The Hand Rendering vs CGI Debate
I recently contributed to a group discussion in LinkedIn about hand rendering vs CGI. I joined the discussion when the conversation became a 3D bashing session.
The ‘hand rendering’ supporters seemed slightly uneducated regarding the full capabilities of 3D Visualisation when it comes to Interior Design. Which is understandable, considering that most of the hand rendering enthusiasts had never used or had limited knowledge of 3D Visualisation.
I’m going to attempt to discuss this topic and dispel a few misconceptions regarding 3D Visualisation, whilst acknowledging the role of hand rendering, which is going to be a challenge given my specialism but I’ll give it a go.
First of all, I have (limited) experience of creating technical floor plans and rendered illustrations by hand and even though I only touched the surface, it was clear to me that it was a highly skilled art form. I would never try to undermine the skill, dedication and talent required to produce a hand rendered interior. Period.
A quick Pinterest search will present a huge library of illustrative delights, be it ink/pencil sketches, markers or watercolours.
Some have a no nonsense, technical approach.
Quite a few have a very soft, whimsical quality.
And there are many ‘abstract’ versions that you would literally hang on your wall.
But in defense of CGI, softer and more whimsical ‘illustrative’ effects CAN be achieved.
So, if CGI has the ability to produce both photo-real and illustrative effects, the underpinning ‘for’ argument where hand rendering is concerned, would have to be authenticity. Which I can appreciate. If a Designer’s client (be it an Interior Designer or Event Designer) has a preference for an authentic hand rendered illustration ONLY, then obviously the Designer would be obliged to produce the goods. I’m curious though, how often WOULD a client specify a hand rendered illustration if a high quality photo-real version could be provided? I think it’s important to emphasise that my 3D visuals are created using REAL WORLD dimensions and physically correct lighting – pretty authentic, right?
I also think it’s important to highlight that many hand rendered illustrations use the ‘line work’ of a computer generated image as a starting point. This is to save time but also to ensure the perspective, scale and proportion is correct. Just putting that out there!
The argument that hand rendering is a highly skilled technique, that takes time to master, is NOT a valid defense in the hand rendering v CGI debate. I completely acknowledge the skill required to produce hand renders but the creative AND technical skill required to produce a photo-real/illustrative 3D Visual takes many years to perfect. Actually, the learning NEVER ends.
Let’s talk about the single BIGGEST selling point of a hand rendered illustration, especially for a Designer ‘pitching’ their design concept to their client.
A photo-real 3D visual is (generally) only as good as the actual design and overall space. The same applies when taking a photograph of an interior. If the design isn’t overly inspiring or lacks the wow factor, it will translate. There’s no hiding when it comes to CGI. There’s only so much lighting and photographic composition can do to make an image visually pleasing.
HOWEVER, hand rendered illustrations are much more forgiving. Their soft, enchanting and whimsical attributes can dilute many ill conceived design ideas.
Let’s do a little experiment.
I Googled ’80s interior’ (we all know how ‘ill conceived’ many 80s interiors were, right?!) and quickly edited the photo using Photoshop to make it look like a hand rendered (watercolour) illustration.
Suddenly, this fairly average interior has taken on a whole new, endearing ‘chocolate box’ aesthetic. Heck, I even like the interior, now that I’ve seen it presented as a watercolour! 3D Visualisers don’t have the luxury of blending and smudging lines. They deal with real world values. Kinda makes you think about the various challenges 3D Visualisers face, that perhaps you never considered previously, right?!
One of the recurring arguments against the use of 3D Visualisation was the general opinion that photo-real interiors were ‘cold and sterile’. It was at this stage of the debate that I stopped lurking and joined the discussion, waving my 3D flag of course.
I think it’s grossly unfair to dismiss all photo-real 3D visuals as being ‘sterile’. I will be the first to agree that there are some pretty dubious 3D visuals out there, that do indeed lack any sort of atmospheric quality. One of the participants of the group discussion also said that she visited some sort of student exhibition and noticed the same ‘cold’ qualities. Which doesn’t surprise me at all. Creating a convincing photo-real 3D visual takes much practice, skill, research and years of experience. It isn’t as simple as pushing a button and achieving astounding, realistic results. The difference in the standard of a student’s work compared to a ‘professional’ 3D Visualiser will be IMMENSE.
I strive to achieve a high level of realism but also a visually captivating aesthetic and I would hope that anyone looking at the following images of my work would agree that they don’t appear cold and sterile.
Another recurring point of debate was that 3D Visualisation is merely a communication tool that is used once the design process has been finalised. I agree that having the ability to hand sketch a few design concepts to get the ball rolling in the early stages is a huge bonus but as someone who actively uses 3D software to assist in the design of interiors, I gotta quash this argument.
My Homebase, Autumn inspired, Scandinavian bedroom, Victoria Beckham and Blush design scheme were ALL designed with the assistance of 3D software. Actually, 3D software is central to my entire design process. I can only assume that lack of knowledge regarding the use of 3D Visualisation was to blame for people thinking that 3D Visualisation can only be used once a design concept has been completed.
One of the biggest benefits to using 3D software when designing a space, is that you can easily make revisions. You can clearly see when something just doesn’t look right. It gives you the freedom to play around with your ideas and this is invaluable. I have had many clients provide me with all of the necessary information to create his/her design scheme and the minute they received the draft render, they decided to change elements of the design. This level of flexibility cannot be achieved as seamlessly when hand rendering.
The ‘too perfect’ issue was raised, where photo-real 3D visuals are concerned and I gotta put my hand up and admit that hand rendered illustrations are unbelievable at providing an awesome level of character but this is mainly by default! It’s primarily the medium used that provides the characterful qualities (don’t forget that similar qualities can be achieved via CG). However, in defense of photo-real 3D visuals, the ‘perfect’ look is created due to client requirements. THAT’S exactly what the client wants (specifically Interior Designers) and ultimately the 3D Visualiser must meet with client expectation.
I’m not sure that it’s right to compare the attributes and benefits of hand rendering with photo-real 3D Visualisation. I say this because the personal, stylistic preferences of an individual will usually influence which method they support. In addition, preconceived prejudices concerning 3D software will usually come to the fore, regardless as to the astounding results that can (and are) being achieved. I also feel that perhaps there’s a lot of fear and wariness of 3D software in many of the design industries. The familiarity, safety and traditional appeal of hand renderings will undoubtedly play a role in compounding this level of wariness.
3D Visualisation isn’t the enemy, it’s here to enhance the design process and your ability to convey YOUR designs to YOUR clients. Did I mention that it’s also invaluable at enhancing your portfolio and marketing potential too?! Bottom line: it’s the end user who matters here (my client’s CLIENT). You need to provide what the client wants, ideally an Interior Designer (or Event Designer/Wedding Planner) should be providing the option of either hand rendering OR 3D Visualisation.
I hope that some of the points I’ve raised have been food for thought regarding the use of 3D Visualisation. Want to join the discussion? Drop a comment below!
Very interesting post once again. This kind of discussion will probably endure for many years to come. For me, the questions that have to be asked about 3D Vis, or any method of illustrating ideas, are ‘what is this going to be used for and who is going to see it’? If the image does its job, fulfills its purpose then it is a valid method of presentation.
At Uni I had a book on writing a successful(?) dissertation and the one thing that has stuck in my memory is a simple test to be used when evaluating the inclusion of some fact, method or point in ones great work. The comedian Jack Dee also includes it in his stand-up routine. The test, and Jack’s question, is “So what”? All that matters is that, whatever medium is used to sell an idea, the client is satisfied, you are satisfied and value for money is given.
David Hockney I believe has used CGI for some of his pieces so if its ok for him? So, rant over, once again thanks for the great post!
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Haha, yup this debate will never go away! I only get involved when peeps start 3D bashing based on their misconceptions involving the use and benefits of 3D Visualisation.
I completely agree with you re: suitably of the illustration. I create photo-real images but I have a client (Wedding Planner) who prefers a watercolour effect to present her designs to her client. This is no surprise considering the subject matter.
However, I wrote this post because of the apparent lack of knowledge regarding 3D Visualisation among Interior Designers and quite broad, unfair statements that were being made. If an Interior Designer is fully briefed on what 3D can bring to the table and STILL prefers hand rendered illustrations, then I have to accept and respect that.
Thanks for taking the time to comment – I always like hearing from you!
Thank you for bringing this subject to light. Many people think that 3D visualisations are easily created, which is definitely not the case. 3d visual artists, are just that.. They are artists in their own right! It takes a lot of time, practice, determination and a creative eye to achieve a perfect 3D rendering.
I do believe however, that everyone should start by hand and understand how perspective, the placement of furniture items and decor etc works. I also have the utmost respect for people who do everything with their hands, it has fast become a dying art but I do believe it still has its place.
In the end, each to their own…everyone is unique and different and presents their work in their own style!
Artistic Expression for the win!
Thank you once again. Loved your article!
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Thank you for taking the time to read my post and for commenting! You’re right; there is most definitely an ‘art’ to creating 3D visuals. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of miscommunication and/or misplaced opinions regarding 3D Visualisation and I’m determined to right that wrong!
I have to be honest, my client is the Designer and THEIR client is the end user. So essentially, it isn’t about what the Designer wants but more what THEIR client wants. I just hope that the Designers aren’t placing their own preferences BEFORE their client’s needs/wants.
Thanks again for stopping by!
Great post and a very interesting topic. My two pennies worth: I’m old (and, to a degree, old-school), but nevertheless, I strive to be a ‘horses for courses’-guy. In the early design stages, I’d argue that it can be advantageous to be able to do a quick-but-decent, hand-drawn (perspective) sketch, if only to get the ball rolling, so to speak. I’ve also seen (potential) clients become slightly intimidated, for lack of a better word, by the high degree of detail and the sheer realism of CG 3D renderings at an early stage – to the point where I once overheard a client say “… but does it HAVE to be a red chair like that?” or words to that effect.
But having said that, I’ll happily admit that the expression ‘hand rendering’ strikes me as a term that describes a discipline that no-one in his/her right mind should be aspiring to anymore.The thing I love most about the possibilities offered by modern technology, is that it can take hours of work off the hands of the artist, without compromising the result at all. (For the record: Yes, I’ve tried my hand at creating watercolour perspectives in ye olde days, and even at painstakingly masking out, and airbrushing, complex facades with lots of windows. Tedious as hell – and highly stressful in view of the constant risk of hours of work being ruined by a single mistake or an unexpected ‘bleed’ of airbrushed ink. When I look at the work of, for example, Scott Baumberger, I’m utterly convinced that he can do a better job – and in a matter of HOURS – of a task that used to take me DAYS. Hooray for computers and computer graphics!
Don’t get me wrong, by the way: I’m quite aware that rigging up a decent, computer-generated 3D render also can take hours or even days of hard and concentrated work – but once the hard work is done, we get tremendous opportunities for tweaking, re-modelling, editing etc., without having to start again from scratch You just cannot beat that. To echo Chelsey’s comment: I have great respect for people who can create stunning artwork by hand (Helmut Jacoby comes to mind), but that does not in any way make me less respectful of people like yourself who can use the tools at hand to make stunning and very personal and warm artwork digitally. I’ll have a Best of Both Worlds on the rocks, please.
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Welcome back my friend! 🙂
I can completely understand a client feeling intimidated by the sheer realism of a 3D visual. MY clients (the Designer) can sometimes be daunted by the process. But that’s where you have to manage expectations and have open communication, right?!
Change and new ways of working will ALWAYS prompt trepidation and uncertainty but in order to provide the highest standard of service possible and ensure a competitive edge (I’m talking about MY clients), they should really push those fears to one side. Especially with the results that 3D Visualisation can produce!
I can’t believe you undertook airbrushing! R-E-S-P-E-C-T You must send me an example! I could only wish that my CG renders were produced in a matter of hours! Assuming that I’ve received all the necessary information and it’s a fairly straightforward interior, you’re talking two days (minimum).
Like you said, you gotta roll with the times. If an Interior Designer (or any Designer) wants to stay ‘relevant’ and competitive then they should be offering their client CHOICE. I’m here! Use me!! In the nicest possible way, of course!
Thank you for your kind words regarding my work! There’s blood, sweat and tears ALL OVER those bad boys!
Thanks for your reply. I did my (limited) airbrush work in the eighties while I was employed in an architects’ office in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The artwork became the property of that agency, so I don’t have any samples available, unfortunately. For the record: I never really managed to become an expert in airbrushing – more a dabbler – and I sold the equipment in the early nineties.
Speaking of experts: at the time, I purchased a book by Tibor Karsai called “The Airbrush in Architectural Illustration”. If you ever should come across it, have a look: some of the artwork is off the charts…
If you like, I could upload a sample of some hand-drawn (outdoor) perspectives I’ve done for a project in the late nineties. They’re not coloured in any way; just line drawings in black and white.
I’m quite proud of them, but they also emphasize how computer graphics have changed the game: It’s really fascinating, I think, how an experienced modeller can use all sorts of tricks (like drawing window elements as components in SketchUp, for example) that will allow her/him to make changes to the design later on, without having to start all over. By contrast, if I should have decided, halfway into one of those hand-drawn renderings, that the angle of view was wrong, I would have crumpled up the paper… As for the ‘liveliness’, or lack of same, of the artwork: that will always be up to the artist, as you say – regardless of medium. :o)
By the way (and a bit off topic, perhaps), but do you use a tablet and stylus when you’re working, or ‘just’ a mouse?
If I ever stumble across that book I’ll be sure to have a nosy. Sure, upload some of your perspectives – it would be great to see them! I’m sure they are a feast for the eyes. I was inspired one Sunday a few years ago to have a go at sketching using ink (love ink sketches). I wrote a post about it: http://anitabrowndesignstudio.com/2012/10/14/an-afternoon-sketch/ The perspective is off on the right hand side but for a first attempt I thought it was pretty good!
Yea, 3D software is cosmic for so many different reasons. I’ve been using it for 3 yrs and I’m STILL astounded and amazed by it.
I use the touchpad on my laptop. I find a mouse to be less ‘free’ or intuitive when 3D modeling. It’s difficult to explain! I think because I’m using my hands to create the movement required to construct the model that it feels more natural. Does that make sense?! What do you use?
That Canterbury sketch looks fine to me! :oD
Karma is biting me in the back a little: Here I was, singing the praise of the tools of the electronic/digital age, and this morning I discovered that my scanner has stopped working. Those perspectives that I referred to are lying around the house (in A4-format) somewhere, but it may take a while before I can get them digitized (or should that be ‘digitalised’?). That may not happen before the end of next week. (We’ll soon be off on a little holiday in the Netherlands – my country of birth). Will keep you posted on my progress (or lack of same).
How do I upload, by the way? Drag and drop into the comment field? Any requirements/limits re pixel count, or the like?
I use a standard 2-button, scroll-wheel mouse for modelling in SketchUp, but I bought a Wacom ‘Intuos’ tablet recently. Still haven’t had the time to rig it up (*sigh*), but looking forward to trying it out. And on that, too, I’ll keep you posted, I hope… :o) From what I hear, a lot of people use their tablet in combination with a scroll mouse, as the scroll function is hard to beat for zooming, apparently. By the way: A touchpad makes excellent sense as well, I think.
Take care – and happy rendering.
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Thanks, it took THREE hours to create that wonky sketch!! I did enjoy that little burst of creativity 🙂
Haha, technology eh?! Have you checked your ink cartridges? My printer, which is also a scanner refuses to scan when there’s no ink left…even though it doesn’t require ink to flippin’ scan!! Either way, there’s no rush. Focus on your holiday preparations – that’s the most important thing!
You know, I’m not sure if you can drag and drop! You’d probably have to upload the images to an image host (Flickr??) and provide a link.
I’ve heard about this 2-button scroll thing that you speak of! I’ve heard good reviews. How on earth is it practical to use a tablet to 3D model??!! I like a fairly large screen so that I can see everything clearly. Do you use a tablet ‘on the go’ or in the office when 3D modeling?
The tablet I referred to earlier does not comprise the viewing area itself, so to speak: when I move the pen (a.k.a. the ‘stylus’) along the ‘pad’ in front of me, the cursor on my (big) computer screen follows the movement, just like it would with a mouse… If you look up “Wacom Intuos”, you can see the principle at work…
Apparently, I can even purchase (drum roll) a digital AIRBRUSH to go with the tablet. I may have to look into that at some point… :o)
All the best,
For the record: i didn’t know about the existence of these drawing tablets until about a year ago, when I stumbled across the work of a California-based architect called Nick Sonder: he uses a tablet to great effect… ( Also, I have no idea why the drawing-pen is (fancily?) referred to as a ‘stylus’. :o)
But I couldn’t help thinking that – precisely BECAUSE you use the touch-pad on your computer a lot – the technology might be worth looking into: a tablet of this kind is basically a very large touch-pad.
I am an architect and since my practice is 36 years young, I did not have the option early on. I hired a wonderful pen and ink (or pencil and ink depending on the job) architect and he was so good people would hire him to draw their existing house just hang it on their wall. He had a knack of capturing the intangibles while still being faithful to the design. Many others did just what you said Anita – they made a work of art which hid poor proportions by playing with the perspective or being vague where the details were not well worked out. The rendering and the reality had limited confluence. We have used 3D for a long time now. The ultimate compliment was when a contractor came into my studio and saw one of my E-sized boards of a mid-sized church and asked me where it was as he never had recalled seeing it. He thought it was a photograph. It had not been built. Isn’t that the whole idea of a rendering?
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Scorching Red Hot Lover, eh?!! Love your statement ‘the rendering and the reality had limited confluence’. I’m relieved that you agree with me on the more ‘forgiving’ side of hand rendering.
The best complement you can EVER receive is when someone thinks your (3D) image is a photograph!! It’s such a wonderful pat on the back!
I am a freelance designer / illustrator working on a wide range of design projects from barn conversion interiors and exteriors to extreme high end apartment designs in London and Monaco. I tend to approach my projects differently, depending on the personality and objectives of my client. In fact, I ask certain questions to get a feel for the best solution, treating the style, level of detail and sense of atmosphere as a design brief in itself.
I went to a college way back in the last century ( 1986 ) which really encouraged and nurtured varied drawing and rendering skills to enable us to explore and express ourselves. But that was back in the day when we had no choice as CGI’s were just beyond the horizon. I am a keen artist in watercolour, painting townscapes of France and therefore have an interest in hand rendered images. But I think there is a place for both cgi and hand rendered visuals at different stages of a any project. I am glad that my college lecturers had this approach as it enables me to do both hand drawn and cgi visuals but also to merge the two styles in various proportions to get the style and feel that I think fits my client’s design brief and objectives.
For example my barn conversion visuals lean heavily towards the hand drawn style although all of my visuals start off life as Sketchup models which I render within my PC or I print, trace, scan , print, hand render, scan and embellish with such things as reflections, shadow depths and contrasts and further ghosted textures etc. So I tailor my techniques to my desired end result. These are primarily used for marketing to potential buyers the build potential for my client’s land which has planning permission granted to it. Therefore they are softer images which are very appealing to buyers because they hint at landscaping design ideas etc but do not dictate.
On the other hand my office design and high end residential visuals not only help me design my projects from scratch ( as you stated in your argument ) but also provide my clients with accurate information. I see this type of visual as a potent means of bringing together all the ideas, finishes, practical information, branding, graphics, colour schemes etc in a 3d image which is read in conjunction with plans and written documents to tell a story, a story of our project’s design development from concept to proposal. But up to this point most of my visuals will be hand drawn, some in front of clients in meetings to quickly express ideas and confirm the main objectives and keep the design process free and fluid.
I therefore think the two processes should not be viewed as black and white as in my experience each has it’s place and the two processes can be merged together in various ways to suit the client, the type of project and the purpose of the drawing.
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I saw the length of your comment and decided to put the kettle on before settling down to read it! Thank you for taking the time to give me your thoughts on this subject!
You seem to have artistry running through your veins! I can tell from your comment that you are very sensitive to the needs of your clients when deciding on which approach to take. I applaud that.
The method you used for the barn conversion (but seriously, barn conversion!! How awesome!!) sounds quite convoluted, if you don’t mind me saying. I can tell with the ‘layering’ and blending of the two methods that the result would be impressive. I’m just wondering if the time taken is justified? Although, maybe you can pull that off in a day and if you can, more power to you!
I couldn’t agree more with your thinking: the methodology is very much dependent on the client, the type of project and purpose of drawing. Although, as I’ve pointed out, I’ve been commissioned to create ‘illustrative’ 3D visuals because of their softer more whimsical quality. And whilst they haven’t been produced by hand, they’re bloody good! But hey, I’m biased.
Intriguing article regarding rendering.
I am an architect designer artist. I have spent a lifetime doing design rendering and am proficient in Autodesk and Adobe products I also use SketchUp and blender.
I spent the first twenty years of my career rendering by hand and have supported myself by oil painting.
In my impression the only definition of art … is the quality necessary to evoke emotions of the viewer.
this is an empathetic discipline to understand and evoke the emotions of others it takes greater conscious effort to modify computer generated work to evoke emotions. To know when to alter value or change focal length for more drama.
They are two means to the same end. : )
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I don’t know whether to buy you a drink or give you a great big bear hug!! What I’ve just read is poetry!! UTTER POETRY!! Thank you! Your definition of art as ‘the quality necessary to evoke emotions of the viewer’ is spot on and furthermore you’re sooooo right; it DOES take a greater effort to evoke an emotional response when creating CGIs. Such a valid point!!
I remember the first time one of my clients gave me feedback on the reaction of HER client when she saw a photo-real 3D visual I had created of a new design scheme for her living room. The client was ecstatic! If you put yourself in the shoes of the end user, of course it’s going to be surreal/emotional/exciting to see your own personal space completely redesigned in a photo-real image (assuming it’s of a high standard). I love it when my clients report back with tales of how their client cried (yes, CRIED) or hung the 3D visual on their wall (true story). It gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.
Thank you so much for your contribution! 🙂
* Applause * ; Well put! :o)
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I have been doing architectural drawing for little more than 40 years and I hand render all
my drawings. I don’t have a cad system at all.I have more work than I can handle. My clients
love it. .
I believe you. I get a similar response from my clients who feel that the age of skilled drawing is sadly diminishing. They find hand rendered visuals ( as long as they are accurate ) very refreshing, emphasising the drawing skill as artistic designers. In my experience the best designers and especially architects I have observed are obviously artists and not solely digital types so I also think it builds confidence with clients.
Ron, thanks for your comment. You’re clearly an advocate of hand rendering! I’m glad to hear that business is good.
Any reason why you’re reluctant to offer 3D Visualisation as part of the service you provide? After all, providing your clients with choice, is important, especially in this digital age.
I have enjoyed reading everybody’s comments on this subject. Day to day at the office, I don’t get to much at all of rendering, except an occasional SketchUp masding model. I need to start drawing by hand again to flex my skills for sketching ideas for clients. I would love to take a course that is an overview of all the currebt 3D rendering techniques/programs (graduated in 2004 when computer modeling was just really taking hold, so only had one course) but finding classes that aren’t part of a degree program is proing challenging. Does anybody have a suggestion where to turn?
Welcome! You’d be hard pushed to find a course that delves into the range of 3D software applications available. That’s a pretty broad subject.
Regarding rendering techniques, I’m not sure what courses are available that you could attend in person to learn this.
Many 3D Visualisers are self taught. Not the ideal way to learn because it’s a much longer process.
There are many online tutorials available for a wide range of 3D modeling/rendering applications. That’s how I taught myself. But it takes a lot of time and dedication to produce 3D visuals of a high standard. It isn’t a quick process.
Hand rendering really shines in the early stages of design, especially for competitions where you aren’t being paid to fully realize a design, never mind the fact that there’s no guarantee of a contract at the end of it all. As you said, 3D visualization requires you to think about and work through every little detail; but if you don’t win, you’ll have not only wasted your time, but also given your design ideas away to your competitors.
Rendering by hand allows you to communicate through suggestion. Perhaps the point of the rendering is not to show precisely how the gypsum wall transitions into glass, but about how the space “feels”. If so, why spend your time working out all of those details when that time could be spent further developing the design?
Don’t get me wrong, my company uses 3D visualization all. the. time. (More than hand rendering, actually), but hand rendering is absolutely essential for some jobs with clients who need to have their hand held through the design phase. Hand sketching allows design ideas to be communicated efficiently and forces the viewer to focus on what’s important rather than all of the minutiae that goes into a digital rendering.
Late to the discussion but compelled to contribute. In all of the above, original post and comments I noted the word “intuitive” only once and that was in regard to using a mouse vs. a tablet. In line with Mr. Crowley’s comments…if you think of this as an issue of finality, that is presenting an idea that is relatively fleshed out…final colors, furnishings, lighting (both natural and artificial) etc. then 3-D Vis is a viable option.
However, if you do not have any idea…literally starting at square one in the design process then the ability to hand generate 3-D visualizations is a necessity. The intuitive power of the mind-hand-paper (or Wacom Tablet as the case maybe) has no technological comparison.
I guess it really is a matter of where in the design process a particular idea may need to be communicated. Can’t build a 3-D model if you don’t know what you are designing.
Of course once you have some specifics Katie Bar the Door because the 3-D Vis/V.R. software technophiles are coming on strong.