Projects + Award = Rewarding

Recently I did some design consulting for friends as they renovated a wonderful historic building for use as a brew-pub. With my current full-time commitment to teaching I rarely have an opportunity to engage in many design projects. Luckily, my friends are the owners of  the building and the brewing operation and they are talented, creative people, who did not need much help from me, so,  I was able to offer suggestions and provide some space planning for the projects, which was a great fit for my crazy schedule.

One day the owners mentioned they needed a quick rendering for some stakeholders and I was very busy with some other work. I tried to render a SketchUp model I’d done for the project but it was slow going due to the vintage nature of the materials and I was running out of time. I decided to try taking a photograph and “Photoshopping it” creating a collage and placing a bar in the proposed location. I sort of drew the bar by taking a sample of the existing wall wainscoting using the Skew Tool in Photoshop  (we planned to re-used the wainscoting for the bar face so it was a reasonable choice).  I also used the same method to add a lighter wood top.

I decided to use this method to help decide if we should retain the finish of a wall that had many layers of paint and had developed a pretty great patina. The images below show the photograph I used and two versions of the quick rendering. At this time we were also reviewing whether to place chalkboard on the wall as shown in the images.



Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 5.53.53 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-17 at 5.56.26 PM

I had been fooling around in SketchUp for two hours and was worried that by taking the time to aim for a realistic rendering done in SketchUp with a rendering plug-in, I would run out of time. In desperation, I just starting playing around with Photoshop and in 20 minutes (maybe less)  I had several options to show the owner and the quick nature of it worked just fine given where we were with the project.

Another rewarding thing occured recently: I was named to the Design Intelligence list of admired educators.

New Edition | What’s New?

Mitton_Cover Final IDVP5

I’m happy to say that the 5thedition of Interior Design Visual Presentation was officially published earlier this month (May, ’18). The publication is the culmination of two years of work and it is a wonderful feeling to have it published.

Occasionally people ask me why it is necessary to write new editions, and in my case the answer is that in terms of digital presentation things change dramatically over a 3-5 year period.

The first edition contained almost completely analog work: everything was done by hand –renderings, sample boards, models –everything. With subsequent editions, digitally generated items were included in ever increasing quantities. So, as I set out to work on the 5thedition, I had to decide if I should include analog work such as sketches, renderings, models, and sample boards created by hand. After giving it some thought, and talking to a number of designers, I decided this edition shouldinclude work done by hand particularly drawing and rendering because the ability to sketching continues to be a useful in design practice.

It is important to note that of all the analog skills, quick sketching rises to the top as the most important in daily practice. The ability to get an idea quickly out of one’s head and on to paper continues to be very important. This is true for idea generation (ideation) and for sharing with team members or clients. Quick marker rendering can make sketches more readable and therefore, quick rendering continues to be a useful skill.

Because I see the book as a broad overview of communication methods, I included significant instruction in hand drawing/sketching, rendering, model making and board construction. The book also includes digital means for creating drawings, sketches, models and boards because design practice makes use of these. In fact, digital modeling, rendering, fabrication, and 3D printing have altered design practice and skills in these areas are required for design graduates.

Use of virtual reality, laser cutters/engravers, 3D printers and highly realistic digital rendering are all commonplace and therefore their inclusion is necessary.

This edition has a continued focus on SketchUp used for modeling and rendering due to its universal use and reasonable learning curve. I also continued coverage of Photoshop in rendering for the same reasons. SketchUp is covered in greater detail than the previous edition and some new Photoshop techniques are also covered. There is also information about how to prepare various files for use in 3D printing and virtual reality.

I continue to see this book as a broad overview of interior design visual communication –rather than a deep dive into any one area and hopefully, I have achieved that with the new edition. The instruction in “quick sketching” includes that done by hand and SketchUp, in the hopes of providing students and professionals the skills needed for quick “go to” communication techniques. This is done with the full knowledge that BIM related skills are also important for today’s designers –yet the addition of that content would make the book far too long and complicated.

My statement in the introduction to the 5thedition offers this:

“In completing this edition, I once again came to the the conclusion that while much has changed since the first edition—particularly related to digital technology. Many things have stayed the same particularly regarding the process of design and the complex, yet flexible ways of thinking required of a professional designer. This continues to be a profession populated by bright, creative individuals who are required to call upon a broad range of talents and skills in everyday practice. While technology has made many things easier –and faster– today’s designers are required to know more and to possess more skills than at any time previously. I hope this book will help today’s designers in their acquisition of some of the many skills required in current practice.”

Press release from my university regarding the publication.


Time Flies + Photoshop Rendering


It has been six months since my last post — I’ve been busy!

The summer months were spent working on the 5th edition of Interior Design Visual Presentation. I made the early September deadline and then went back for a busy fall semester at school. What a whirlwind!

Working on a new edition of the presentation book involves checking out what is going on in the design world; this means spending time visiting design firms and trying to catch up with current practice. I learn so much from doing this because my work as an instructor tends to keep me in the classroom and meetings for most of the school year –getting out there to see what is really going on is fascinating.

So what’s new? Mostly technology and speed. By this I mean that the big-picture process of design has not changed but the way that process is facilitated has evolved as technology has evolved. BIM, modeling and digital imagining software has changed professional practice and has led to expectations that projects move very quickly through design (and construction).

Most larger architecture and design studios are using Revit; AutoCAD is used in some firms along (with additional drawing/modeling software).  Many firms have moved away from physical presentation boards to digital presentations. 3D printing and digital fabrication have changed the way scale models are made. And, while Revit rendering is increasingly common, many firms supplement that with SketchUp and Photoshop rendering. Interstingly, some firms create fully detailed Revit models and export those into SketchUp to create quick color and detail studies. Similarly some firms use Photoshop to render images created in CAD/BIM software.

Several design firms I met with indicated that they find that the speed and ease of working with SketchUp and Photoshop renderings allows them to create multiple approaches for clients. Turning layers on and off in both SketchUp and Photoshop can be used to show clients varying options.

Examples of this are shown below with two floor finish options that can be displayed by toggling on/off the appropriate floor plan layers.



c07f018aOn the top is a floor plan option with the wood floor added as a pattern. The plan below has a different lighter wood floor visible. This was done by using an adjustment layer following the steps below and illustrated above

1 Go to the Layer (in the Layer Palette) that contains the material or color to be changed and make a selection by clicking on the black and white L­­ayer Mask.

2 Click on the Create a New Layer Icon and select “Hue/Saturation” from the drop down menu. The Hue/Saturation option brings up hue sliders that are used to change the hue (color).

With the new lighter floor hue selected the layer containing the darker floor can be turned off (click the eye icon to the left of the layer palette).

The 5th edition will focus on use of “Pattern Fills” to render in Photoshop rather than “Pasting-In” images. A Pattern Fill layer is created by clicking on the round “Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer” icon and selecting “Pattern”. With Pattern selected for the new layer, the last Pattern created is automatically pasted into the selection. However, the lever to the right of the pattern icon (outlined in yellow) can be used to scroll to other patterns. Also a scale device in the pattern window allows for the pattern to be scaled prior to insertion. I like having the option of scaling the pattern here while rendering  -it is a quick, easy option.



I just returned from another trip to Chicago for NeoCon. For those not familiar,  NeoCon is a giant  trade event for commercial interior design.

Furniture, materials/finishes, fixtures  –all manner of items that exist within commercial space are displayed. Its great fun to see what and how manufacturers are focusing on for current and future products. The showroom design is always of interest to me.

Things I noticed this year:

  •   Felt, felt, felt. Lots and lots of felt. With a huge focus on acoustics. This includes modular block systems, woven screen-like walls, and screens (lots of beautiful screens). I also saw felt incorporated onto desk surfaces and in tiny little woven screens and baffles to put on top of desks.IMG_7608


  •    Huge back to the 1970’s vibe in color and materials. Very: macrame meets mod.


  • Modular seating systems with a casual vibe.


  • Enclosures of various types: felt/upholstered enclosures and pads around seating  and lots “rooms within a room” to create private zones and focus spaces. 




  • Modular banquette seating was also big.
  • Screens, many screens, many felt screens! And, metal, and acrylic and all manner of screens.IMG_7791img_7576.jpg

I made it to my favorite Chicago coffee shop every morning, which made the entire event better.

img_7543-e1497645766466.jpgSoon, I hope to tag all of these images with the manufacturer’s information but that will take awhile…need more coffee.


IMG_6966.jpgI just made a quick trip to Chicago to attend a Council for Interior Design Accreditation Workshop (CIDA), and the Interior Design Educators Council Conference (IDEC).

It was fantastic to spend time in Chicago — a vibrant city filled with amazing architecture, great food, a mix of cultures and great  art. Because I was traveling alone (for the most part) I was able to do quite a bit of exploring and followed my own whims for sightseeing and dining apart from the conference and workshop activities.

Highlights of my visit, which was primarily in the River North Area:

Spent an entire day at the  Art Institute of Chicago, where I lucked into a velvet exhibit (photo below) and was able to visit with some great art and design (more photos)




IMG_7046 (1)


I stopped in and snacked at establishments run by famous TV chefs:

Frontera Grill:  (good!)

Eataly:  (quite an array of things to eat, buy and look at)

I also happened into Ramen San: (good!)

And, found really good coffee –like  being in Italy! Café Umbria

It was great to become reacquainted with the Marina City project and I became obsessed with taking picture of it (top +bottom photo).

All in all an amazing time in an amazing place. Here is a link to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for more information about architecture/design in Chicago.



Out With The Old…year.


On my last day on campus in late December, I ran into these two obstacles within seconds of each other.

A pink Christmas tree is something you do not run into very often in a small midwestern town and it is even less common to find a vacuum cleaner sitting the in the middle of the sidewalk. At the time the two items made me laugh so I took photos of them.

Now that I find myself writing this in the new year of 2017, it occurs to me that this is somewhat symbolic. How? The pink tree reminds me of all the trappings of the holidays and the vacuum cleaner is poised to tidy the whole mess up. Maybe this is what New Year’s resolutions are: a way to clean up our messes and move on.

I’m on the fence about resolutions, I like the idea of starting anew  however:

According to Wikipedia: “The most common reason for participants failing their New Years’ Resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.

Rather than focus on resolutions this year, I am trying to tell myself to focus on the clean up idea represented by the vacuum and will aim for cleaning up some of the messy parts of my own life.

The giant elephant in the room (wish I could find one of those on the sidewalk sometime), is the political upheaval that will take place with the inauguration later this month. Given that anyone arriving here is probably not looking for political commentary, I will keep my comments short. However,  as may be evidenced by work in my book Residential Interior Design, I am committed to inclusive design, and sustainable design so it is not a stretch to imagine that I am troubled that recent progress on climate change and creating a more inclusive society are threatened by the incoming administration. I am deeply troubled by the lack of civility, and the corrosion of fact-based-decision making. So how to proceed?

Keep focused, stay informed and be ready to clean up messes!

For my international readers all I can say for now is that not all Americans agree with the orange one and we are going to do what we can to keep things moving forward.

Fall Here Now

img_6299I live pretty far north (comparatively) and up here we are in full fall color now. I took this photo on a recent, evening walk in my neighborhood.

All this beauty, means a couple of things: 1. I am busy at school! 2. Winter is headed for us and bringing with it snow, cold, short days and long nights. Winter brings my focus inside and I hope to get some solid work done on a book project I am working on. Let’s see if I can get myself to stay focused on this project and not fall down a giant rabbit-hole of Netflix this winter!

More “Old-School” Rendering


Recently I found this old hand-drawn rendering at my university. The rendering is in very rough shape after years of wasting away in a drawer. This appears to be a perspective drawing of a people mover system and station that was printed on “brown line” diazo* paper. While the paper is faded and torn, the initial excellent drawing and rendering continue to serve the design well and I find that this old-school approach can offer hints for current digital rendering and presentation.

Looking at the image, we see that the renderer was quite successful in using minimal media to create an excellent rendering. The rendering is created by making use of the light brown colored paper as a medium value and background, with pops of lighter colors such as white and very light blue –and pops of very dark marker areas and dark lines to define dark values and details. It appears chalk pastels in blue, gray and brown were used to depict light buildings and forms in the background. Minimal orange and gold marker areas are added for graphics and painted surfaces.

What can we learn from this?

1   We understand the forms that create the design without the drawing being hyper-realistic. Less can be more -even in digital rendering.

2 The use of white highlights to visually enhance the forward portions of objects and buildings is highly useful! Using white on the forward edges of elements gives the impression of light hitting the surface and creating a highlight. I would guess that the white is create using gauche paint (on a tiny brush) and white chalk pastels.

3 Notice the delicate use of black ink line weights. The forward portions of objects are depicted with light black lines and as the forms recede this is depicted with bolder, heavier black lines. Such a lovely balance of light and heavy lines.

4 Black marker areas are nicely balanced with lighter areas on object, helping the rendering read well in terms of value contrast.

5 The judicious use of bright color –using the same orange and gold color repeatedly creates good color balance.

I wanted to share this because I love these old-school renderings, I think this is a great one and I did not want it to waste away without being noticed. And, I do think we can bring some of these techniques to our hand drawn quick sketches as well as digital renderings.

This rendering was probably done by a former teacher, or visiting design professional at my university long before my time there. If anyone reading this knows the creator of this rendering, please let me know!

*Brown line diazo prints are a brown version of a blue line print. For those not familiar with this process, in the olden days (from the 1940s to 1980s) this type of printing was common. In this method, designers drew original line drawings on velum or mylar and these were printed using a chemical process. Use of this method was replaced by large format photocopies in the late 1980s

Marker Rendering: “Gelly Roll”* Pen For Highlights!


Recently a student introduced me to using a white “Sakura Gelly Roll Pen” for highlights in hand rendering, and I found this to be an excellent tool, so I will share some related information here.

Previously, for hand rendering,  I had used white “Prismacolor Premier” colored pencil for highlights and white/light areas. These are my overall favorite  colored pencils for hand rendering as they lay down the most color when full coverage is desired. I often use these white colored pencils to create sharp white highlights on edges (say they edge of a table or granite counter), I also use them to wash over larger areas of marker to lighten portions of objects and interiors.  IMG_5843

The “Gelly Roll Pen” seems to work better than colored pencils for creating sharp edges and smaller highlighted areas. Below I have an image of lines drawn in Gelly Roll Pen over dark brown marker —hopefully you can observe the sharp white lines even with this quick iPhone photo.


One of students in my summer class, the very talented Mao Vang, did a fantastic rendering of a whimsical chair and used the Gelly Roll Pen for the highlights —again this is a quick phone photo that does not do her work justice but it conveys the idea. (In person the rendering is more subtle and delicate than this image portrays).

Also included is a photo of her un-rendered line drawing of the chair. Mao used the quick sketch perspective method outlined in my book Interior Design Visual Presentation to develop the line drawing.


Whimsical Chair Rendering, by Mao Vang


Whimsical Chair Perspective Line Drawing, by Mao Vang

Hand rendering is a skill that continues to come in handy in this age of digital rendering and the skills learned from working by hand can translate nicely into rendering using Photoshop and Illustrator software.

Below is a link to a packet of “Gelly Roll Pens” on Amazon —you can also pick up single pens at most craft stores. A link to Prismacolor pencils on Amazon is also below. I hope to discuss hand rendering a bit more in future posts.

Sakura White “Gelly Roll Pen” (pack) on Amazon:

White “Prismacolor Premier” Pencil on Amazon:

*This is a brand name for a white gel pen that is pretty inexpensive and works for me, there are others that are quite good as well. Also, back in the old days we used white gouache paint on little tiny brushes to create white highlights (I am going to post an example of that in the future).