In this interview, associate architect Jordan Smith of Kansas City, MO, talks about his experience starting an architectural visualization company, and how Lumion has helped along the way.

Country cottage practice render, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders; model by Demilune.

During the day, Jordan Smith works as an associate architect at J. Price Architecture, Inc., but that’s only where it starts.

In addition to graduating with a Master’s Degree from Drury University and pursuing his licensing, Jordan runs his own architectural visualization company, MOrenders, creating beautiful renders with an eye for realism and story. Follow along as we talked with Jordan about his company, his process and how he started using Lumion in the first place.

First things first. So why did you decide to start an architecture visualization company?

JORDAN: Actually, it started as a hobby. I’ve always been into rendering and all throughout school I used Lumion for my projects. We actually started using a student license in 2016, so I think that was like Lumion 6 or 7, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When Lumion 9 came out, I really started getting into it, and that’s why I made MOrenders about a year ago. As a foot in the door to see what might happen.

Then, I had a friend who is a realtor in Nashville and I started doing a lot of houses for them. It’s been easier to take off with this start; with a portfolio, it’s a lot easier to get clients.

A few before and after images showing renders made in Lumion and their real-life counterparts. Renders made in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

What types of clients are you usually working with?

JORDAN: Usually, it’s single-family homes from realtors or builders that are looking to get renderings for pre-sale. Or I’m working with people renovating their homes, and they want to see how the renovations will look before work gets started.

Preliminary practice image, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders; design and 3D models from the SketchUp 3D Warehouse.

I’ve also done multi-family and a couple of commercial buildings, and I want to start getting into urban planning and city planning, more large scale developments instead of just singular buildings.

Urban landscape design, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

What types of clients are you usually working with?

JORDAN: For a typical project, once I know who the client is, I’ll usually ask them about what views they want. Interior? Exterior? I’ll also ask about the scale of the project, how many views they want.

It depends on how I’m getting information about the project. Some people will just read me out the measurements they took of their house, and then I piece it together (having to make a few assumptions).

Minimalist, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

Other people give me a full set of construction documents, which makes things a lot easier. I even had one person who already made a SketchUp model, and all I had to do was plug the model in and get started. That saves them a lot of time, and money.

Nine times out of ten, I’m making a SketchUp model too. I’ll go off the construction documents and have them pick out the material palette they want. After that, I can match it with the Lumion materials as closely as possible.

Modern farmhouse, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

I love how you can copy the hex values of Sherman Williams paint colors into Lumion; that’s been really great because people send me color selections for the paint on their house, and it really speeds up the process instead of making it a guessing game.

How do clients respond when you send them your renders?

JORDAN: It definitely depends. Some people take what I give them, they love it and they send it off and that’s the end of it. But I tell them at the beginning that I’ll make any adjustments for free. If they get a rendering and it’s not what they envisioned, I’ll go back and tweak a few settings and adjust the views in Lumion.

Usually, I’ll send a lower quality test image with a watermark on it. Instead of rendering a print quality image in Lumion, I’ll do a draft quality and send it out to them. And we’ll go through the image and I’ll ask questions like, “Is this the view you want? Are these the materials you want? Is this the lighting you want?”

Practice rendering in Lumion 10 by MOrenders; design and model by Mike Brestel.

And then I’ll make the final rendering and send it out.

Can you describe your situation before using Lumion?

JORDAN: Before I started getting into rendering, it was hand sketches or Photoshop, and that was it, at least for me.

I love hand sketching and still do it today, but there is a certain amount of time and perfectionism that comes with it. If you have to redo a hand sketch, it’s going to take days, while if you have to redo something in Lumion, it’s going to take minutes or an hour or so. And that really helps speed up the process.

With Photoshop, you can make some really great renderings but, again, you’re taking a ton of time making huge files and using all these different JPGs and PNGs from Google to make the perfect image, when you could just place and object and render it in 30 seconds.

So, I think the before and after, the biggest impact is the sense of realism you get and the time you save. And time’s money, especially in this field.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of architectural visualization for your clients?

JORDAN: I guess the obvious and primary role of visualization is how it allows someone to experience a space before it’s even built. I mean, you can show everyone a floor plan or an elevation or a section, and I think some people will understand it but a lot of people won’t.

Showroom floor, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

If I showed a floor plan to my dad or my mom, they would have no understanding of the space. But we can all read a picture. I think Lumion and other visualization programs are great for communicating the design to people that may not be able to otherwise understand architecture.

Does visualization help with your own processes?

JORDAN: Absolutely. I think it definitely does.

When you’re doing things in 3D alone, it really puts your head into the design and gives you a feeling for how you’re going to experience a building.

Contemporary cabin designed by KDDesign, rendered in Lumion 10 by MOrenders.

With an elevation plan, for example, you can get a general idea of how the building will look, but you never truly understand it until you see shadow lines and the way the light hits, the reflections and all the different materials.

Has Lumion’s speed ever saved you in a pinch?

JORDAN: Actually, it has helped quite a bit at JPA. We had just got Lumion and one of my bosses came up and asked me if I could make some preliminary renderings that would go in a magazine. He said he needed them by 3:00 p.m. and it was 2:45.

Thankfully, we already had a SketchUp model, which I put into Lumion and then threw in a bunch of trees, a street with some cars and some of the outline people. To make it look like a preliminary render, I threw on the outline effect and I got an image out in like 12 minutes.

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