Posted on

Workplace furniture design: the Danish way

Ten years ago, Icons of Denmark established itself as a distributor of Danish furniture for the U.K. market. Since then, they’ve been hard at work evolving from representatives of Danish design to creators of it. Through their unique market-led approach, they’re bringing Danish design to the modern office…one sleek sofa at a time. 

Tell us about Icons of Denmark’s background. 

Icons of Denmark started as quite a traditional furniture agency, representing Danish furniture brands for the U.K. market. We’ve always had a hands-on approach to representing furniture and pride ourselves on being very knowledgeable about our products. We have a high level of technical know-how for how the furniture can be used, what sorts of applications the furniture has, and certain activities in an office where the furniture has relevance. 

That approach led us into product design and manufacturing. We’ve taken what we’ve learned in the market and now work with Danish designers to come up with new furniture  for the modern office. 

We engage with an international client base who we keep up-to-date with Danish design and furniture through products we produce. Our projects are primarily large-scale commercial projects.


BANK provides a multitude of combinations including a corner module to fit different patterns of space, function and interaction.

How did you transition from representatives of Danish design to creators of it? 

When the furniture designers we represented decided to launch new products, we were required to go out to the market and sell. This work didn’t always reflect what we thought of the product and it’s usability in the marketplace…which got a bit old for us. 

In 2016, we took the first steps to create our first product. We were able to brief a Danish designer and manufacturer on how we wanted a sofa to be made, which became the first example of how we create furniture today. 

How is your approach to creating new products unique?

The way we design furniture today is extremely market led. When we got started, there was a lot of residential products being brought to the workplace environment. Contrastingly, we consider specific workplace needs and create designs based around those.

Our process starts with identifying gaps in the market: we notice a certain need or an area of a project that we repeatedly don’t have the right products for. We bring that brief back and collaborate with designers and manufacturers to come up with the new product. That’s what sets us apart from many other firms. We are in no way led by product designers. We are led by the needs of interior designers and clients. 


The Private High Back addresses privacy for commercial interiors, providing a space to focus and host informal meetings – without the need for partitioning or room division.

For example, the most recent area we identified is banquet seating. Banquet seating is something that is often designed bespoke for each project. We identified this as an area for a new product. Since we have become very experienced in sofa making and upholstery work, we decided to dip into this category. 

To create this new type of sofa, we started drafting in 2D first, agreeing on certain dimensions and concepts. This was then further developed as a 3D model that was eventually built at our workshop in Denmark. 

After we create a prototype, we go back to the drawing board to refine the 3D model and finalise the piece—working out the final details such as stitching and leg position. This is the process we used for our new product, BANK, which we debuted at Clerkenwell Design Week this year.


Another variation of the BANK sofa. A highly customisable and comfortable solution

What was your first experience using SketchUp?

My first encounter with the product was in 2007 selling furniture for a Danish manufacturer. I came across the software through an architect. I was quite excited about it so I started promoting the tool among furniture dealers as a potential tool they could configure our products in. 

When I moved to London in 2009, one of the first things I did was to upload our models to 3D Warehouse and start using the platform as an integral part of our selling process. The user friendly aspect of 3D Warehouse and SketchUp Pro itself enabled me to convert all of our DWGs into SKP files and make them more publicly available. 

We quickly found that we were gaining a huge following and considerable number of downloads on these products. Ten years later we are still using the platform to upload and share our models.  

SketchUp is a tool that we use in three different categories of our business: product design, configuration, and interior design.  

Can you talk about your showroom and the products in it. Were any of these designed in SketchUp?

We work with many product designers. At the moment, we are working with one designer who develops his designs in SketchUp, Peter Barreth. Trained as an upholsterer and sofa builder, he is a self-taught user of the product. of SketchUp is a tool that he has found convenient and fast to work with. 

The Private Sofa was one of the first solutions created under the Icons of Denmark brand by Peter. That product was based on a few very basic principles about comfort, seat height and flexibility of sizing. The process started with 2D drafting. 3D models were created in SketchUp from those initial ideas. Once the first prototype was built in Denmark, we sent it to our showroom in London


Striking the perfect balance between soft lounge and casual dining seating. 

We used that prototype to get market feedback and understand what else needed to be done to refine the function and form before we brought it to market. It was almost a year later that The Private Sofa was actually born as a complete product from our research and development with London’s commercial interior design community. 

Where do you see the most value from SketchUp?

Most of our product designs are available in various sizes and finishes that can be configured to a client’s specific project. 

When we started selling meeting tables for example, we realised it’s an advantage to allow clients to choose their own size. We can visualise and configure the tables from our existing design to match the clients’ needs exactly. This is where we use SketchUp everyday. Our ten-person sales team all use the product.

Since our products can be made to size, we communicate details such as positioning of the legs, the split of tops in a table and the integration of power. If the client wants a specific edge detail, we can visualise that. That has to be visualised quickly for us to get the commitment from our clients and so that we’re all in sync. Our table Forum, for example,  has a fairly simple geometry which lends itself to fast customisation in the product. We can redraw these tabletops very easily to fit the customer’s sizing.

We send those drawings back to our producers in Denmark when we are placing the orders. This allows us to sync very quickly with the producers and manufacturers before an order gets placed. That’s actually where we find the biggest value of SketchUp for our business. 

You mentioned that Icons of Denmark contributes to the interior design piece of a project. What does that workflow look like?

We’re very often being invited to pitch our products in cooperation with an architect. Similarly, sometimes we collaborate when the architect needs some inspiration for a certain setup and that often requires a fast turnaround time. 

Here, SketchUp allows us to play a part in the designer’s work by not just pitching a sofa, but actually pitching a full configuration of our furniture and visualising it together with our collaborators’ proposals


The seat, back and front of the SMILE LOUNGE can be upholstered in different fabrics allowing for endless opportunities to create a design that suits your space.

In this instance, we would be taking a brief from an interior designer or architect, suggesting some ideas for the space with our products, and preparing a proposal for the space’s layout. This doesn’t just show our individual products but shows how the products will work in situ on a larger scale.  

When it comes to interior design, I think that’s where some of our products really come into their own. For example the EC1 sofa is a modular sofa. You can play with the different pieces of this product, changing them around based on the space that you’re in. 

And this is just as important to us as the previous two ways I’ve mentioned we use the product. You want the product in a certain size but you also want it in a certain shape and positioning. I think that’s why the EC1 has proven to be one of our most popular products on 3D Warehouse.


EC1 is based on square modular elements, perfect for optimising soft seating in areas with space constraints.

How do you collaborate between different design tools on your team?

Aside from our sofa line, our other product designers work in SolidWorks. Regardless of the product designers’ workflow, this all feeds into DWG files, which makes it possible for us to work off of a format that we can read and make sense of quickly. 

That’s again where SketchUp becomes the common ground. We always ask our product designers who are working in SolidWorks to give us a DWG model. We can then work to create SketchUp models for sharing via 3D Warehouse or use ourselves when we configure or use the products in situ. 

For exporting, it’s extremely handy for us that we can instantly create DWGs either as 2D or 3D files of the products that we design from scratch. SketchUp provides us with a compatibility advantage across all of the stakeholders we work with. 

Where can we find more examples of your work? 

About Icons of Denmark: Since their foundation in 2009, Icons of Denmark have become known as the London home of Danish Design for commercial interiors. Committed to bringing the very best of Danish design to the commercial interiors market in the UK and beyond, Jesper and the Icons of Denmark team work closely with a circle of talented designers and craftsmen who hold a deep fascination for refined beauty, natural materials and functional design that the Danes pride themselves upon.

Posted on

Design at Starbucks: Brewing the right stuff

David Daniels heads up Starbucks’ America East design teams, overseeing over a hundred designers across New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Latin America. David and his team have executed over 1,400 major Starbucks renovations and new builds in 2016 alone. As well as being a passionate (and productive) designer, David is also a SketchUp aficionado, so I was thrilled to talk with him about his approach to design and decision-making at Starbucks.

Hello David… Care to introduce yourself and your team to the SketchUp community?

Sure. I’m an architect and the Managing Director of Design at Starbucks and I look after our teams and projects in the America East region. I learned SketchUp years ago from a guy from Kathmandu and I’ve been using it on projects ever since. As time’s gone on, I’ve moved more into leadership, but I’ll still play around in SketchUp developing concepts and carrying out massing studies.

The Starbucks design studios are cooking with SketchUp. If you walked through, you’d see about thirty designers working on different projects that look completely unique. We’re the biggest SketchUp fans; seeing my teams tweak SketchUp’s style palette to infuse their own flavour into the renderings has become a really fun part of the design process for me.


Starbucks design studio in New York City. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

How did your team get going with SketchUp?

At one point I was working out of the Miami office and there were a handful of designers, including myself, who worked on high profile flagship stores. We used SketchUp for design and rendering, but not everyone did.

As a design leader, part of my job is to review and approve designs. I’m looking at a lot: this year alone my team has executed over 1,400 designs, and I have to review them quickly.

Some folks brought me black and white wireframes or two-dimensional visuals. This made me uncomfortable because it meant I would be putting my stamp of approval on a store, palette, or look that I had to try to construct in my head with no visual proof of how it would really go together. At that point we started to insist that everyone use SketchUp to model and paint in textures and surfaces so that I could approve designs with more confidence and authority.


SketchUp rendering of the Starbucks Reserve Bar at Broadway & 9th, NY. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

The shift to SketchUp kicked off in the Miami studio where one of my senior designers led the effort. Since then, the Miami studio now designs more collaboratively, hosting a design charrette every week where they get together with their computers and a big monitor. They co-author five or six core stores in a day, figuring out the spatial design, palette and flavour, all within SketchUp. In the days where everyone was using different software, it was impossible to do this.

After testing the workflow out in this office, we got the entire Latin America studio using SketchUp, and then New York and Dallas shortly after. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been able to roll this out across the four offices I oversee. I’ve found that once my designers learn SketchUp, they genuinely have a lot of fun using it over other software. SketchUp has unlocked latent talent in our up-and-coming designers.

How does this get you closer to the finished product?

Our architects carry out site surveys and create the building shell in Revit. We export this model into SketchUp and carry out all of the interior architecture design in SketchUp. This includes refining the colours, materials, furniture, fixtures and fittings. We create a beautiful three-dimensional schematic design which we then hand over to our Architects of Record (AoRs). That’s what we give them to create the construction packages.


Image of the Starbucks Reserve Bar at Brookfield Place, NY. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

Every store is extremely special to our brand and to our customers: it’s their ‘third place,’ a space where people can sit and stay, or shop and learn. We aim to find the sweet spot between being brand-appropriate and being locally relevant so that the store feels right for that neighbourhood, or the building that it sits in, or that part of the city.

And because the parameters are different every time, it means that each store has to be unique, right?

Exactly that. Within the stores, we have some simple principles that are really important for us. When we find a building, I think it’s really important to work with the bones of the space. So if the space has brick walls, or some surfaces that are distressed, or it has some great exposed trusses in the roof, then we want to celebrate the envelope, not cover up a bunch of stuff. This shell provides an envelope that hosts the hero of the space: the coffee bar.

“Where the bar sits, what it looks and feels like, the sight lines to and from it, how it’s lit, are all very important. We invest a lot of time into ensuring it’s like a finely crafted piece of furniture because it is the grand stage where we create “coffee theatre.”


A photograph of the Starbucks interior & bar on Broadway & 9th. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

Where the bar sits, what it looks and feels like, the sight lines to and from it, how it’s lit, are all very important. We invest a lot of time into ensuring it’s like a finely crafted piece of furniture because it is the grand stage where we create “coffee theatre.”

Your new store at 10 Waverly Place would be a case in point. What’s your favourite bit in this design?


SketchUp visualisation showing reserve bar at 10 Waverly Place. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

10 Waverly Place is a reserve bar which means it’s a special store with an elevated coffee experience. The way that we prepare and brew coffee in there is pretty special. We have a Black Eagle machine, a Siphon — which is a Harry-Potter-like brew, — a Nitro brew, which means we can offer our customers cold brews on tap. The building itself was an existing building with a beautiful white terrazzo floor which happened to be in the same colour range as our flagship store, The Roastery, in Seattle. So we preserved and resurfaced that, kept the existing brick walls and also commissioned some hand-drawn custom maps and artwork from a great artist called Tommy Tailor that I’ve collaborated with over the years.


SketchUp visualisation beside a photograph of the finished space. Images courtesy of Starbucks.

What does the Starbucks design workflow look like?

Once we’ve found a building that can functionally hold a Starbucks store, we create a functional layout, that then develops into the first detailed floor plan. If this proposal gets the green light from our operations team, then we kick off the interior design work in SketchUp. Here we test out ideas for the bar, the lighting, and store palette. Doing this in SketchUp makes it feel like we’re working with clay: a lot of ideas can be tried out very quickly. The speed this affords us means we can rapidly visualise ideas, identify the ones we like and build on them as the design progresses.

What’s the one functionality you’re glad SketchUp has?

Without a doubt, it would be Style Builder. The way that we can tweak the default style to achieve a hand-drawn, warm, and not-too-perfect finish helps us to aptly portray a range of design aesthetics across our stores.

Rapid fire tech Q&A with Eduardo Meza, LEED AP and Senior Designer at Starbucks’ Miami Studio

  1. We noticed that your team uses an impressive selection of materials. Where do you find and curate materials? 

The most commonly used materials had been created from photos and scans of our standard catalog.

  1. Do all teams have a separate materials library? Or do you share your materials between offices? 

The Miami studio created a library with our standard materials and this is a library that we shared with other Starbucks Studios. Materials outside of our Standard palette are custom made per project.

  1. Do you or anyone on your team use any SketchUp extensions within your workflow? If yes, could you tell us your top three? 

Yes; LSS Matrix, Section Cutface and Smart Drop.

  1. What keyboard shortcut could you not live without? 

Shortcuts are a must for my workflow. Here my favourite and most frequently used custom shortcuts: M = Materials, C = Components, L= Layers.

10 Waverly Place, Brookfield Place and Broadway & 9th reserve bars have just opened across Manhattan. Pop by to see how these SketchUp visuals became a reality.

Posted on

From furniture & fixtures to tech-savvy workspaces: Grammarly’s office in Kyiv

Leading architecture and interior design firm, balbek bureau, was chosen to design an entirely new space for one of Grammarly’s largest offices. This large, forward-thinking corporate space is located in Kyiv, Ukraine and hosts 150 employees. We connected with the lead designer, Andrii to discuss the details, challenges, and why they chose SketchUp for this project.

Give us some background on you, your team, and the types of projects you work on.

I graduated from the Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture where I earned my architecture degree. After that, I started working at balbek bureau as an architect. balbek bureau works on various types of projects. However, we prefer the corporate and commercial sector; though, we are not limited to a particular type of building or a specific style. In line with this scope of work, we recently completed the new Grammarly office in Kyiv.

Our design team consists of 40 people, including architects, designers, visualisers, and project managers. We work in creative teams where there is a team lead architect, architects, designers, and a project manager. In general, each team consists of three to ten people. Because balbek bureau provides interior design services for a wide range of industries, the creative teams are formed according to the specific type or style of the project. For example hotels, large office spaces, medium-sized offices, cinemas, gas stations, beauty salons, showrooms, “adaptive reuse”, and restoration projects.


The Grammarly team getting ready for the big design project. Pictured above: two founders of Grammarly and two Grammarly Kyiv project managers responsible for the project.

For those who are not familiar with Grammarly, who are they and what do they do?

Grammarly is a global company with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Kyiv. They operate 24/7 and are used as a digital writing assistant by millions of people across the world. Grammarly uses a plethora of  IT devices and utilises a high volume of communication and data exchange, both within individual and group settings.

What was the reasoning behind building a new Grammarly office? And did they have any requirements?

The Grammarly Kyiv team has grown significantly over the years and in 2016, they had outgrown their space. They needed to move to a larger space to accommodate all of their employees and operations. With that, Grammarly required a variety of spaces for different activities, including: 

  • A large conference hall with a seating capacity for 150 people
  • Multiple, smaller meeting rooms equipped with quality audio and video technology for conferences across the globe
  • Reception zone
  • Soundproof recreation room
  • Canteen for employees
  • Nap room
  • Several lounge zones
  • Restroom areas

Other requirements included eco-friendly materials, a warm colour palette with a homely feel for the interiors, and adaptability and flexibility of the space. Our team was responsible for the location of the office, office layout, interior concept, and all of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

Did you have to create different iterations of the design? If so,  how did you do this with such a large number of requirements?

Above all, designers are artists. For this reason, we developed only one design proposal, taking into account all of the above requirements. After that, the clients provided feedback on the design and requested changes. We made the requested changes, where it was needed, but in general, we didn’t create a range of design solutions, only some layout variations.

What was your design process for the Grammarly office?

We started by choosing a location for the new office. We had to choose between five different locations with seemingly different layouts. The winner was Gulliver business centre in the city centre. Since we didn’t have much time for the design project, the decision was to do all visualisations using SketchUp only, not using 3DS Max, as we normally do. We saved about three to four weeks using 3D models to get approval on the design with the Grammarly team.


Saving time pulling together the Grammarly program with SketchUp.

After that, the design project was delivered in short terms for all engineering work. While choosing furniture and decorative materials, we were also checking all engineers’ layouts and drawings with accordance to our design project. The construction phase lasted for about one year.

Did you run into any challenges? If so, what were they?

Yes, the design was very unique to the space, so we encountered many challenges that we worked through including creating an open working environment with two levels, a suspension bridge, a nap room, and incorporating natural light and other elements to create a work-friendly environment.

The original office area consisted of only one level and a mezzanine of 300 sq. m. To use the space at its maximum, we divided the office area into levels with a suspension bridge and connected it to an open staircase. We also expanded the mezzanine area up to 450 sq. m.This created a siloed work environment for employees. After meeting with the Grammarly team and understanding their needs, our layout idea was to have a meet-up zone on the ground floor where everything would be centered around and would make employee interaction a focal point. The meet-up zone was essentially the “heart” of the office and had six open-plan working zones surrounding it with soundproofing for privacy. We had to make sure this separated the working spaces but also allowed for a sense of “openness”. To do that we developed a radial curve to separate the working areas, and connected the first and second floor with an open staircase.


A high-level view of the radial curve and the separation of work spaces with the suspension bridge highlighted.

The nap room was another new design element for the building. This room had to be quiet and comfortable so employees could rest, relax, and recharge. We designed a space for three napping blocks. Each block had dark curtains to block out any light and a sensor under the mattress that would alert people if the room was occupied so people would not interrupt. 


The technology-savvy nap room for employees to catch some zzzzs.

Another tricky area was incorporating the suspension bridge. The length of the bridge is ninety meters, it loops around the office in a gentle curve, overlooking the entire office and expands slightly to accommodate rooms in its path. The bridge has no ground support, it is merely suspended from the ceiling. In order to keep the thickness of the bridge to a minimum, we passed the sprinkler system pipes under the main floor, and incorporated their fragments into the body of the bridge, blending them with the bridge’s structural elements.


The challenging suspension bridge that helped split up the original layout.

Other challenges included the use of eco-friendly materials. We had to creatively think of ways to reuse these materials throughout the office space. This also included a natural light requirement to help create a positive work-life balance for the employees and contribute to a higher level of comfort and efficiency. 

For the natural light requirement, how did you know how much natural light would help with comfort? Did you analyse this?

Guided by the knowledge of the environmental design code of urban commercial buildings, a perimeter depth of 6m, or twice the floor-to-ceiling height, can be potentially daylit. Thus, the buildings deeper than 12m require more artificial light. The Grammarly office in Kyiv is 8.8 m, respectively; therefore, we placed the working areas closer to the source of natural light and the auxiliary rooms deeper into the office where they were supplemented with additional lighting.


Incorporating eco-friendly materials and textures for a more natural, positive space.

Why did you choose SketchUp to design the Grammarly office?

We chose SketchUp due to the ease of use and speed. This project was under tight deadlines and we needed a tool that would allow us to work fast. Normally we would incorporate 3DS Max, but there was no time to do that. So we created everything in SketchUp—from the original design to the nitty-gritty details including textures.


SketchUp designs showcasing the Grammarly office.

What was your workflow in SketchUp?

First, we started designing the 3D models using measurements on site. After some work on the design construction, we moved onto smaller things like incorporating furniture, lighting, and textures. To save time, we used models from 3D Warehouse or from manufacturers’ websites. Our favorite part was the presentation of the model. We used cameras and scenes to showcase funny things, like a birthday cake in a table drawer. Also, we did not use any extensions. This was all native in SketchUp.

What are some benefits of using SketchUp in a corporate architectural project like Grammarly?

SketchUp allows you to work with a big, complicated model in one file, not dividing it to smaller ones. I also like SketchUp Viewer because we can easily present our designs to clients on their laptops. 

How did you manage the SketchUp model size and performance with such a large file?

Actually, it wasn’t a big deal. We kept everything in one model because the office had an open-plan layout. Based on this spatial concept, there were a minimum number of polygons, and all the interior details were in the separate files. The invisible elements weren’t included in the general SketchUp model.

How did team members collaborate on the same model? Were there challenges?

I worked on the general SketchUp model and assisting team members helped with the detailed objects in the separate files. It made our workflow easy and very efficient which helped with the tight deadlines we were under. 

Have you used SketchUp in any other projects? If so, what were they?

Yes, we use Sketch Up in most of our projects. The latest include:

Bursa hotel

4CITY

What’s your favorite SketchUp command?

“Flip”


More photos of the final space including conference rooms, canteen, lounge areas, and other workspaces.

Credits:

  • Architecture and interior design firm, balbek bureau
  • Architects: Slava Balbek, Andrii Berezynskyi, Anastasiia Marchenko
  • Project manager: Borys Dorogov
  • Client: Grammarly Kyiv
  • Photography: Andrey Bezuglov, Yevhenii Avramenko
Posted on

Architecture and built environment brought to life in SketchUp by Third Rule Studios

In another instalment of our series of customer case studies, we’re delighted to present Jamie Christensen. Jamie is Director of Third Rule Studios, a company specialising in creating high quality visual representations of architecture and the built environment. Here we learn about why SketchUp (and supporting cast V-Ray, Laubwerk and Skatter) provides the foundation for his company’s impressive portfolio.

Hello Jamie, we have been your reseller for over three years now and glad you reached out to us and were happy to be a featured case study. Can you give us some background on Third Rule Studios and share with our readers how long you’ve been a SketchUp and V-Ray user?

I am the Director of Third Rule Studios a Suffolk based CGI company specialising in the visualisation of proposed architecture and the built environment.  I have been working in the architectural design and 3D visualisations industry now for around 15 years.

I have always used Sketchup, even before getting into the world of 3D  rendered visualisations. When I first started using it I was an apprentice in an architectural firm, and to try to impress my boss at the time I learnt Sketchup over a weekend and produced a model of a development being designed in the office. I showed this to my boss on the Monday who was impressed and from then on I was the only 3D guy in the office and the other senior architects were asking me to teach them. I was 18, I’m now 34 and have been using Sketchup for a very long time! But I’m always learning of better and more effective ways to create 3D visuals.

I’ve been using V-Ray for around 8 Years. I started using it because the render engine I was using at the time was incredibly slow and limited and I wanted to progress and improve my images. I downloaded a trial version in order to teach myself how to use it, got the basics down pretty quickly and I have been using V-Ray ever since.

Why SketchUp (and V-Ray) to create visual representations of architecture and the built environment?

Sketchup is an amazing tool for modelling! Its very intuitive to use and enables you to go into as little or as much detail as you want. Sketchup is also a lot more powerful than people seem to believe and can handle large file sizes as long as you know how to handle them. There is a misunderstanding in the ArchViz industry that you HAVE to use 3dsMax in order to produce great images. I can use 3dsMax, but I chose to use Sketchup 100% of the time.  In terms of learning there are lots of tutorials out there, however I found that all you need to know are the very basics to get going i.e. line, plane, push pull etc and from there just learning as you go. 

V-Ray is an extremely versatile and powerful render engine. As soon as I learnt the basics I could get going with rendering images to a pretty good standard. But the more I used it and gained more in depth knowledge of it the better and easier V-Ray was to use. Along with Sketchup, V-Ray became integral to Third Rule Studios and the images we create.

SketchUp’s taglineDesign it. Make it. Enjoy the process – clearly rings true with Third Rule Studios. Is there a particular feature in SketchUp that helps you achieve what you need for the next stage? And what does a typical workflow look like?

It’s the speed in which you can model in Sketchup; you can go from an empty space to having a simple architectural model in minutes! Also, Sketchup’s integration with V-Ray means they communicate seamlessly with each other. There’s no need to deal with exporting and importing between different formats. This in turn means you know that whatever you model within Sketchup will be visualised with V-Ray with no problems. 

Regarding a typical workflow, we are approached by a client  to create some visuals, we have a discussion about the project and what they are hoping to achieve, how many images, who they are marketing to for example. We then come up with a set of preliminary “clay” images for the client in order to confirm that they are happy to proceed from the chosen perspective, lighting style etc. 

We then create another low res preliminary image this time full colour using the specification the client has provided. If this needs some tweaks we revise the preliminary image and send it back. Once this is agreed and the client is happy we then produce the final image which can be used for marketing.

You’ve already mentioned V-Ray, what other SketchUp plug-ins do you use? The external environment and landscape are important factors in your visualisations, do you use Laubwerk for example? Any other plug-ins you have your eye on and want to try?

We use Laubwerk for all of our plants and trees, they really are amazing and cannot be praised enough for the quality of their models and how they render and ease of use.

Also, Skatter is a huge part of our process. It’s an incredible plugin that every Sketchup user who is in ArchViz should have in their arsenal. It’s great for grass, gravel, plants etc, basically anything you need to spread over a surface but also have full control over.

In terms of other plugins I have my eye on, it would be great if Chaos Group could do a version of Corona that can be used within SketchUp.  Apart from that the new version of Skatter when it comes out looks interesting.

And finally, thanks for talking to us about SketchUp and Third Rule Studios. You’ve been a valued Cadsoft Solutions Limited customer for a number of years now and we’ve never asked the question, how did you find us?

I was recommended to you by a friend who purchased Sketchup from you many years ago. They told me you provided great support and were very helpful. When I purchased my software, you were (and still are) very helpful and provide a great service.

Well, if your friend is reading this, then thank you for the recommendation! And thanks for being a brilliant customer case study, Jamie.

If you’d like to learn more about Third Rule Studio’s impressive work, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook or visit their website.

Garden and interior designers, architecture practices to architectural visualisation companies, schools and non-profits, we’re always keen on hearing from our valued customers. If you’re a Cadsoft Solutions customer and would like to be featured as a case study, John Quinn in our marketing team would love to hear from you. We’re particularly keen to hear from our SU Podium/Walker, Rhinoceros and SketchUp customers.

Posted on

SketchUp 2020 is here and there’s a lot to be excited about!

The team at Trimble spent a lot of time in 2019 learning more about what you, the user, wish SketchUp did better. So…thanks for speaking up! You helped them discover what you need to improve your workflow. 

The result? Some exciting improvements in SketchUp 2020. Read on to learn more.

SketchUp Pro 2020: your 3D creative space

Introducing Outliner
A BIG model organisation change: Outliner. In an effort to increase model performance, you no longer have to create Layers upon Layers. Manage and organise your model straight within Outliner. Use the friendly eyeball icon to toggle between the major sections of your model, such as main floor plans and furniture. Check out the video below to learn more about how to use it.

Now, in SketchUp 2020, you can toggle visibility too! Check it out in this new SketchUp 2020 Quick Win to learn more.

New grips on bounding boxes
When you grab a point that is obscured in an object (such as a back corner or centre point) and start to move it, your object will automatically go transparent when something in your model interferes with the object you are moving. This works with both the Rotate tool and Move tool. This will literally ‘transform’ your workflow. Don’t take our word for it: start positioning objects in hard to reach places to see what happens!

Better control of hidden objects
You’ll notice in your drop-down menu that we separated hiding objects from hiding geometry. How will this change your workflow? Well, this will give you the ability to better manage hidden geometry and hidden objects for an even easier modelling experience. For example, let’s say you want to edit hidden edges in a landscape or smoothed surface, but you still want to be able to hide objects that are nearby (like trees, bushes, or a building)…well you can do that now!

Updates to your SketchUp dictionary 
We have a few updates to the naming conventions we use when talking about SketchUp. This won’t change your workflow…but we want to make sure you know we are saying a few things differently now. 

Here’s the run-down! Objects are now a collective term for: groups, components, and dynamic components. This just means we don’t have to say “groups (slash) components” anymore. Also, Layers are now referred to as “Tags”. Keep in mind that these two terms are merely naming conventions and won’t influence your workflow. 

LayOut 2020: document control

It’s all about taking back control…document control that is! The focus for LayOut was on improving the interaction between SketchUp & LayOut to save you time and [brain] energy. This means way less back and forth in SketchUp updating scenes to ensure your drawing comes out perfectly. Now you have more editing ability, directly in LayOut.

 

More power to adjust model views
LayOut now understands a lot more about your SketchUp model and what you’ve overridden. This means you can safely change a style or camera angle directly in LayOut without accidentally losing your changes (!!). 

How do you know what’s different in your LayOut viewport versus your model? When you make changes in LayOut, parts of the menu bar will go dark grey, alerting you that you’ve made an override. Keep in mind: just because you made some changes in LayOut, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with those. You can always resync your viewports back to your SketchUp model if needed.

Improved customisation of your drawings 

Take those LayOut docs to the next level with different models and views. If you have one SketchUp model that exists across several viewports, you can now relink just one of those viewports to another SketchUp model. Previously, you had to delete that viewport, insert a new SKP model, and reset all your scale settings and viewport sizing. More efficient now? Yes!

And that’s not all! You also have the ability to toggle Tag visibility — straight in your LayOut doc! What does this mean for your workflow? You don’t have to create extra scenes just for your LayOut files, saving you a ton of time going back and forth between LayOut and SketchUp.  Watch this SketchUp Skill Builder to learn how this will speed up your LayOut workflow.

Start using 2020 today!

We hope that the latest changes in SketchUp 2020 offer a few tweaks that will have a big impact on improving your workflow. Happy Sketching!

Ready to go Pro? We have SketchUp Pro 2020 solutions for business, schools and colleges, students, educators, non-profits and charities.

Want to test out the new features? Try SketchUp free for 30 days.

Buy SketchUp here. 

Please note, these new features are available to users with an active SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Studio subscription as well as Classic license holders that are active with Maintenance & Support. Updated learning resources will be displayed in the welcome window of SketchUp Pro for Desktop and LayOut.

Posted on

Visualising Customer Success with SketchUp, the Archilime way.

Customer relationships are important to us and we’re delighted that our good friends Archilime Visualisation have agreed to share some insight into their work and processes, while also offering a few nice words about their favourite reseller!

Cadsoft Solutions Limited was founded over 15 years ago. From the very beginning it has always been about adding value for our customers and partners. We pride ourselves on extensive product knowledge and the provision of first class technical support, assisting all customers to solve problems in a timely and helpful manner, and to find the right solutions for their business. We recognise that buying software is an investment and getting the right solution for that investment is paramount. That’s why we value the relationships with all our customers, offering them insight and an honest appraisal based on customers’ needs and requirements. Over to you, Jack!

Please introduce yourself and your team. 

I am Jack Dicker, founder of Archilime Visualisation based on the outskirts of beautiful Dartmoor in Devon! I have an extremely talented team of seven that deliver high-quality digital media content primarily focused around the creation of CGI and Animation for marketing and planning purposes, along with the launch of the Archilime Academy in March 2019 providing bespoke SketchUp & Vray NEXT training in the South West. Our team of in-house creatives specialise in high-end bespoke Interior & Exterior CGI, VR, Fly-through & Fly-over Animation, Drone photography, 3D Design Development, interactive plot selector web-apps and property marketing brochures for a range of clients, internationally. – The complete marketing package for any property development

Why use SketchUp? What is it about this application that you like? 

This is something we are asked a lot of the time from people we meet at networking events and business lunches because everyone assumes we use 3DS MAX or C4D. When we say we use solely SketchUp, they look at us shocked. SketchUp is hugely underrated, the truth is it can do just as good a job if not better. This month alone we managed to successfully issue out 52 still images to clients, all created in SketchUp and rendered on V-Ray. 

I may run the risk of echoing what we say through our Archilime Academy marketing but SketchUp is the fastest modelling tool out there from our point of view and for visualisation it’s the key for efficiency. The modelling/rendering phase is probably about 90% of our workflow and the last 10% is Photoshop so the rumour that SketchUp cannot handle big files is just not right. When optimised correctly, SketchUp is the simplest way to demonstrate project development and it allows us to discuss, sketch and elaborate on live project design when in any 3D Design Development meeting. I think I would struggle to do something so seamless in more advanced software like 3DS MAX. Personally, our business model relies heavily on the construction of the scene before post production so we have the ability to secure further profit opportunities with any additional imagery added to an order. To be able to do this we create everything in the model space and then render it directly in V-Ray from SketchUp. 

Along with SketchUp, you use Laubwerk and V-Ray? What’s the stand out functionality of these applications? 

We have a gigantic list of plugins we use for different projects whether master planning, residential, interior or exterior and aerial but our five most used plugins right now? These are V-Ray, Laubwerk, Skatter, Thru Paint and Soap Skin. Something that is also huge for us is Profile Builder and whilst not everyone uses it, it’s prominence and use will be integral to our process in 2020. 

Laubwerk has been a game changer for us in the past two years. I was heavily involved in the BETA testing with a few other artists around the world to try and get this into the public eye and iron out the creases! Through this stage we tested models, transparency, proxy delivery and general render times for most species on the first pack. I must say, for anyone using SketchUp, Laubwerk is a must have plugin. We would not be able to do case studies as quick without Laubwerk. Yes, we have libraries full of planting from companies like Vizpark, Xfrog, Evermotion etc but Laubwerk is a pre-constructed model library built into SketchUp so there is no messing around with OBJ files or re-texturing materials. Rumour has it that they are also developing some other incredible features too which will only strengthen what they already offer for SketchUp.

Generally speaking, each project requires a plan of attack and could feature an array of software and external plugin requirements along the way but we import CAD into SketchUp, mass (model) the proposal, add detailing, hardscaping, landscaping and then start testing materiality within V-Ray. 

Can you share a project you’re most proud of?

This is the ongoing discussion we have every year and I’m sure the team have their own favourites. I’ve asked the room and it’s all different and I guess that’s because certain artists worked on certain jobs, but mine has probably got to be Maris Meadow.

Working closely with your reseller…..

The excellent relationship Archilime has with Cadsoft, particularly Nick Johnson, is important. Cadsoft Solutions always surpasses what has been expected of a reseller. I always receive honest advice from Cadsoft, along with time to help resolve technical issues with swarm rendering, node setups, licensing over our PCs and news on what’s happening for the future which is massively important because we can then make strategic decisions in advance. We are comfortable and confident about calling to discuss issues too. If something cannot be diagnosed there and then, I know full well it will be looked into and get a call back.

Thank you, Jack! Archilime Visualisation and Cadsoft Solutions Limited have worked closely now for many years. We value their business and greatly admire the ambition, creativity and talent of this industrious organisation. We look forward to serving Archilime’s software needs for many years to come.

If you would like to be featured as a customer case study, contact John Quinn in our Marketing team.

Posted on

Showcase interior design projects with SketchUp

SketchUp Pro Subscription

In part 1 of this series, we revealed how to create winning interior design options in SketchUp. Now that you’re finished modelling, what’s next? 
We show you how to present your vision to customers and blow them away with your designs. And don’t forget to sign up to watch a live demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar.

A SketchUp Pro subscription includes a powerful ecosystem of products to help you communicate your creations. Let’s explore!

Add custom Styles to your design

Adding your personal style is an important part of showcasing designs. StyleBuilder allows you to create customised line styles using imported digital or hand drawn strokes. Think crisp pen lines, wavy pencil marks or marks from a fat stick of graphite. Combine line styles with unique textures, colours and watermarks to inject your creative flair into models, renders and animations. 

In SketchUp, you can create and edit styles. Apply your preferred style settings with a single click.

Create stunning 2D drawings and branded presentation documents

Now that you’ve added a style, it’s time to insert the model into LayOut. When you import a 3D model, a viewport is placed on the page. Good news, the scenes you set up in your SketchUp file are ready to use in LayOut. 

Combine model views with text and 2D vector illustration to present design details, materials and design options. Many of the tools in LayOut work as they do in SketchUp. That means you can quickly get to drawing, resizing, adding details, making copies and changing styles and scale. 

Present your project in LayOut

Present your ideas with SketchUp Viewer 

Are printed drawings or a pdf the only way to showcase your work? Of course not! SketchUp Viewer for Mobile gives you the power to view and share your portfolio on iOS and Android devices. Take advantage of Augmented Reality to evaluate design options in real-world scale. Switch between scenes to showcase designs on the go while retaining your model’s style.

Model on the go with SketchUp for Web

Not all CAD tools are fully editable on the web, SketchUp is! Handy if you need to make on-the-fly changes when you’re away from your desktop computer. Let’s say you’re in a meeting at a client’s office and they want to see a project with a revised furniture layout. Open a model to SketchUp for Web directly from Trimble Connect on any web device to make the changes in real-time. Save the file to Trimble Connect for easy access back at the office. 

Create rendered images with Trimble Connect visualiser

We’ll wrap this up with something that we are very excited about. Rendering! With a SketchUp Pro Subscription, you can create simplified renders using Trimble Connect for Desktop and the brand new Trimble Connect Visualiser. Note: this feature is currently available for Windows only. 

Step into AR/VR to experience designs before they’re built

Do you have access to a VR or Mixed Reality device? If your answer is yes, you can bring 3D models to life in mixed or virtual reality. Step into a powerful new way to explore, understand, and share your work. The best part? It’s part of a SketchUp Pro Subscription.

Are you using a SketchUp Pro Perpetual license that has expired or is soon to expire? Want to get on to subscription and take advantage of all the new additional features the new plan offers? Email us info@cadsoftsolutions.co.uk and we can advise you.

Remember to sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.

Posted on

How to win interior design projects with SketchUp

SketchUp Pro Subscription Workflow

Pitching for a new project is one of the most exciting parts of the design process. Creativity needs to flow but deadlines are around the corner. You want to get ideas out of your head quickly and turn them into winning results that will wow your client, boss or team. 

Leverage the full power of a SketchUp Pro subscription at every stage of your creative process to deliver impactful concepts, quickly. Watch us do it live by signing up for our upcoming webinar (and keep reading for a sneak peak!) 

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll teach you how to start from scratch and create design options with ease. In Part 2, you’ll learn how to showcase those designs in their best light, leaving your audience mesmerised. The examples used are interior design focused but don’t worry, these concepts can be applied to almost any industry!

Get started with a 2D sketch, floorplan or photo in SketchUp Pro

There are a few different ways to bring your project into SketchUp right from the start. Don’t be afraid to use what you have depending on the project, whether a sketch, photograph (check out how to use Match Photo) or a 2D plan:

  1. Working from a hand-drawn sketch? Import the hand drawing as an image and start tracing with the Line tool to create a floorplan. This is an easy (and thus popular) way to bring a floorplan into SketchUp.
  1. Have a set of plans? Import a floor plan in CAD, image or PDF. Draw the outline of your project by scaling and drawing from the plan as a reference.

Bring the outline into 3D 

Once you have an outline, you’re ready to draw exterior walls. This workflow highlights how to use imported CAD geometry as your starting point

Create multiple design options using 3D Warehouse

It’s time to bring your space to life. Apply colors and textures with materials to add detail and realism to your models. Visualize your design ideas fast by importing real products from 3D Warehouse

SketchUp lets you quickly work through configurations and build upon the ones you like. Show off options for furnishings or add in various types of greenery to brighten the space and give your design some personality.

The key to showcasing and organising design options for your projects in SketchUp is use of Layers and Scenes. Layers help you organise your model, and Scenes help you present designs easily by adjusting layers, objects, styles and more! 

Save your project to Trimble Connect 

Now that you have your design options in hand, it’s time to save your project to the cloud. Trimble Connect offers you unlimited cloud storage with full version control. The best part? It’s included in a SketchUp Pro subscription

Trimble Connect

Part of a design team? 

Working together just got a little easier with Trimble Connect. Let’s say you’re working on the interior design at the same time another team member is working on the MEP design. 

You can import a reference model into SketchUp from Trimble Connect. You won’t be able to modify the model, but you can use it as context to more easily coordinate the project. This is useful when you have a team of designers working on different areas. 

Invite other people to your project, create groups with different permissions to control which files members can access. You can also utilize version control to track project history and progress.

Flying solo? 

Each time you upload a copy of your design file, Trimble Connect will keep track of the versions. Use version control to manage different iterations of your model and share those as design options with your client. Assign to-dos and quickly work through client feedback, all within Trimble Connect.

Sign up to watch a step-by-step demo of this workflow in our upcoming webinar on December 11th, 4pm UTC.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article to learn best practices for showcasing your design.

Posted on

V-Ray Next for SketchUp, update 1

Vray Next Cadsoft Solutions

Enhanced SketchUp integration. Faster interactive rendering. New, smart functionality.

V-Ray Next for SketchUp, update 1 features an improved user experience for some of your favourite V-Ray tools, faster interactive rendering and powerful new functionality to make it much easier to manage your scenes.

Deep SketchUp integration: Enjoy a natural, streamlined design workflow that leaves more room for creativity.

© Jose Carlos Vela Cáceres.

SKETCHUP COLOURISATION SUPPORT: V-Ray now fully supports native material colourisation.
Make colour corrections on standard SketchUp materials and see the effect right away in the V-Ray Frame Buffer.

IMPROVED USER EXPERIENCE: It’s easier and smoother to use your favourite V-Ray tools, including light creation, Infinite Plane and Scene Interaction. The tool cursor looks the same as SketchUp’s, and the SketchUp Instructor features detailed descriptions and animated presentations on how to use V-Ray tools.

Optimised performance: Faster renders across the board.

OPTIMISED INTERACTIVE RENDERING ON THE CPU: More responsive CPU interactive rendering when editing scene camera, lighting and materials.

NEW LIGHT CACHE ALGORITHM: The new default hash map Light Cache calculation mode resolves most common artifacts and is optimised and more stable when used in animations.

Streamlined workflows: Maximum creative control, minimum effort.

© SketchUp_DL_Projeto_de_Interiores-Quarto

CRYPTOMATTE ELEMENT: The Cryptomatte render element automatically generates and stores object- or material-based masks. It’s perfect when you need to accurately select objects in post-production.

QUICK DENOISER ENGINE SWITCH: A denoiser engine switch is now available in the main renderer rollout. Switch from V-Ray to NVIDIA AI denoising without the Denoiser advanced parameters panel.

UPDATED VFB LENS EFFECTS: Simulate real-world camera lens effects with new procedurally generated dust and scratches.

COLOUR PICKER TEMPERATURE: The V-Ray colour picker introduces a Kelvin temperature slider, which automatically provides a corresponding RGB colour allowing you to save and modify a temperature value for every colour slot.

V-Ray Next for SketchUp is available here.

Posted on

SketchUp Desktop 2019.3 Maintenance Release

SketchUp Pro Desktop 2019.3 maintenance update has been released. The SketchUp 2019.3 release focuses on bug fixes for the new macOS Catalina as well as an update to the sign in workflow due to upcoming changes with Google sign in.

Sign In Workflow Changes

What has changed?

Users will now sign into our desktop applications via an external web browser, instead of an embedded web browser. This change impacts both subscription and classic license users.

The change in 2019.3 that will impact classic license users: Users need to be signed in before accessing the 3D Warehouse, Extension Warehouse and Add Location, which they didn’t need to do in previous builds. Accessing these features will go through the new sign-in workflow, which means classic license users need Trimble IDs (or Google IDs) to access them.

Why? This past April, Google announced that it will no longer support Google Sign In through embedded browser frameworks. In order to continue supporting Google Sign In, we’re following one of Google’s recommended solutions: to have users sign in through their default web browsers and capture the sign in information via a web server on their local machine (127.0.0.1).

What does this mean from a user’s point of view?

  • All users need to be signed in to access the 3D Warehouse, Extension Warehouse, Trimble Connect and Add Location from within the desktop apps.
  • When a user selects a ‘Sign In’ command from within a desktop app, the user’s default web browser will open a new tab in order for them to sign in.

SketchUp Release Notes

Fixes

macOS Catalina Support

Added support for macOS Catalina, which included the following updates:

  • Implemented the notarization process that will be required for macOS Catalina.
  • Fixed an issue where the Welcome Window’s templates panel sometimes loaded slowly.
  • Fixed an issue where text was displayed with a black background on some configurations.

Other

  • Changed our internet connection tests to work more robustly across the globe.
  • (Win) Updated libcrypto and libssl dlls to 1.1.1c.

Please note: If you’re using either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge as your default browser then you may run into some issues with this new workflow. You can read about this issue along with some workarounds in our article titled Support for Microsoft Internet Explorer or Edge Browser in SketchUp 2019.3 , please visit this article for more information.