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Thread: Creating visuals for the artistically challenged planner

  1. #1
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    Creating visuals for the artistically challenged planner

    I sometimes envy my landscape architect planner friends who can sketch out a community's vision in beautiful strokes. When I must draw something, my sketches leave developers and residents hoping for urban renewal (my aerials are akin to a Pollock). Indeed, I can't draw. I wonder if there are any cut and paste software programs or some other existing resource that would help planners create visuals without having to elbow the office artist. For fun, I've started with a couple books I found on Amazon referencing drawing cityscapes.

    I'm not looking for examples of sound planning practices; I know where to find those. I'm looking for a stock of illustrations that a planner could integrate into existing streetscape photos...I think.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
          jhboyle's avatar
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    i don't know what your GIS capabilities are, but there are tools in ARCMAP 9.x that you can use that have 3D graphics

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ianliam
    I'm looking for a stock of illustrations that a planner could integrate into existing streetscape photos...I think.
    You have a long road ahead of you my friend. I have created my own database of stock images and use them on many projects. It wasn't easy, but once completed, it affords you the opportunities to "design" as you have desribed. I have attached a sample image from one of my first photoshopped streetscape projects. It's not my best work, but it was useful at the time. I plopped in the people, sidewalk, light poles, and curbing. Knowing how to use Photoshop (or Elements) and Illustrator (or InDesign) will help immensely.
    Last edited by Wannaplan?; 18 Sep 2006 at 9:46 PM.

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Speaking of... Do you know any good books for helping us Photoshop-impaired planners to become skilled Photoshoppers so we can put Michaelskis head on different things?

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    I am self taught. But there is one book that helped me some, "50 Fast Digital Photo Techniques," by Gregory Georges.

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    Check with IT training companies. There are a lot of good an inexpensive 1-2 day classes in programs like Photoshop, Acrobat, etc. These are better, sometimes cheaper and take much less time than a community college or using a professional artist everytime you need a couple of slides.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    You could also PM Wanigas and offer to hire him or license his database or some such.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    offer to hire him or license his database or some such
    Now there's an idea!

    Here's the original, unaltered image I posted above, in case you want to hire me:
    Last edited by Wannaplan?; 18 Sep 2006 at 9:46 PM.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    That's a pretty skilled transformation, I must say.

    Still, Photoshopped scenes creep me out... I think its the artificiality that tries to pass off as a real view that just rubs me the wrong way. A sketch is a sketch, but a photoshopped scene is unapologetic. Too many things don't match... lighting angles, sheen, vibrancy, scale... it just doesn't look right to the eye, in dozens of places (in even the best photoshop mockups) and it results in a feeling of unease (speaking for myself).

    So for that reason... personally I would be more inclined to put in the work and get to sketching a scene.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian dogandpony's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    That's a pretty skilled transformation, I must say.

    Still, Photoshopped scenes creep me out... I think its the artificiality that tries to pass off as a real view that just rubs me the wrong way. A sketch is a sketch, but a photoshopped scene is unapologetic. Too many things don't match... lighting angles, sheen, vibrancy, scale... it just doesn't look right to the eye, in dozens of places (in even the best photoshop mockups) and it results in a feeling of unease (speaking for myself).

    So for that reason... personally I would be more inclined to put in the work and get to sketching a scene.
    well stated abrowne, you helped me understand what it is about photoshop images that I find so difficult to swallow. Not that example contained in this thread isn't helpful, but photoshop kind of takes the deliberative design process out of the equation, where it might become a "what do I have in my toolbox" approach.

    Again, not a bad thing necessarily, since it gets the idea out there.

    There are several links of photo galleries (for the most part unadulterated original images) that I refer to for ideas, inspiration that may make it into a sketch I try to work up, or just present as a concept...

    Project for Public Spaces has a big selection of images, and there are dozens more sites listed here

    Also, design doesn't just "come to you" through photoshop, much as you might like it to. One good book that I can't recommend enough is "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander. Pricy title, but worth it to anyone who's trying to create "place" instead of "space". Buy it here and support cyburbia!

    In the area of software, there is a program called Squiggle that I've seen which looks promising, but haven't used, which while it doesn't look like it will fill in the "design for the non-design oriented", it allows you to take a CAD generated drawing, or similar drawing file, and render it into a sketchy looking drawing. (admit it, you've been in meetings where the conceptual plan looked too well drawn to be a concept, hence not open for discussion/public input/change).

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    That's a pretty skilled transformation, I must say.

    Still, Photoshopped scenes creep me out... I think its the artificiality that tries to pass off as a real view that just rubs me the wrong way. A sketch is a sketch, but a photoshopped scene is unapologetic. Too many things don't match... lighting angles, sheen, vibrancy, scale... it just doesn't look right to the eye, in dozens of places (in even the best photoshop mockups) and it results in a feeling of unease (speaking for myself).

    So for that reason... personally I would be more inclined to put in the work and get to sketching a scene.
    I am mixed on whether I like the photoshopped images or not. Rather than cut from one photo to paste to another, I will often add a line drawing to a photo to illustrate an idea. I will also do a side-by-side photo and sketch (done with Corel) and annotate them with proposed changes.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I think anyway visual is better than no visual when you are talking about design... There are down sides to everything, I personally like the use of photoshop (image manipulation) to get a point across. The image doesn't have to be perfect to convey an idea. I use pictures of examples a lot of times and at times I have manipulated them. Its just another tool to help convey an idea, which more tools = more options = better, IMO.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    <snip> (admit it, you've been in meetings where the conceptual plan looked too well drawn to be a concept, hence not open for discussion/public input/change).
    Very impressive point. Well done photo-shopped images do have a very finished look to them that does inhibit creative input, IMO. They are also very easy to over-do (keep pasting the same tree foliage in a background over and over and it suddenly looks like you are in the enchanted forest). Folks have a tendency to make points of these things in Public Hearings -- like "I'll be dead long afore 'em trees ever gets that big".

    Sketches are much easier to digest as "working drawings" and to crit. Practice your drawing skills -- buy a cheap kids book on perspective and don't be uptight. Before you know it you'll have added a very impressive tool to your arsenal.

    Good luck.
    Je suis Charlie

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vlaude
    I think anyway visual is better than no visual when you are talking about design... There are down sides to everything, I personally like the use of photoshop (image manipulation) to get a point across. The image doesn't have to be perfect to convey an idea. I use pictures of examples a lot of times and at times I have manipulated them. Its just another tool to help convey an idea, which more tools = more options = better, IMO.
    Some people will find it more disturbing than others, depending upon "brain wiring", basically. For someone who is strongly weirded out by it, a visual that is distracting or disturbing may be worse than no visual. "Consider your audience" and all that.

  15. #15
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Some people will find it more disturbing than others, depending upon "brain wiring", basically. For someone who is strongly weirded out by it, a visual that is distracting or disturbing may be worse than no visual. "Consider your audience" and all that.
    But how could a person preparing visuals know the things you mention.

    "Consider your audience"....yeah...but one could only know that if one was a mind reader.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    I think its the artificiality that tries to pass off as a real view that just rubs me the wrong way. A sketch is a sketch, but a photoshopped scene is unapologetic. Too many things don't match... lighting angles, sheen, vibrancy, scale... it just doesn't look right to the eye
    I tend to agree with you. But still, if a client is willing to pay for a photoshopped visualization, then I am going to do it. The real skills are with the architects who can draw, sketch, all by hand, and have the training to use 3D rendering computer programs that are all about the WOW factor. But planners are cheaper than architects. The client will get the product they pay for.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dogandpony
    ...In the area of software, there is a program called Squiggle that I've seen which looks promising, but haven't used, which while it doesn't look like it will fill in the "design for the non-design oriented", it allows you to take a CAD generated drawing, or similar drawing file, and render it into a sketchy looking drawing. (admit it, you've been in meetings where the conceptual plan looked too well drawn to be a concept, hence not open for discussion/public input/change).
    This looks interesting. One of the issues I have with CorelDraw is that the lines are always precise. There are many times when I want a rougher texture - more of a sketch than a line drawing. If you give Squiggle a try, let me know what you think of it.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    But how could a person preparing visuals know the things you mention.

    "Consider your audience"....yeah...but one could only know that if one was a mind reader.
    Well, there are times that you will have clues. People who dress sloppy, drive nasty cars, have cluttered offices etc. are likely to be less visually sensitive. Someone who dresses very carefully, collects art, etc, is likely to be more sensitive to such things. Cardinal collects art, dresses pickily (even for laefests) and doesn't have your typical "bachelor pad decor." Not coincidentally, he has said he uses techniques that are more sensitive to the fact that photoshop makes images which are disconcerting -- such as drawing things onto the photo to express the idea without creating that discomfiture that others here have spoken of. So, one rule of thumb is that if it is a really important project and a lot of money is at stake, use some of the "best practices" methodologies mentioned here just to be on the safe side. If it isn't such a big deal, do whatever is easier for you. Or if you KNOW that the key people in your target audience are not that picky, you can relax. Conversely, if you KNOW they are picky, picky about their visual surroundings, then work at making your visuals better.

    Funny, all this "learning styles" and "personality type" stuff was touched on at the first session I attended at the APA conference. I already know it well from years of homeschooling and such.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    I would love to hear some feed back on the Squiggle program.

    I use Corel and do some photo-realistic imagery. I think that is helpful to have information in several formats, maybe a birds schematic as well as some altered photos. This helps if you have a broad mix in your audience. The truth is the folks that want to see what is proposed will be able to visualize what you show and those that don't want any part will conviently use "i don't see that"

    Our Town Council loves the stuff as well as the public here.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian dogandpony's avatar
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    The Squiggle program has a free trial period of 15 days. Probably a full version of the program which disables itself after the trial is over.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I downloaded it and tried it out for a bit... not terribly user friendly, and not that effective, either. I wasn't impressed with it (and I wish this wasn't the case, it looked promising).

  22. #22
    [QUOTE=Wanigas?]You have a long road ahead of you my friend. I have created my own database of stock images and use them on many projects.

    This is a good idea ,though. Many designers also use this way to show images to their clients. They have no need to draw beautiful perspectives every time they go present their project to the clients. We(designers) always have stock images. It helps you a lot when you have to select some pics to show what kinda atmosphere, landscape,architecture or streetscape that you want it to be.
    Universe is not wide enough to be planned.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    [QUOTE=Mee]
    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    You have a long road ahead of you my friend. I have created my own database of stock images and use them on many projects.

    This is a good idea ,though. Many designers also use this way to show images to their clients. They have no need to draw beautiful perspectives every time they go present their project to the clients. We(designers) always have stock images. It helps you a lot when you have to select some pics to show what kinda atmosphere, landscape,architecture or streetscape that you want it to be.
    You can buy stock photos and objects online, however that can get expensive. I have found that i get what i want by using photos that i have taking specific to the project i am working own. Sometimes i can reuse stuff and i have created a libriary of my own, it is just easier to do it that way then to buy the stuff. I carry my camera every where and take pics of things i might use for any ongoing or future projects and different prespectives. That helps you get the angle you need when you take a photo of the project area.

  24. #24
    Lanscape Graphics... is a really simple text that'll have you drawing some squiggly sections that make sense pretty quick. There's a fine line between planner squiggle and architect squiggle; don't be intimidated. I've seen them turn out some ugly stuff, for sure.

    I had a real hard time getting stock photos to match a vision of what I want on a project. On my last Master Plan, I could never get a stolen road to lay right on my real landscape photo. This time, I'm going to scan my own sketch to overlay on a photo. The contrast between realism and cartoon-land is interesting, if a little humerous. I think it sucks people in to think about the present and the future in a way that a homogenous rendering can't.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally posted by Big Owl
    You can buy stock photos and objects online, however that can get expensive. I have found that i get what i want by using photos that i have taking specific to the project i am working own. Sometimes i can reuse stuff and i have created a libriary of my own, it is just easier to do it that way then to buy the stuff. I carry my camera every where and take pics of things i might use for any ongoing or future projects and different prespectives. That helps you get the angle you need when you take a photo of the project area.

    I 'd rather save money and i think,well..as does everybody.

    I already have stock image. I always keep my camera beside me when I travel round and take photos that I think they might be useful for my future projects.

    Anothey way to find pics is "google". I 've searched through google many times,though. Sometimes I couldn't find images that I wanted. It's helpful anyway.
    Universe is not wide enough to be planned.

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