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Jun 06, 2022 By IIDA HQ
Perspective: State of Being | Talk Talk Part 2
Brought to you by sponsor
Sarah Clair, IIDA, and Rolando Mendoza continue their discussion on embracing new technologies—the Metaverse, extended reality, and the future of design
By IIDA HQ Jun 06, 2022
Published in Perspective
Brought to you by sponsor

What does the future of design look like? In part two (read part one here) of the conversation between HKS Vice President of Healthcare Interiors Sarah Clair, IIDA, and Design Technology Director at Gensler Rolando Mendoza as they talk about the future of design, and technology’s revolutionary potential to reshape the ways we collaborate, enhance community experience on and offline, and to elevate the design profession at-large.

How can designers play a significant role in building the Metaverse?

RM:
We've been having discussions about the Metaverse internally. In fact we've had a number of clients that have reached out to us to design a building or an environment or a city in the Metaverse so we're starting to see more of a demand for that. I think it’s going to be a really interesting challenge for designers and for offices like Gensler, where we're going to have to take a point of view in terms of what that means for our business as well as for the culture of design. Tremendous opportunities, I believe, but it's a completely different paradigm in terms of how we think about engaging in a design process in the Metaverse. So we're deeply involved in those conversations right now because of the demands that we're seeing in the marketplace but I think it's still very early to determine what that world is going to look like from a contractual standpoint, from an intellectual property standpoint, and from a design standpoint. We're going to move a little slower into that world.

SC:
Same for us. We're looking into it heavily as we've seen the need for that technology with some of the conversations that we've been having and we’re also starting to test a few things but it's just so new. I'm really looking forward to where all of this will take us! For now, we’re looking at a software that you could design within the Metaverse with your clients—you basically wear Oculus and you can go into your model and look at things in a whole new way, make notes for things that need to be changed, and you can walk in there with your client. I know a lot of people aren't so sure about wearing the Oculus just yet—there are some negative comments about it—but I don’t think people have used it enough yet. It will be interesting to see it being used more and more, even on a daily basis as something you just come across on your desk.

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Sarah Clair, IIDA | Vice President of Healthcare Interiors, Technical Resources, and Quality Control Leader at HKS
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Rolando Mendoza | Design Technology Director at Gensler

What does democratization of design technology mean in terms of access and equity?

RM:
To add to that, I think it's important to include those people in the conversation and not leave them behind because those are the people that have the tribal knowledge in the industry—that sort of deep understanding. At the end of the day we're still in the business of making things out of physical material and we can't really forget that aspect. There are supply chain challenges that we need to deal with that require a tremendous amount of expertise on being able to manage that and the real-world components are still relevant. So we need those people who live in that reality. We have to bring them along and show them what's possible, and encourage them, and we have to make it fun—we have to make it exciting and enjoyable for them to engage at a level that they don't feel threatened or excluded. Those opportunities where you can bring together a very digitally-savvy designer with a very conservative traditional architect who’s thinking more linearly, is what I find really exciting in terms of what we do here at Gensler.

Sarah, you mentioned the Oculus, a technology that our firm has been using extensively for years (virtual reality and augmented reality). Most offices have VR rigs, we've got visualization components in each of our studios that enable us to explore and experiment with those tools. Specifically in construction, those technologies are actually being implemented today: we've got a lot of trade partners that I work with and some of our experts within our office who were using augmented reality to coordinate the frame up, the framing of walls, and putting all of the electrical work by overlaying the digital file in a in a physical environment through this technology. It begins to open up a whole range of possibilities but the point is that those tools have been there, those technologies have existed I think the Metaverse conversation is going to accelerate the exposure to more people around these tools and so the skepticism is just going to go away because this is going to move really really fast—you're either going to jump on board and participate, and try to impact or you're not.

SC:
Our firm has also been using the tools for years. I think now it's just becoming more of the norm.

RM:
In our Chicago office for example there's a number of designers that have an Oculus Quest sitting right next to them. It's almost like their monitor, it's just an extension of what we do. And you’re going to see more and more of that as the tools get better and as the technology becomes more seamless and more integrated. And I think the more we give access to people to these tools—through training, through education programs, through the work—I think that's the really important aspect of it. We have to make sure that we're investing the right tools, that we're developing the right training programs and that we’re building the right communities within our firms to continue sharing that knowledge. I think in the past technologists had the tendency to kind of keep their cards close to their chests. I know at Gensler we don't promote that at all—in fact, we want all of our designers to be technologists, we want them to have the capabilities to render in Netscape, to model in Rhino, to write a script in Dynamo, and I think that's where the future is. So teaching, encouraging, building community, and sharing that knowledge—that continued effort—frankly is my job on a day-to-day basis: bringing people together to have conversations about what they're doing and how we can do it better.

SC:
To add to that, I’d say that once everything is set up for the process it's not that hard to learn. Even if you're completely new to the technology, a lot of it is very user-friendly and you know once you get the hang of it you can just go. Like say if we are going to do VR with a client our firm will send the client the Oculus pre-loaded and ready to go with everything they need and all they have to do is plug it in and go—it's it it's a lot easier.

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The future of design is digital, there is no question about it.
Rolando Mendoza
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Rolando Mendoza

What does the future of design look like?

RM:
The future of design is digital, there is no question about it. Every investment that we're making today as designers has to be focused on the digital—that's going to be the new currency and there's no doubt in my mind. It would be fool-hearted to think that we're still going to be doing things on Excel or on paper. We’re not! We have to prepare ourselves for that reality because the next generation of architects and designers that are coming up they’re born with an iPad in their hands, they’re born with engaging on social media—they are the digital natives and they will demand digital.

SC:
I envision a world where we’re using all those pieces of technology that are created to help us get our job done easier. There are so many parts and pieces and fine-tuning things that we do in our job as interior designers and architects to make sure that our drawings are put out there and that they’re built exactly how we want. I'm really hoping that things will be a little bit more automated on the interior design and architecture side with technology. That way we get to spend more time actually using our creativity to bring to life amazing spaces and not thinking so much about the actual technology that we’re using—just being more seamless and direct about the design in-hand and thinking about how that design can help our community and our spaces be more unique, built maybe faster and better, and hopefully a little bit cheaper and more affordable for all. I became an interior designer to help people and I want to continue doing that with the help of technology in the background. I mean, just think about the possibilities.

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