When I first decided to go back to school to take interior design I was twenty-nine years old. I had no idea that it would lead me to kitchen and bathroom design, nor that it would lead me to have my own firm (well, if you call a firm a task force of one designer) with my own suppliers, to instruct design and software classes, and work some pretty amazing builders as their kitchen and bath designer. When I look back at my decision seven years ago to return and go full-throttle (because I guess there is no other way) into this business, I have learned a couple of things as a professional and as a consumer. The largest change in the last seven years has been technology, I think we can all agree on that. I have tried some good software, like AutoKitchen, and there is always the AutoCAD staple, but I have never been so revolted by a software as I have with the main staple software in the K&B industry. Every day was a frustration, every hour sometimes, with the constant crashing, the design details that do not work, the dimensions that go crazy, and the custom style sheets that take hours to set up.
The indifference between design professions
There has always been a bit of a dichotomy of drafting standards between Interior Designers and Kitchen & Bath Designers because that clunky software gives the perception of low quality, poor workmanship, and lack of design education. Nothing could be farther from the truth and do I know some pretty successful and talented K&B Designers that continue hand draft. What was giving away this impression was the limited abilities of the common K&B design software out there. Now, I know some designers that are pretty successful with the software on their own, but I also know that interior designers can look down upon the profession because the software because of the dirty quality. Salesmanship a side, I do not care what software you use as long as you are successful at what you do.
Personally, I had always preferred to use AutoCAD but couldn't afford it, so one day when I was frustrated with that junky software I turned quickly to SketchUp to solve my problems. You see, when I first started using SketchUp when it was in its infancy many years ago, I absolutely did not think that it could elevate kitchen and bath designers to a new level, let alone could it elevate me professionally to a new level. But it did.
Dawn of the new K&B designer
About a year ago, I was asked if I would teach in the Kitchen & Bath Diploma program at Vancouver Community College. Having become the first graduate to become a Certified Member of the NKBA, serve as a local Chapter Officer, conduct study groups, become a lucky Brizo Blogger 19 member, meet some pretty amazing pro's in a few short years, and a not-so-recent Google SketchUp win-over, I asked what software we would be teaching. "Whatever you want, Corey." was the answer I received.
Before I selected Google SketchUp as the software, I had to carefully consider where the students enrolled in the program wanted to end up. There were two options:
1. Cabinet Dealer Showroom
2. Independent Designer
3. Design/Build Firm
Last week I polled the students in my class on where they wanted to end up at the end of the program. 100% of them did not want to work in a Cabinet Dealer Showroom.
Do not mis-understand me here, cabinet dealerships are the bread and butter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association's beginnings. I just think that these students have it clear in their head that they want to design without limits and they want to be in charge of their own destiny. I commend them all, and I am overjoyed that I selected to teach Google SketchUp as the primary drafting software instead of 20-20 Design.
SketchUp In your Workflow
Part of the reason why I like Google SketchUp so much is because of it's ability to act like a graphic presentation software, modeling software, CAD software, and presentation software all in one. I'm pretty specific on my presentation packages (no, I will not share them because it is my trade secret) but to be able to digitally present a design or a concept is exactly where we are going as a profession. Yeah, yeah, other software allows you to do somewhat of the same thing in front of the client, but have you ever tried to change something really quickly when you are in front of them? Impossible with hand drafting, forget it with AutoCAD, but with Google SketchUp you can quickly make changes as your making the presentation. Not only is this cool, but it shortens your sales cycle and is pretty darn impressive.
If you are already use to a certain design software, the learning curve is not that difficult. In fact, you could jump into one of the classes at Vancouver Community College or elsewhere, hire a private tutor, or hire a professional to develop a lesson package for you and your team.
Clearly I am biased toward the design aesthetic, and not the sales objective, but I truly believe that the sale comes through in your professionalism and ability to communicate clearly with your client and trades. It is a hyper confidence boost knowing that I understand every inch/millimeter of the space before construction begins, and with Google SketchUp in my pocket I have every bit of confidence that I have done that.