We're Standing at The Intersection of Art and Technology

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We’re in the middle of an incredible technological revolution. But this revolution goes deeper than just the amazing new gadgets and tools that are available to designers every day. The way designers and customers interact and communicate is being fundamentally changed by this new technology. Designers today are standing at the intersection between art and technology.

Today’s technology is easier to use than ever, and because of that, it can really enhance the creative qualities of a designer. Because of how connected the technology is, it can also change the way you express your creativity. This month, let’s take a look at some technologies that can help you be creative and communicate better in your showroom.

Update the classic portfolio

Any good designer or design firm should have a portfolio of their work. When a new customer comes in, you take it out, flip through the pages and talk about the designs. The idea behind this is solid, but there’s a much more up-to-date way to implement it.

If you haven’t heard of Houzz, you’ll want to check it out after reading this. Houzz is basically a “Facebook” for remodelers and designers. A designer or firm can create a free Houzz profile with your name, address and phone number. You also upload pictures of your projects. Each picture gets tagged by you with a description, style and other pertinent information. You can organize your pictures into albums or projects.

Once all of your pictures are loaded in, you can show off your new virtual portfolio right from the Houzz Web site. Houzz also has a fantastic iPad app that can be used to display your pictures. (Pro tip: If you have a TV in your showroom, you can beam pictures from the iPad to the screen easily.) Having your portfolio on your iPad can be much more portable and interactive than a traditional one.

What’s even better is you can easily send the customer home with that portfolio. Include a link to your Houzz profile (or have it on your Web site) on your business card so they can look at your projects later.

As an added bonus, by being on Houzz, you now are part of a database of remodelers. Potential customers on the Internet who are looking to remodel are driven to your Houzz page. Since Houzz knows who you are, and where you are, customers are given local results. Houzz, being a social network, allows customers to interact with your portfolio. They can ask questions and receive answers from you and the experts on your staff.

It’s a great update to the classic portfolio. It accomplishes all the same things as the original printed one, and at the same time allows you to have a great digital footprint and expand the level of interaction with your customers.

Idea Board

Remember back in design school when you’d make those design boards? They were fantastic! Bits of fabric, tile, woodgrain and paint color along with a sketch of the room could really convey your creative ideas well. It’s the next best thing to actually remodeling the room!

After school, the reality is that the average designer just doesn’t have the time to put these wonderful boards together. Most likely, you probably head to a jobsite or client meeting with an armload of samples that you spread out on the table.

But thanks to an online service called Olioboard, your whimsy and creativity can be expressed again in the same way you did with those idea boards, only this time it’s digital and social! Olioboard allows you to create “idea boards” by dragging and dropping fabrics, colors, appliances, furniture and just about anything else onto a blank canvas. The tools allow you to flip, rotate, color and manipulate your idea board in about any way you want. You can browse from a giant database of curated pictures, or even upload your own.

Idea boards that used to take hours now can be created in minutes. Best of all, they can be emailed to clients ahead of time. This allows designers to iterate on their designs much faster than before. Imagine how happy clients would be if you could go over three or four color schemes for their kitchen remodel before even meeting them in person!

Since Olioboard is a social community, you can browse other idea boards as well. This is great for getting inspiration and keeping up on the latest trends. A simple search for “blue room” or “fall theme” can reveal tons of idea boards that you can use as inspiration for your next project.

learn to adapt

For years, designers and remodelers have employed many tried and true techniques to keep their businesses successful. With all of this new technology available, I think it’s really important to not let go of what works, but to adapt it to fit with all of these changes. What was a good idea 10 or 20 years ago may still be a good idea today, it’s just the implementation may be different.

For more ideas about how to merge design and technology, check KBDN’s “Art + Science: How Contemporary Design & Cutting Edge Technology Can Increase Profits & Resonate With Today’s New Clients” seminar series, where I will be speaking with Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, CAPS, about important synergies between art and technology and how these synergies can make your business more profitable (see related story, Page 12). The all-day seminar will be held in Pittsburgh later this month, followed by Mahwah, NJ (May 23), Minneapolis (June 20), Boston (September 26), Chicago (October 17) and Atlanta (November 14).


Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD, has been an innovator in design and 3D technology for many years. He has worked with Kraftmaid, Google, Masco and many other prominent companies in the kitchen and bath industry teaching Google Sketchup, speaking about technology, and writing about innovations in technology.