NPR: Non-Photo Realistic Rendering

Happy 2017 design readers.

Over the break I’ve made a concerted effort to work on some new digital rendering techniques.  As anybody who has followed this blog or knows my work may attest, I personally avoid doing photo realistic renderings.  I came up in this business during the analog/manual era … actually on the cusp of computer models and visualization.  I was modeling/rendering on AutoCAD 3D 15+ years ago … you remember the UCS don’t you?  The “Ultra Confusion System”?  I got some nice renderings but ultimately decided it wasn’t for me.  Individual, hand drawing techniques are just more interesting (and faster) than perfect photo-like creations.  So, have a look at two NPR rendering examples, both of which were developed in Sketchup.

The first is a series of conference table variations I worked on late in 2016.  I had three basic ideas and I wanted to show them together, with my favorite in the foreground.

NPR Conference Table Sketchup Renderings by Mick Ricereto

Once you have your design, setting up views like this takes seconds.  And if I want some alternate views, turn the mouse a bit and go.  Once you build up a library of materials again click click and it all moves very fast.

Next is a kitchen that goes back a couple of years to 2015 (wow – 2015 is now two years ago!).  As with the conference tables above, the secret sauce is getting the line work to replicate my hardline pencil base drawings, but in this case I also had the floor and an exterior to simulate as well.

NPR Kitchen Rendering in Sketchup by Mick Ricereto

Again, if I want another view, I just go for it and do my 3 second re-render right in Sketchup.  There is no outboard rendering program to bother with, just some post work in P-Shop (just like their would be with hand drawing).

With hand presentation it’s either very quick sketchy styles or taking a huge amount of time for more detailed materials and multiple views.  And then you still need to scan them in and touch up as well.  I will still sketch live in front of clients and colleagues the same way, but when presenting more defined designs (like above), back in the studio, I’m very excited to be exploring NPR Sketchup models.  This is like a huge breath of fresh air for me as I can work very quickly and still get individually-styled presentations that I’m happy with.  Also, if it needs to be more realistic, off to a rendering farm it can go (just like rapid prototyping – no need to do it in-house anymore).

I’m looking forward to 2017, getting better and faster.  I hope you’re also off to a cracking start and best wishes in all your endeavors.

M

 

Working in Sketchup

Like many designers (and also hobbyists), I have been recently enamored to Sketchup.  For those unfamiliar, Sketchup is a free* 3D design software associated with Google (but sold off a few years ago to a company called Trimble).  I have been using SU to work on environment design (as opposed to product design), as it is very quick to get ideas across and quickly develop views to communicate your design intent.

Seating Area Sketch

3 Minute “Napkin Sketches” – Essential to the Design Process

Most will maintain that drawing by hand is an essential function to working out your designs.  Many are familiar with the story of a “napkin sketch”, or a squiggly Frank Gehry concept drawing; there will always be a place for quick sketches.  With tools like free 3D design packages however, detailed hand drawings are becoming too difficult to justify.

SieMatic Beaux Arts 2 Kitchen for Client in Bermuda

Hand Rendering – Charming but time to move on?

Did I say *Free?  The basic program is free but a Pro version allows many more features including the full-featured Layout element which is similar to Paper Space in AutoCAD.  I use Pro as I would like to master the Layout feature and eventually move away from ACAD.

Entry 2

Sketchup – A Quick Design and Communication Tool

As mentioned before in previous posts, I’m well aware the time-consuming method of drawing by hand is charming but inefficient in today’s design world.  Although I can draw quite quickly in a loose fashion (napkin sketches and so on), more and more of my clients are used to seeing photo-realistic renderings and as this becomes the norm pencil and marker sketches just simply will not cut it.  It isn’t the speed and the efficiency alone that renders hand drawings obsolete (sorry), but the fact that realism is so easily obtainable and frankly expected in luxury interior presentations.  Worst is when you need to present a few options in the same space; this is where digital designing such as SU can manage things in a few clicks.

Classic Main Alt

Basic SU Presentation.  No Post-SU rendering needed for quick images such as this.

Although my screen shots show basic line work, you can always export your SU model to a rendering package (also inexpensive) to get into photo realism.  It should be noted there are consultancies – many in Eastern Europe or Asia – who do nothing but make renderings of complex buildings and other important 3D projects.  These “Rendering Farms” have super computers toiling away to make your models look like the CGI from Skywalker Ranch.

After working in SU for a year or two, it became quite clear that although I don’t need CGI-level rendering yet, the quality of materials representation and purchasable interior elements make a big difference to the quality of your design.  Looking at my screen shots above, I’m referring to not only the realism of the stone floor but the appliances, the paintings I placed on the wall (small replications of a friend’s work), the chairs – all the things we called Entourage back in the pens-and-marker days.  With hand drawings you draw these elements yourself, or Photoshop things in later.  With 3D design, you can insert scale models of products into your room.  One of Sketchup’s most powerful features is their database of objects you can download and use in your design; the 3D Warehouse.

SU Warehouse Image

A View to Mick’s 3D Warehouse Page

The 3DW is a user-uploaded repository of free models.  If it has been uploaded to the Warehouse, you can use it.  Some “power users” display entire buildings and iconic models they constructed in the manner of a gallery.  I have seen the Empire State Building, Endeavor Space Shuttle, Tie Fighters … there are some incredible models uploaded to the 3DW.  For me and other furniture designers/manufacturers however, the 3DW presents a unique opportunity to get our products in the hands of architects and specifiers.  By having your commercially-available designs in the 3DW, there is a very good chance of having your pieces specified when the design gets executed in real life.  With this in mind, I have recently been converting my product designs to the SU 3DW format and uploading them for other designers and hobbyists to use.  In the first week I had a couple of hundred downloads of some of my lighting designs.  Who is looking at/using my product models?  This I do not know, as there is not a feedback loop or way to track who is using what.

SU Screenshot

Screen Shot of Sketchup Interface – and the Popular Ilex SPAL24 Space Array Fixture

So far the most popular of my products is the above Space Array fixture, at over a hundred downloads by itself.  Not bad for the first week.  I looked at some iconic furniture pieces by well-known manufacturers and their downloads were in the many thousands.  Surely some of these model usages will result in actual sales, right?

How many of you, dear readers, are using Sketchup and the 3D Warehouse?  Do you use actual products you intend to specify for the final project?  Does the availability of a model on the 3DW increase your chance of using it in real life?

With dozens of lighting fixtures currently in production – not to mention the scores of Amerock hardware designs I did between 2004 and 2009 – I could put a huge amount of product on the 3DW.  I’ll continue to focus on the newer and better designs for now, with the hope of getting a wider audience for my more marketable designs.

If you are a Sketchup user please have a visit to my product gallery and try some of my lighting and hardware in your models.  I’d love to know how they work in your designs.

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/by/MickRicereto

Recent Projects and Renderings

As the holiday season gets into full swing here in the States, we are wrapping up some private projects, studio designs and renderings for other designers.  Everybody likes hand renderings so I will share some of the more interesting rooms we have been working on.

First up is a difficult kitchen space for our good friends in California.  This is a stunning house, but with an odd shape to the kitchen which took some clever design to get organized.  The designers moved some doors and windows around to get a better spatial flow to the room.  We didn’t do much here, other than render the design.  Cabinets are SieMatic Classic, in Sterling Grey gloss lacquer.

California Kitchen Rendering by Mick Ricereto

Next up is a more eclectic design in a very traditional house in South Carolina.  The client wanted something darker and more modern in this – again – difficult-shaped kitchen space.  We helped add some character to the room by designing a banquette and treating the existing brick wall with a Silestone wainscoting to tie the kitchen finishes and the architecture together.  I could completely see myself sipping coffee by the window on a nice spring morning.

Umber Gloss Lacquer Eclectic KitchenThis next project was a rendering for a real estate developer in Florida.  This is a small kitchen, but using the same care we use on our big design projects.  Where prospective home buyers would normally expect a basic digital rendering of the space, we like to think this accessorized and inviting view gives a better impression of the builder’s product.

Small Kitchen Rendering by Mick Ricereto

This next project are renderings for a villa in Hawaii.  The designers were looking to update the traditional Japanese-style interior to a more minimalist and clean look, while retaining the incredible inside-outside living that is unique to this climate.  First is the great room, with a view to the dining table and sitting area.  The kitchen is behind the camera in this view.

Hawaii Resort Interior RenderingThe floor here is slate, which continues inside and out seamlessly.  The sliding doors are shown here pocketed; there is almost no divider between the outdoors and in.  The next view is the bathroom, which has an open arrangement to allow a great view from the bathtub.

Hawaii Resort Bathroom RenderingThe bedroom has a similar set of sliding doors to the outside.  The piece on the wall is a Donald Judd-style wall sculpture.

Hawaii Resort Bedroom Rendering by Mick RiceretoBack to kitchens, here is our third prize winning entry to the Blanco Dream Kitchen contest from this past October.  The rules required the fitting of a Blanco sink and faucet (which we use extensively in most of our projects), but otherwise the design and style of one’s entry was completely open for creativity.  Our design is a very modern and modest kitchen using grey woods, stainless steel and for the room’s centerpiece, a black Corian custom angled island.  Our Ilex Space Array chandelier in black is above the sink/eating area, and this finish ties in to the blackened oak tall cabinets/room divider to the right.

Modern Kitchen Concept by Mick RiceretoI like how our Blanco project resembles the Hawaii resort above.  The lifestyle is not dissimilar, although our space is in a North American urban area; the desire to bring the outdoors in is an almost universal request when designing living spaces today.

The Blanco contest results can be seen in this issue of Blanco’s online magazine Here

The next project is a rendering for our colleagues in California, a kitchen for an industry executive.  We worked carefully on the proportions of these upper cabinets as the ceiling is a bit low and we didn’t want to misrepresent the design by making it appear taller than it actually is.  Hand rendering of course should be considered an “artist’s impression”, but that doesn’t mean we should not strive for accuracy in the design.

SieMatic Beaux Arts Class Kitchen Rendering by Mick RiceretoThis last project was done earlier in the autumn; a nice big traditional kitchen for our friends again in South Carolina.  This is an expertly-tailored space with some very nice door details.  Again, another kitchen with a lot of openings and a tricky space to design but I think the room comes together with an exquisite use of vertical proportions and a consistent horizontal datum.

SieMatic Classic Beaux Arts Kitchen Rendering by Mick Ricereto

In addition to these residential renderings we have some private kitchens and as usual, kitchen studio projects and other retail spaces on our boards.  2015 has been a busy year here in our new Philadelphia studio.  We look forward to some relaxation time this holiday season and continued growth for 2016.  Thanks for visiting the blog and please also see our Facebook page Here for photos, travel impressions and general goings-on at Mick Ricereto Interior + Product Design.

 

 

Recent Kitchen Renderings

We’ve recently done renderings for other designer’s kitchen projects.  Although my first inclination is to work in a more modern context, when helping out colleagues I’m often involved with “classic” designs.  These two SieMatic Beaux Arts kitchens are typical examples of a single-view rendering needed to supplement a high-end kitchen renovation proposal.  The client may otherwise only have a plan and elevation to fully understand the design intent; renderings help the project come alive.

SieMatic Beaux Arts Rendering by Mick Ricereto

This first example shows how the designers integrated the cabinets into the architecture of the room.  Careful planning of horizontal joints and header heights pull it all together.  Spaces like this – kitchen as hub of the house with many ways in and out – can be particularly challenging to work with but they did a great job in tying it all together.

This next project came with a low ceiling and existing skylight structure, for which the designers put considerable attention into the upper cabinets to get the right proportions.

SieMatic Beaux Arts Class Kitchen Rendering by Mick Ricereto

I needed to carefully draw my base layout to accurately portray the widths and heights of the design elements.  Since I draw everything by hand and do everything by eye/feel (no measurements whatsoever), sometimes there are false starts where you get the angle a bit wrong and need to start over.  Again I think this design solves the room’s challenges well and the interesting soffit bits keep your eye moving and make this a special room.

I’m often asked why I continue to do hand drawings when I could model in Sketchup or others and have unlimited views.  Well, I do actually, but hand drawings are fun and you “wright” a design instead of just click it to life.  The designer’s organic connection to the paper and the scraping medium which makes the marks (the pencils and pens) provide a feedback which is just different to working on a computer.

Another recent project was designed for a competition.  I’ll share the rendering here as it is a bit more my preferred flavor of style.  This is my design, from a completely white sheet of paper.  Lots of care went into finishes, such as stainless steel base cabinets, black matte oak on the tall cabinets/room divider at right, the deeply-combed grey oak floor and the angled black Corian island.  The idea was to place an interesting island in an otherwise basic square room to show how just a few new ideas could create a dynamic design.

Modern Kitchen Concept by Mick Ricereto

The island has a polished stainless steel leg on only one side.  I tested this in scale and with the massive base at the left end, it is remarkably stable.  Notice the shadow lines above the shelf at left and black oak wall divider cabinets at right; I do not like taking cabinets to the ceiling and much prefer to use a shadow gap.  A gap at the top expands the room visually and is easier to install.

We have been busy with some industrial design projects and helping out with the Design Philadelphia festival here in town.  I’ll post more hand renderings from time-to-time so thanks for viewing and see also our Facebook page for other recent projects.

Recent Renderings – Summer 2014

It’s been a busy summer here in the studio as we have residential kitchen projects, two small kitchen studios and some ongoing industrial design projects to finalize.  Here are some images from our residential kitchens:

Kitchen Project by Mick RiceretoThis first project is for a large home with the kitchen space centered within a sprawling floor plan.  There are numerous entrances and reveals to other spaces from all sides, which presents a challenge to circulation and maintaining a harmonious feel.  The space is quite large however, big enough for two very large islands.  Behind all those tall cabinet doors is an array of refrigeration.

The next project is has similar finishes and back-to-back, they almost feel like they could be the same project from a different angle.  Brown horizontal wood grain has been a popular finish now for about 10 years, with no sign of abatement.  The strong tones work well with the earthy palette many homeowners request.

Kitchen Rendering by Mick RiceretoBoth of these projects have fairly “traditional” building envelopes, meaning, they have all the trappings of today’s North American building trends like covered porches, traditional-style siding, raised panel doors, big moldings and the like.  It is good to see functional, modern kitchens being requested in these types of environments, even if there does seem to be a slight clash to the architecture.

This next project is a small kitchen studio.  The space is a converted car garage, with an extra high ceiling allowing for a loft space at the rear.  We have planned a large “living environment” similar to the types of spaces we have been designing for large showrooms such as SieMatic New York.  In this case the main space is shared between two kitchens, to highlight different solutions to the same living example.

Small Kitchen Studio by Mick RiceretoThe rear kitchen is functional, and positioned under the loft like it would typically occur in a converted apartment.  We kept the cabinet sizes similar and very similar, for an elemental look to counteract the busy, large industrial-type space around it.

Apartment Kitchen by Mick RiceretoThe front kitchen display is completely integrated into the environment and designed to be less “kitcheny” in appearance.  Across from the island is to be a built-in seating element with a long table suitable for parties and for client consultation.  The overall feel is to inspire the visitor and convey a feel of real architecture.  I think we will achieve all this with our design solutions.

Loft Kitchen by Mick RiceretoOn the Industrial Design side, we have been working on a few lighting collections over the past 12-18 months.  We have some models just finishing up and we are now in the process of picking colors.  Recently debuted at Wanted DesignNY in May, the Lacage pendant fixture for Ilex Lighting is entering production very soon.  We have launch photos in chrome and brushed nickel, but there will be some interesting color options for more pop.

Lacage by Ilex LightingHere is a sneak preview of another fixture we are working on, which is an array of thin aluminum blades painted in various powdercoat options.  The array is held together by a center cage which allows many options of blades to be used.  In future models we will be looking at various different materials and finishes.  For now, just a simple paint finish:

Lighting Concept by Mick RiceretoWell, summer is almost over and I feel like it hasn’t started because of all the work we have been getting though the studio.  The reality is though, time flies when busy and having fun alike.  I do look forward to getting our lighting finished and getting the latest news from Europe for next year’s kitchen trends like we do every September.

1960’s Amerock Hardware Concepts

In the mid-2000s I worked as Senior Design Manager for the kitchen hardware company Amerock.  During my employ, the venerable manufacturer was in the process of closing their old factory in Rockford, IL and sourcing everything from China and Mexico.  I took some pictures of the enormous stamping and diecasting facilities but people were very edgy at the time, with word of closing still not public, so I get less shots than I would have hoped.  I did, however, manage to abscond with some old marketing and industrial design relics.  I wish I got more.

Here is a small sample of catalog kitchen concepts I found in a dusty old folder.  These are probably from the 1960s, photos of the original ink on paper with watercolor.  The 1960s were the golden age of fashion illustration (nee Mad Men), and illustrators were probably not hard to find like they are today.  This first kitchen has that old-world feel that was so prevalent at the time.

Kitchen Concept Watercolor Circa 1960

Some of the concepts were just pen and ink.  These were probably used as fillers and interludes between the main catalog shots.  I love the little housecoat she is wearing.

Kitchen Concept circa 1960

This next was my favorite illustration – very detailed ideas.  Note how in all of these concepts the hardware is integrated into the design of the cabinets.  This was one of the things which frustrated me about working for the company in my era; we only marketed the hardware as objects that would sit in a bin at a big box store and did not try and lead along fashion with adventurous ideas like below.

Kitchen Concept Watercolor Illustration Circa 1960

Amerock was instrumental in piecing together the rec rooms us older kids remember from the 60s and 70s.  Built-ins were much more common back then, and somebody got to pick from fantasies such as this warm hunting lodge complete with happy child and dog.  I really miss the days of built-in seating nooks and fireplaces!

Hardware Concept Drawing Circa 1960

In this particular file were small thumbnails of internal storage organizers.  Amerock at one time was involved in all aspects of cabinet fittings, a position which they did not maintain in my era.  In my practice today, one of the main things I find with kitchen design is the extreme focus homeowners put on internal cabinet organization.  Then again, I focus on European design and interior organization is a strong feature of manufacturers such as SieMatic of Germany.

Kitchen Interior Storage Concept Illustrations Circa 1960

Another watercolor, this one featuring something of an English manor concept.  I love how the illustrator left some of the beams without tone, and only just sketching in the table and chairs to balance out the heavy wood.  Note that all these illustrations were in grey scale and uncredited; I only have photographic reproductions.  I wonder what color might have been used, if any.

Catalog Kitchen Concept Watercolor Circa 1960

Here is the cover of a catalog dated 1952.  A little friendly help from the shop clerk, just like the big box stores of today.

Amerock Hardware Catalog 1952

As a parting shot, here is a pastiche of furniture detailing, probably used as a suggestion that “Amerock can be used anywhere you need storage” or some message of the sort.  The photo was white on black; I did not reverse it.  Cool effect for a catalog.

Cabinet Hardware Illustration circa 1960

I have more interesting Amerock design archives, including original pencil concept drawings from the 50s and 60s.  I’ll take the time to curate and present some old industrial design models too – real full-scale wood carvings of hardware concepts, which are a great contrast to today’s near-instantaneous rapid prototypes.

Vintage Catalog Kitchen Concepts c.1995

I recently passed through a big milestone, having now been in the kitchen and bath arena for more than 20 years.  I went through some old folders and found a large cache of old renderings and interiors projects I forgot I had ever done.  I want to share some of my first catalog photo-shoot concepts with you, from my early days as corporate designer for SieMatic North America.

At the time, SieMatic was looking for projects which specifically addressed American style.  I did a number of concepts and two were selected for photo shoots.  I was still very green in the business and had never worked with pro photographers before.  We selected somebody with experience in NYC, and set about ordering all the material.  Here are the two original concepts, the first being a Tuscan-type idea I called Old World.

Kitchen Rendering

I’m not sure what I was thinking with that palm tree… Newport Beach maybe?  The next concept was Craftsman, which had a decidedly FLLW feel.

Kitchen Rendering

I have always loved breakfast nooks.  Even today I am always trying to explore built-in kitchen seating like this.

After looking at the practicality of building the stage sets, I modified the layouts of the displays.  The Old World display really needed a cooking area, so I turned that arch into a giant old fireplace-type nook.  These next sketches were quicker and were handed directly to the photographer’s team.

Kitchen Concept Rendering

Craftsman lost the nook and gained an adjoining family room.  SieMatic wanted to show the ability to do cabinets outside of the kitchen.

Kitchen Concept Rendering

Dig that face on the TV!  Not sure what type of movie I had in mind for that night’s screening.  What is interesting about these renderings is how I still draw like this, many years later.  I either do pencil setups and carefully render everything (like the first pair) or I lay down some quick ball point pen and marker it up fast.  I still prefer the latter.

And now, the final images.  These were used for a special brochure, of which I designed the actual piece as well.  I had no experience with this type of work and I just winged it.  On the set in NY, there was an entire crew to execute these ideas.  There was a union set designer, and he did pretty nice renderings.  I tried talking to him about his work and the types of opportunities in the business but he shared almost nothing with me.  In fact, everybody was completely secretive about the process and their methodologies.  I found the whole process bizarre, since I represented the client.  I received a print of each image at the end of the project which I think came out too saturated and dark, but this is essentially all I have today.

SieMatic Old World kitchen concept

And the Craftsman:

SieMatic Craftsman kitchen from 1995

I cannot recall the photographer’s name so unfortunately credit is “unknown”.  We did go on to do another set a few years later, called Hudson Valley Collection.  I had very little control over that next project and if I recall, the management was not thrilled about the final product.  We had an art director and things had scaled up much more the second time around.  I learned quite a bit on these projects and went on to head up this work for my projects at Kohler in the early 2000s.  I’ll have to post about those projects as well, if I can find the renderings.