Q&A: KAIA’s 3D Designer Nick Smith

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring

Durban-based 3D designer Nick Smith chatted to us about his design inspirations and the real difference between 3D renderings and photography.

How did you get into 3D design?

While studying for my national diploma in interior design I was introduced to Autodesk 3D Max (3D software) by a close family friend who is also in the 3D industry and fell in love with the idea of creating what most people think are photos, in a completely virtual world.

It was a case of countless hours of practice, watching tutorials online and gaining as much knowledge about the software as I possibly could. I think what helped massively was that after I qualified from DUT I went straight into a 3D artist role and focused solely on honing my 3D skills and really making a career out of it.

What do you think is the biggest difference between photographs and 3D renders?

I think for marketing imagery for the home improvement industry (kitchen, bedroom and bathroom), the biggest difference is cost. For example, in the past when a kitchen company wanted to create a brochure, each kitchen would need to be built first, which includes costs for materials and labour, delivery and transportation, and so on. Then they’d need to hire a stylist and an art director and purchase all the furniture and prop elements for the shoot, all before a photographer is even hired to take the photos.

With CGI, there is no waiting for prototypes to be manufactured, meaning product can get to market sooner. The best aspect of 3D rendering is its accumulative nature, i.e. when clients need to update their brochures in line with current design trends, we can take the already built space and change colours or restyle without the cost of building a whole new kitchen to be photographed.

Do you follow strict briefs for each project that you do or are there architects and designers that inspire you?

It all depends on the client and the type of job we are working on. For architectural visualisation, the design of the building or space is what needs to be represented as accurately as possible and we can’t stray too much from what the client has designed. However, for property marketing and room set images we are generally shown mood boards and concept boards of what the client has in mind before going away to develop the design to meet their expectations.

As for inspiration, I don’t have a favourite architect or designer as such, but visual imagery of current trends in design keeps me inspired. Great sites that keep the creative juices flowing are VISI, Contemporist, Freshome, Dezeen, Designmilk and Mocoloco.

Tell us about the latest project you’ve been working on in Nigeria.

The first two images in the above gallery are examples of the work we’ve produced for a new multipurpose development near Abuja in Nigeria. We were asked to create imagery showing the first phase of the development. We were given full creative freedom for the interior design for this project and decided that we didn’t want to play it too safe. Keep an eye out on the KAIA website for updates regarding this project, as there are more images currently being worked on…

Browse our gallery for more examples of 3D renderings designed by KAIA.