual representation of your development.
It is explaining, educating, illustrating… it is sending out the right messages to the right people, about what this particular development is able to offer THEM.
It is ensuring that through that message, your 'pain points' will be solved: finding tenants/buyers before completion to offset investment costs; securing investment in the first place; overcoming opposition to win planning; differentiating yourself; reinforcing your brand values…
And it is knowing that these messages, pain points and details differ for every project.
So in order to identify those ‘right’ messages and solve those pain points, the visualisation team you work with need the experience and expertise to be able to fully understand the details of your project. They need to be deep diving into the reasoning behind the design, understanding it from the perspective of an architect, thus bringing an even deeper level of comprehension.
An understanding at this level means the end result will be more nuanced work, which matches the very thinking behind the design itself.
It will mean they know exactly what the film, or images, need to focus on: the problems that your design is seeking to remedy, the solutions that it offers, the 'best bits' that the viewer should be focusing on.
And the final 'value-cherry' on the cake from having a close, detail-oriented collaboration with a quality visualisation company, is that rare but invaluable opportunity to make last minute improvements…
Those things that may look fine to a client or architect in their designs and drawings, but in reality – as the image takes shape – prove not to be as envisaged. That ability to improve and amend a design before it is too late is something that money can't really otherwise buy.
These types of architectural visualisation companies might not be the cheapest option you're presented with. But would you expect them to be, when you're considering all that they're providing above just an 'image'?
And more importantly, is the 'cheapest' option the one you really want? Or do you want the 'best' – the best result, and the best value for your money?
If it's the latter, it's the companies that strive to perfect 'the art of getting it right' that you want. As they'll be the ones delivering exactly what you need (perhaps beyond what you'd even realised you needed) and exactly when you need it.
They’ll be the ones that become an ‘extension’ of your design/marketing team. The ones that are fully invested in the end result you need, working with you to ensure you’ll achieve it, and expertly getting on with the job without any need for time-consuming hand-holding.
No unexpected additional costs, no costly redo's, no lost or wasted time, and success in your required outcome: planning granted, investment secured, tenants confirmed, brand reinforced, and a visualisation worthy of your design's quality, detail and ingenuity.
And a seamless, enjoyable process to boot. What’s not to want?