In today’s high-tech world, the creative process can be victimized. The inspiration and creative flow of art and design do not naturally fare well in a fast-paced world. However, coexisting is imperative to survival.
To meet the needs of modern homeowners and designers, software developers have not only made the design process easy and fast, they’ve provided artistic elements that creative souls could once have only dreamed of. The result has been a match so successful that many kitchen and bath designers could not imagine functioning today without design software at their fingertips.
“Designing beautiful spaces fast is important to grow business,” stresses Karen Curtis, director, marketing, 2020 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. And, she says, 2020 leads the way when it comes to providing software designers rely upon to create these spaces.
It’s not just design that today’s software influences, but also the ability to connect the process with budgets, measurements, invoices and all of the business elements as well. That can make for a faster, more efficient sell to the customer.
“Software helps the salesperson sell the job a little faster, and maybe even upsell with the client,” notes Scott Harris, CKBD, v.p., Chief Architect in Coeur d’Alene, ID.
Adds Keith Tobias, CEO of operateIT, “Properly designed business software lends a multitude of advantages to both kitchen and bath designers, and dealers.” operateIT provides SEN NMS business software for SEN Design Group members.
“From the designer’s perspective, the primary advantages are accuracy and speed, which means increased sales due to software efficiencies. Designers simply don’t need to spend as much time on each stage of the sales and design cycles as they have in the past,” he explains.
“Professional presentations create a strong and confident relationship with clients,” adds Ken Frye, executive project manager, KCD Software in South Yarmouth, MA. “Software designs can be changed quickly to give customers choices.”
And, he adds, today’s software saves extra steps, which saves time and money. “Creating anything from scratch takes time, and companies need to find ways to be more competitive. Software is affording these options through lean manufacturing options.”
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The biggest “wow” factor software today provides is a visual experience for clients so they can truly see what their finished room will look like, observes Tobias. Most current customers are comfortable using technology.
“People want to see immediately what they will get…and now you can show them,” he stresses. “Using touch screens to drag, drop and move products around a kitchen is not only impressive, but also shows the client that you are innovative. They can see your creativity and design abilities on the spot and immediately are drawn to your ideas.
“Incorporating technology into the sale is one way that will make an impression on clients and take away the fear and uncertainty many people have when it comes to remodeling a kitchen or bathroom,” he continues. “Let’s face it – we’re all selling an intangible product.”
Frye agrees: “Selling a customer $15,000 worth of cabinets sight unseen can be a hard sell. But, with cabinet software, the designer can show them what they are buying, and incorporate custom, one-of-a-kind touches to accommodate what they like and need.”
Curtis also notes the improvement in renderings that deliver the wow factor to the client. “Rendering capabilities have incredible realism to show manufacturer products, lighting effects, realistic textures, paint colors and more,” she comments.
Today’s design software often draws from thousands of manufacturer product catalogs to create renderings that accurately depict what the finished product will look like.
“This provides the client a realistic view of their space, and helps them make decisions quickly and confidently,” states Curtis.
“The ease of creating 3-D models and photo-realistic renderings can help sell designs much faster to consumers,” adds Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD, a leading authority on technology impacting the kitchen and bath industry, and a KBDN columnist. “When a consumer can immediately understand what they’re buying through a 3-D model, that purchase decision becomes a lot easier.”
He adds that more and more consumers are demanding 3-D and even photo-realistic views of their kitchens before purchase. “If you look at many of the home remodeling shows, they use 3-D to show what a space could look like after a remodel. Consumers are increasingly asking for, and are comfortable with, computer-generated models of their purchase. As designers we should learn, embrace and use these tools.”
According to Frye, today’s software has more built-in, ready-to-go options. “With hundreds of doors, custom design libraries, hardware, molding, wood product libraries, etc., it’s a snap to engage your customers with beautiful 3-D renderings,” he stresses. “We live in a ‘now’ world, and speed is everything.”
He adds that cabinet software is getting faster and easier by being more specific to the industry. “Images can be easily shared with customers through email in a PDF format,” he explains.
SketchUp Pro also allows designers to draw lines and shapes and stretch, copy, rotate and paint anything they like, turning them into 3-D forms. Models can then be turned into animated walkthroughs and flyovers that showcase every detail.
2020 also offers its 360° panorama feature. “The designer can provide the client with an immersive 3-D experience that makes them feel like they are right inside the new design – while sitting at home,” stresses Curtis. “The client receives a link via email and they can open it in a web browser or on a mobile device and share it with friends and family!
“Providing photo-realistic renderings is sure to impress clients, but add in a 360-degree panoramic view using virtual reality glasses offered by 2020 Design and you have the wow factor,” says Curtis. “The client feels as if they are standing in their new space and can turn in a circle to see every angle.”
With options like 3D Viewer from Chief Architect, a full model can be sent to the client so they can experience it with virtual reality. “You can go into the room’s design and zoom in, navigate around – you can view it in any way you want,” offers Harris.
The client can experience this with a phone or tablet as well. “You can hold up your device and just look around. The great part is that, unlike with a virtual reality headset, you can experience this with your spouse or other person,” he adds.
The ability to use software on phones and tablets has changed the way designers do business, making the job a truly mobile one.
“As far as 3-D design software goes, we can now use mobile devices to bring 3-D models with us to show clients right in the home,” Schimelpfenig reports. “We can also message on the go, and even collect money out in the field from customers very easily.”
He adds that, right around the corner, there are new technologies emerging that will allow the use of augmented reality to visualize what a space looks like.
Sarah Daniele, CEO and co-founder, Mydoma Studio in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, notes that augmented reality is an increasing topic of interest in the design world. “This is a powerful tool that can significantly change the way design projects are executed – from how custom cabinetry will look to furniture pieces,” she stresses. “We hear over and over again from the customer: ‘I can’t imagine how it will all look in my space when it’s done.’ Augmented reality will work with our existing devices, such as tablets and phones, and clients will no longer need to struggle with having to imagine the space.”
While much of the software geared to kitchen and bath professionals is about the design aspect, software for business operations is also critical for success.
The latest innovations in business management software are not necessarily high-tech, but the benefits achieved are tremendous, notes Tobias. “From the ease of use to well-created estimates that a designer can print out for their client, today’s innovation provides streamlined efficiencies that you simply cannot put a price tag on. It’s the simplicity, flexibility and increased interoperability of today’s platforms that is innovative alone.”
SEN NMS can provide very structured workflows, according to Tobias, allowing the designer to walk the homeowner through a methodical, consistent sales process. “This leads to an increased sales cycle pace, fewer deviations and fewer mistakes,” he stresses.
“Proposals and contracts are based on the design details. The cost relationship to the design helps everyone to see the big picture,” offers Frye. “What the customer wants may not match what they can afford. Important decisions can be made to exclude specific items and a new proposal can be instantly created to balance the design-to-budget ratio. Offering choices through software provides affordable options without running potential customers away.”
“There is a direct correlation between a happy client and a successful project,” emphasizes Daniele. “It’s one thing to have a beautiful and functional space at the end of a project but, most importantly, the process throughout the project must be positive.
“As a designer, you’re expected to be able to create beautiful spaces, but no one holds you accountable to your process,” she continues. “Software can play a big role in creating a cohesive process that truly ‘wows’ the client and leads to referrals and repeat business.”