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Plans, sections and diagrams are a great communication tools among architects and engineers, but when it comes to clients, a more approachable and obvious medium is required. Let’s face it-without great looking images of your projects, there’s little chance they will resonate with anyone. Good architectural visualization has become irreplaceable in the building industry, as it can boost sales, improve marketing and attract new clients, all at a miniscule cost compared to the overall profit. Whether it’s a large commercial building, complex or a residence, architectural visualization can help close the deal and speed up construction through brochures, websites and even social media. Depending on the size of the firm and their company culture, there are two ways architectural images are produced – by outsourcing the work to specialized agencies or forwarding the files to in-house visualization teams which work more closely with the designers.
Architects are used to working with different software. AutoCad, Archicad, Rhino, Photoshop and even specialized visualization software have become a standard in the eyes of practicing architects, but architectural visualization done well requires someone who uses and looks at a specific task with a specialized eye. People specialized in architectural visualization can do the work faster and better and the burning question for most studio owners becomes – do I outsource my visualization work or build my own arch-viz department? This is a complex issue which depends on many factors. Here we’ll take a look at some of the trends and examples when it comes to outsourcing vs. full-time hire.
Having an in-house arch-viz team can have many benefits. Illustrations of spaces and building details can be done quickly and in crude form and are often integrated into the design process. Imagery can be reviewed immediately upon production, guaranteeing fast turnaround and consistency when it comes to the firm’s visual identity. Changes can be made quickly and clients can expect updates without having to wait for the usual back-and-forth between the design studio and the arch-viz agency. Many large architecture studios have their own visualization departments, but even in these cases, we see a number of examples of their work illustrated by specialized agencies. This is the case with final images in particular. Having an in-house team does imply that the firm is financially stable, since hiring visualization artists, or any type of full-time employee for that matter, brings risks as well as benefits that employers should keep in mind. With full-time staffers, firms have more control over their work and can count of exclusivity in working on renderings. Artists are committed to only one client at all times and the firm doesn’t have to worry about competing for their attention. This way a firm can expect the artist to become invested in the success of the project to a greater extent compared to working with a freelancer or another company. On the other hand, a full-time employee is a fixed cost which includes social coverage and other additional administrative processes and the firm has to weigh the pros and cons of hiring, having in mind a firm set of priorities and approaching it with proper planning. For small companies in particular, which are still building their name, outsourcing their visualization work can be a significant expense, but it might be one that should be embraced and capitalized on.
Another option is hiring a specialized agency. Compared with having an in-house rendering team, this type of outsourcing can be cumbersome, since turnaround is slowed down due to slower communication-especially in cases when the design studio and visualization agency are located in different time zones. Depending on the size of the agency and its office culture, the collaboration can prove to be extremely beneficial. A well structured file system and having several people working for a single client often implies efficiency and reliability, which can grow through recurring collaboration.
However, these benefits come with a higher price tag. For those whose budgets don’t allow to splurge for images done by high-end agencies, there is a third possibility- a global trend that is redefining business, including the architecture industry. The growing number of freelancers has been remapping global economy and has often proved beneficial to companies which can’t afford to hire large numbers of people. The increasingly present entrepreneurial spirit among freelancers has inspired many to choose an alternative route to full-time work and try and build their own businesses. This is especially true in the art word. Smaller firms can benefit from the short-term collaboration by being able to plan according to the project and budget size and do it with flexibility. This option is even more beneficial in the cases where firms form long-term relationships with freelancers and create informal partnerships while saving money. Because business demands tend to increase and decrease unexpectedly, having the choice of whether to bring in people or do the work in-house can provide leeway and keep businesses afloat. However, this freedom comes with a great deal of responsibility. Examples of ill-treatment of freelancers are notoriously numerous, often associated with underpaid work and bullying, which doesn’t only affect the parties concerned, but also influences the entire industry and freelancer community. In the unofficial anything-goes climate of freelancing, it is imperative to keep to the industry standard. Getting high-quality work requires investment and, as long as clients have a dose of respect towards the field of architectural visualization, both sides will be satisfied, all the while keeping the industry healthy.