Tools of the trade.

This is one of those posts where it’s stuff that designers/architects/engineers already know all too well, but the general public doesn’t quite have a handle on it as well as (at least I) wish they would.

Though what we do is a creative job, at the heart of it, it is a technical job (see: differences between designers and decorators, part #5,781).

A lot of it comes down to margin of error. Though it is true that clients have been known to bitch mightily about a difference in color so slight as to require a spectrometer in order to detect it (I suggest smothering them with the offending throw pillow at that moment, thereby saving the rest of us from having to deal with these same people later), if the pillow is 1/4″ larger than you expected, it probably doesn’t matter.

For the rest of us, 1/4″ is an ocean.

To put this in terms the average person can easily understand, the margin for error when designing something like your kitchen is 1/16″.  Any more than that and you’re going to notice. Any more than that, and you have problems filling the gap. Any more than that, and you’re pretty much screwed.

No pressure, right?

But the other part of this being a technical job is having to keep up with all the technology that comes along with it. Yes, I still think the folks at AutoDesk are sadists, but I still am using AutoCAD 2008(thank goodness for the classic interface.)   There’s a whole bunch of people who still prefer to draw things by hand, because  that works for them.  They’re comfortable with hand drawing and they have something that resembles a natural ability to draw with something that approaches a reasonable degree of accurate perspective.

I am not one of those people. Faulty brain wiring has made that >< shy of impossible.

For the rest of us, thank goodness, there’s computers.  The downside is the endless array of complex software packages you’re expected to learn and master in order to keep up with the industry.  AutoCAD is industry standard, though not every office uses it. Some use other things like Microstation.  AutoCAD is like chess- there’s always some trick you never knew was there that you can learn, but the basics come with only a few commands.  It’s an incredibly complex program- but you really can learn how to slap it into submission pretty quickly and be able to put out perfectly usable documents.  It’s complicated enough that some people specialize in doing nothing more than creating CAD documents. I am not one of those people, but I am glad they exist.

But in the past ten years a whole boatload of very powerful graphics programs have become part of the designers tool kit.  Of course none of them work with the same set of commands,  look the same or are even very intuitive.  The struggle is always “how many of these tools can you learn to wield”, because you never know who is going to require you know how to use which one.  And if I said that learning all this stuff wasn’t tiring, I’d be lying.  Even a program that’s designed to be simple isn’t quite *that* simple when you’re first learning to use it.  I’ve known people to completely boggle at my abilities using photoshop, but how to do it didn’t just leap into my brain-cause learning that shit was a pain in the ass.

Today’s pain in the ass has been Sketchup, which I find so far to not be as simple as FormZ, but simpler than Photoshop.  I am sure that in two months time I will be very comfortable with it.  Today is not two months from now though, and I feel like my brain has been put through a blender after 12 hours of hacking away at it.

The good news, having nothing to do with the little model I have been trying to build all day, is that I finally have a workable design(you will note I said design, not sketchup model) for the island in that kitchen in Miami.   Which I will build in AutoCAD tomorrow just so I have something to send to the clients (in plan and elevation, of course) and then go back to learning to build it in Sketchup, trying frantically not to cave in to the desire to just build the damned thing in FormZ and be done with it.

Or 3ds Max.

Or any other of the five or six other programs I have kicking around here.

My brain is full.

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