Drawings That Measure Up

It’s long been said a picture paints a thousand words. Nowhere is this truer than in the kitchen and bath industry. Just as a showroom’s condition speaks volumes to the client about the professional organization, so, too, do the drawings – perhaps even more so. For this reason, ensuring that the drawings measure up is critical.

For many years, kitchen and bath professionals have invested enormous effort into their showrooms, while neglecting the next step in the process. Yet drawings tell a story, and kitchen and bath professionals must ask themselves what story their drawings tell clients about themselves and their firms.

The One-Two Punch

Without the luxury of a flawlessly appointed showroom, there is great reason to include meticulous drawings as an integral part of the client presentation, as this is likely the only tool available to showcase expertise, knowledge and experience.

Now consider a kitchen and bath dealer with the consummate showroom. Is the drawing presentation on par with the showroom, or has the flawlessly appointed showroom become an unknowing visual substitute for top quality drawings?

Today’s kitchen and bath professional must not let an impressive showroom experience be the only way to dazzle potential clients.

Rather, design professionals must seize and leverage the opportunity to offer excellent drawings as an extension of the showroom experience. Consider drawings the second half of a one-two punch certain to offer an edge over the competition and knock out prospective clients.

Size Matters

Too many of today’s kitchen and bath professionals invest thousands of dollars in CAD software, yet choose the easy route by providing output for clients on 8-1/2"x11" letter-size sheets. Sure, these are easy to fax, fit easily into standard file folders and can be printed by anyone with a standard letter-size printer. Yet why would any firm want to be known for doing things the easy way?

“Easy” should be left to the competition. Instead, clients should be made to realize how much time and effort is required to generate top-notch drawings and why they are an essential part of the process.

Thus, the 8-1/2"x11" format should be abandoned altogether for client drawing presentations. These drawings are simply too small to establish a proper view of the necessary detail required to impress clients and provide a readable road map for contractors
to follow.

Many kitchen and bath professionals supply tiny floor plan drawings that include every possible dimension under the sun. The result is a tangled maze of dimension and extension lines that form a nearly unreadable and absolutely confusing mess (see Figure 1). Sloppy presentations do not say good things about the drafting and work habits of those responsible for drawing preparation.

The Proper Equipment

One of the advantages of using a larger sheet size is the ability to convey more information and detail in a larger and more readable scale on renderings. Generally speaking, for kitchen projects, anything less than 1/2" scale is difficult to read and can be limiting when it comes to including all of the notes necessary on a thoroughly developed set of renderings ready for approval and production.

A commitment to larger format renderings will likely require an upgrade to a printer capable of handling larger media, as many kitchen floor plans at 1/2" scale may not even fit on 11"x17" paper. Of course this depends on the market. A dealer in Manhattan may do just fine on 11"x17" paper, while those who service larger homes in suburban areas will potentially need more paper space at a 1/2" scale.

It simply makes no sense to invest thousands of dollars in a software rendering package, only to run the results through a $150 desktop printer. For less than $1,000, it is possible to purchase a new ink jet printer capable of up to 18"x24" output with a much higher level of resolution than standard desktop models. In fact, many have excellent success buying factory reconditioned hardware with full warranty and tech support usually discounted 25-35%.

Alternatively, large-scale renderings can be printed by an off-site printing processor for a few projects while determinations are made regarding the ideal size output for clients and the given market, how much is in the budget for a printer/plotter and which machine is best suited for the company’s needs.

What's in aFloor Plan

The floor plan should rarely be used to indicate cabinet dimensions. The purpose of the floor plan is to show room dimensions and wall lengths, including window and door placement, elevation markers, cabinet and appliance locations, walkway clearances and manufacturer specific product nomenclature. The floor plan sheet is also where all global project notations should be shown (see Figure 2).

Accurate wall elevations are imperative. Many dealers, in an attempt to save time and effort, draft floor plans full of dimensions while bypassing wall elevations altogether. They simply create and offer to clients for approval this nearly illegible “plan,” and in most cases, with just a few clicks of the mouse, generate 3D-perspective views that are easily produced from existing floor plan geometry.

Wall elevations are an absolutely essential part of a properly prepared rendering package, illustrating all cabinet and fixture specific dimensions while providing ample room for notations specific to individual items (see Figure 3). Certainly, 3D views have their place. They are a wonderful tool to offer the client unique perspectives on the overall project showing the relation between various plan elements. Using 3Ds for construction documents or client sign-off is not recommended, however.

3D views can be difficult to scale, sometimes leaving critical details open to interpretation. It’s better to stick with a 2D floor plan and elevation scheme and save the convenience of 3D for rendering package cover sheets or computer presentations.

Be Different

Regardless of the software utilized, time should be spent in the user preferences area of the program, experimenting with and modifying the default settings. This is the perfect opportunity to begin developing a unique drawing style specific to all larger scale company drawings.

If the software allows, while setting only room-specific dimensions for floor plans, architectural ticks can be converted to arrow heads in the dimension lines.

Consider designing a custom title block within the CAD application or explore designing one in another application and importing it along with the company logo. Drafters should poke around and see what other default settings can be changed – and change as many as possible (see Figure 4).

Experimentation with different looks will promote creativity in order to disassociate a showroom from competing firms that rush through the drawing process using default program settings. If there are multiple users, company-wide drafting standards should be adopted as well as support training specific to the user preferences area of the software.

For maximum impact, every user must understand exactly how to apply the firm’s new drawing style to all plans, ensuring a uniform look from project to project. If done properly, renderings will now show an aesthetic level of artistic interpretation that gives them a truly unique personality (see Figure 5).

Brand Enhancing

These ideas offer another opportunity to refine the branding efforts of one’s marketing plan. The basic premise behind branding a business is to capture the true essence of the company and differentiate it from the competition.

With some relatively minor adjustments and a bit of time devoted to experimentation, it’s easy to acquire a unique presentation style. This new look should be consistent with mission/vision statement core values, injecting more artistic flair and creativity into rendering presentations.

All staff should refer to drawings as “renderings” rather than as “plans” or “drawings.” Clients must be made to understand the amount of time and care given to each set of renderings and their critical importance to the overall outcome of the project.

The idea here is to build value in a unique process by distinguishing one’s company from the rest: This is the very definition of branding.

Adding Detail

There is no such thing as too much detail. Renderings will ideally include all information pertinent to the project. Of course every conceivable dimension should not be thrown into floor plans; rather, everything must be relevant and neatly formatted with no sense of crowding or clutter.

Renderings should be easy to follow, portraying each project with complete accuracy and enough white space to keep clients focused on one elevation at a time, while allowing installers room to make notes. The drafter should never be afraid to add extra sheets if necessary.

Of course the level of detail will vary depending upon whether the renderings are in the preliminary or final stage, but the kitchen and bath dealer must keep in mind the ultimate goals here: to emphasize the professional has completely and thoroughly thought through this undertaking from every angle. This ensures the clients will have no doubts trusting they have selected a first-rate expert to handle the job. It is also imperative that the client, contractors and subcontractors all have the information they need to clearly understand the scope of work, and can easily tell what is and is not included in the project.

Working the Wow

Dealers and designers can play up the “wow” factor during presentations by unrolling large architectural-style renderings for clients. When these uniquely stylized renderings hit the table, they will serve as further validation to clients that they have chosen the right kitchen and bath specialist.

Another added benefit to be gained by providing exhaustive detail is clients will immediately recognize just how much hard work went into their renderings. Remember this is the first look the clients are getting at the expert craftsmanship available for their dream kitchen or bath. They likely have been waiting for this moment for many months or even years.

Accentuating the quality and extreme care apparent in elegantly drawn renderings (see Figure 6) will lead to clients’ full understanding of their project and cause confidence to soar, while simultaneously building brand value and elevating your company far above the competition. This increased level of detail will yield optimal clarity and better comprehension of ideas, resulting in a more efficient work flow for all team members from design through installation.