Design Visualization

On the Job: A Warehouseful of Fixtures on One CD

14 Sep, 2005 Cadalyst

New World Graphics uses IMSI DesignCAD to create library of 3D models for architectural drawings

You might be mesmerized for a moment at the English Trellis pattern of delicately painted ivy and blossoms with spiraling stamens on a porcelain sink bowl, as you're trying to decide if it might look good with that chrome Kohler faucet over there, in the antique style, part number K158-3.

You are not in the plumbing department at Home Depot; you're looking at the Web site of New World Graphics.

They look like the real thing, but these brand-name fixtures are three-dimensional CAD models. The entirety of a furniture warehouse exists on CD-ROM. You can assemble and reassemble an entire home's interior a dozen times, without straining your back, making holes in the walls or even building the house.

Precise Replicas
Miroslav Straka, president and owner of New World Graphics, has been continually adding to his library of highly detailed 3D CAD models for the past 13 years. The libraries of fixtures, furnishings and figures help interior designers and architects because rather than just generalized placeholders, the features are all based on popular styles of actual architectural products: Kohler faucets, Quoizel ceiling lights, Pella windows, HON office desks, Wood-Mode kitchen cabinets.

Miroslav Straka, president and owner of New World Graphics, shows off one of his highly detailed 3D CAD models.

Straka bases the designs on actual manufacturers' specs and photographs of the real products. "All our lighting and our bathroom fixtures are actually modeled as manufactured, down to the serial number. You can go to Home Depot and get the exact item. That's what architects like: They find out what their client wants, then all they have to do is order it."

New World Graphics 3D CAD models such as this lavatory reflect the detail of their real-world counterparts.

This elaborate Biscayne ceiling fixture is among more than 100 3D lighting models on the NWG Web site.

Designers can use NWG models to construct representations of entire rooms, such as this hypothetical kitchen, drawn in DesignCAD. By simply selecting new swatches of patterns and finishes, a designer can instantly remap the textures and color scheme.

Using NWG models, designers can easily show various options of textures and colors used throughout a room.

David Black, an independent 3D animator and long-time NWG customer, frequently uses the models in Web sites offering virtual tours of new architecture. "Before finding NWG, we spent a lot of valuable time trying to extract dimensions from photos or obtain them from manufacturers, who weren't always responsive. The process was very time-consuming and difficult to bill our clients for," he says. "Now we can just let NWG do the research and count on the accuracy of its models for direct use in our projects."

Self-Taught 3D Design
Straka ran a Philadelphia remodeling business in the late 1980s when he began to show his clients previews of their new kitchens in 3D CAD, which he taught himself after purchasing a relatively inexpensive software package, DesignCAD from IMSI. As he reused his renderings of cabinets and sinks, the idea of a library of interior components emerged. In 1992, Straka sold a set of 200 three-dimensional models, the first product of its kind, he says. Today, the New World Graphics catalog consists of more than 2,700 items, ranging from curio cabinets to Greek fluted Ionic columns, from French bidets to the proverbial (self-rimming and bottom-mounted) kitchen sink.

Noteworthy is the fact that all these years later, the self-trained designer is still loyal to DesignCAD. "DesignCAD is the definitely the best program out there," Straka says. About $300-$400 at the time, DesignCAD today retails for only $89.

After he became a full-time professional designer, Straka sampled the gamut of other design programs, some of which cost thousands of dollars more. Mostly he just met with frustration, he says. He found the commands of the more expensive programs too convoluted to learn and remember. Or, he says, the "smart features" of the large packages, which attempted to automate tasks to save time, did so not according to his liking, requiring him to spend more time figuring out how to disable the unwanted effects. Or, constant surface rerendering took too long when Straka simply moved an object on the screen, something he does quite a bit when rearranging furniture.

Straka kept going back to DesignCAD. He prefers the simplicity in the basics -- straightforward commands and the user-controlled effects. DesignCAD's objects could revert back to their wire-frame representations, which allows him to quickly adjust the position of his models in the architectural space. Straka says the 3D package "for the least amount of money" turned out to be, surprisingly, "the most powerful and most flexible program."

Models are People, Too
If after perusing New World Graphics' stock of models, you get the urge to build the world's most posh virtual dollhouse, nothing is preventing you. NWG also features the "dolls" - a whole category of human figures. The people, like the entire NWG library of architectural accents, are interchangeable in color and style. You can even choose the models' clothes as well as eye, hair and skin color.

In the old-fashioned approach to architectural modeling, using balsa, glue and foam board, the occasional plastic pedestrian gave the model a measure of human scale and filled an otherwise empty diorama with a sense of activity. With 3D computer presentation this need still exists, particularly with larger architectural scenes. The addition of human figures helps to indicate the flow of pedestrian traffic, the types of amenities, and the centers of social congregation.

Interestingly, one new category of clientele for the human figures has been police crime labs that construct 3D CAD models of crime scenes. Before, the reconstruction experts had no simple way in these simulations to show the jury the simple fact of where a witness, a bystander or the accused was standing. Now the jury can see these agents represented in the scene.

Furniture Movers
NWG's model library is available in six frequently used 3D CAD formats. Interior designers often purchase a CD featuring a series of styles in each category - for example, overhead lamps, office furnishings or plumbing fixtures - but each model can also be ordered individually online. "NWG's models are clean, very inexpensive and work great with all our 3D applications," says Black, who tends to purchase one model at a time according to his project needs. "Our clients are always pleased with the results when we use NWG models."

Straka says many of his more complex models are good examples of the powerful capability of DesignCAD. His long-standing devotion to the design tool has not gone unnoticed by IMSI. "Having such success and loyalty from a software user is testament to DesignCAD's user-friendly flexibility and professional-grade results," says Robert Mayer, executive vice-president, IMSI. "[His] input has also been invaluable in helping us make the product more attractive to both professional designers and to hobbyists."