3D design software makes a visual impression

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When Kim Lutz, a designer at St. Louis-based commercial interiors firm CI Select, put in a recent bid to design a government office building, she was able to add a little something extra to her presentation. Visual Impressions, a new 3D interior design and furniture manufacturing software from 20-20 Technologies Inc., an international firm with offices in Germany, Brasil, the U.K., China, Cary, N.C., and Grand Rapids, allowed her to communicate with her client faster and more efficiently.

“This is a big deal for our company,” said Lutz. “Rather than showing (clients) samples on a flat black-and-white line drawing, they can see them in a real life situation.”

To an outsider, Visual Impressions may look a lot like a video game. Users are presented with an editable 3D space with live navigation that can be viewed from different perspectives. Its initial purpose was to be a tool for furniture dealers to create a life-like 3D environment when designing a space. What this means for clients is the ability to eliminate a lot of the guesswork.

When she was a designer, 20-20 Product Manager Cindy Maple often ran into the problem of being able to show a client fabric and a chair but not being able to communicate what they would look like together. “With this tool, you can actually see how the fabric gets applied; you can see the seams,” said Maple. “It’s a lot easier to make a decision on something when you know exactly what it’s going to look like.”

In an increasingly technology-reliant business world where speed and accessibly of information is essential, the niche for this software is apparent.

“People are becoming accustomed to having that type of technology,” said Maple. “We’re hitting that sweet spot between available technology, the manufacturer’s material being there, and the tools becoming easy enough for the average designer to use.”

Tools such as Visual Impressions help bridge the gap between business- and creative-minded people, making the design process more accessible to both the client and the sales team. The accessibility of the software has made it easier for sales representatives to communicate design concepts.

Costs also can be cut down with 20-20 Visual Impressions. Rather than buying the wrong paint because of different lighting conditions or taking clients on site visits, the process can be seen on screen.

Maple estimated 90 percent of office furniture dealers already use 20-20 Technologies’ CAP Studio and Giza Studio software, so integration between the programs was key to making it a successful tool.

Since launching in March, Visual Impressions has enriched its database with 140 manufacturers such as Knoll, Herman Miller and Kimball and attracted 634 users.

While Visual Impressions is currently targeting the office furniture industry, it has potential use in other ancillary markets. As the user base grows, Maple said, education, health care, home and interior material suppliers also may find use for the software.

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