Interview with Janine Tijou of Designhive
Designhive’s core discipline is architectural visualisation, as a leading agency in this field producing London 2012 Bid Book images and many high profile architectural projects, Designhive works independently for architects, urban masterplanners, interior designers and developers producing realistic and inspiring visions of future built environments.
CGA: Please introduce yourself to our site members.
DH: My name is Janine Tijou, I am 32 years old and one of two founding Directors of Designhive, the UK’s leading architectural visualisation experts. By using 3D imaging for architects and developers, we create images which win planning permission and sell property.
CGA: Could you tell us a bit about Designhive and your team?
DH: Designhive was formed 5 years ago by my now husband, Gareth Munro and myself. Gareth has an architectural background and had previously worked with various different architect practises in the UK including YRM, and worked extensively on many projects including Heathrow Terminal 5. My background is in marketing working with various design and marketing agencies for a range of blue chip clients creating sales promotions campaigns, branding, advertising, awareness and Point of Sale.
Designhive started from humble beginnings, we literally called around the yellow pages speaking to local architects to establish initial work and grew from there. Since starting out we have grown to a team of 12 people including 8 talented designers who have come from different backgrounds including graphic design, interior design and architectural design. As an agency based outside of London, we have been fortunate in finding some of the best talent in the industry who have joined us to work on high profile projects like Vauxhall Tower, London City Racecourse and of course, London 2012 Bid Book imagery.
CGA: Having been chosen by the IOC to be one of the few visualization firms to create animations and visualization for the 2012 London Olympic bid is quite an impressive accomplishment. Could you tell us how you were selected and what was involved in being short-listed for this project?
DH: Thank you, we are obviously thrilled to be chosen by London 2012 to supply images, which will prove an important part of the IOC’s decision. Ironically one of our very first clients was John Barrow who ran his own local practice before joining HOK and introducing us to their dedicated sports architecture team. Since then our reputation for producing high quality sport related visuals and animations has grown including various bids such as the Libya World Cup 2010 Bid animation presentation for Atkins Global which led to our invitation by London 2012 team to present and pitch for the work. This was complimented by our wealth of experience in creating visuals and animations in the sport sector.
CGA: What type of work were you asked to complete and how many images and animations did Designhive do for the IOC?
DH: The 25 images produced by Designhive for the London 2012 Olympic bid were split into two main types: the Internal Stadium Images (basketball, handball, gymnastics etc) and Existing Venues (Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park etc).
For the internal images we created a model of the internal stadium bowl (in 3ds max) varying in size depending on the capacity of each venue. This model also included the field of play, which was created from the architects overlays. The field of play and the capacity of the stadium had to be extremely accurate for London 2012, while bearing in mind that many of the stadia had not even been designed yes. That meant that we had to keep the overall look of the stadium very generic. This was achieved by concentrating the image on the crowd and sporting action.
The biggest challenge was in the post-production stage of the images. A lot of time was spent in sourcing and taking photographs of crowds, sporting action, athletes etc which needed to be manipulated in Photoshop to fit into the image and bring the initial render to life.
For the existing venues, 2012 commissioned Getty Images to take photographs of the venues. We camera-matched the photograph with the site overlay and added the 3d elements in 3ds max. As in the previous image type, the biggest challenge was in the post-production, which was done in the same way.
CGA: Can you tell us about the team that worked on the bid imagery and how they approached the task?
DH: Every member of our team is hand selected for his or her specific skills. Individual skills were dictated by the task so we chose 3 of our senior designers: Karen, Jon and Dave.
3ds Max was used for the 3d elements of images, Vray was used for rendering and Photoshop for post-production work. The project lasted around 3 months - there were 3 people working on it at all times, although at certain stages that went up to 6 people.
CGA: What type of information and briefs were you given by 2012 to complete all of the imagery and animations?
DH: The basic outline of the brief was to:Represent the sports Show the location in London using recognisable buildings/icons Brand all images with Olympic Logo, Olympic branded flags, banners, stands, perimeter fencing, bunting etc Hint at/reflect green parks in London Show the sports venue itself Direct, punchy, crisp images showing crowds/atmosphere/excitement.
Each image had its own brief that was driven by the sport involved and venue. The images had to be technically accurate - the field of play, and the venue overlay needed to be correct. These details were driven by the architect HOK Sport Venues & Events.
CGA: What kind of timeline was involved in completing all of the deliverables?
DH: 3 months was the overall timeline, during that time we had smaller deadlines that were dictated by when new photography was commissioned and weekly update meetings with the London 2012 team.
CGA: What was the biggest challenge that you faced throughout the project?
DH: Sourcing images for crowds and sport specific athletes. It was difficult to adapt images so that they didn't show any national flags or country identity - this was important since London 2012 didn't want to show any partiality towards any particular country. Another difficulty was getting the supplied artwork to fit in to the images that we used. There were strict dressing guidelines that we needed to follow.
CGA: Could you tell us a bit about a few of your favourite images/animations and let our readers know how you approached the shots and what technical workflow you used.
DH: Handball - This image was entirely CGI. It was important to know the capacity of the crowd that was required, so the model had to be modified to show the right amount of seating. This was then rendered and used as a base image for post-production work. The next step was to source images that could be used for crowds and players for the court. Extra details were added to the model and rendered separately as required ie: safety net and banners. All the images that were used for crowds etc needed to be carefully colour corrected and adjusted to fit in to the scene. Dressing ( London 2012 branding and artwork) was then added according to a strict code and made to look like part of the image. Shadows and reflections were the finishing touches to add more realism to the final image.
Mountainbiking - Started with a base photograph of a forest scene. The entire image was created in Photoshop. The difficulty was to get the cyclists and the dressing fitting in correctly with the right perspective, lighting and saturation. Lighting was challenging, as it was dappled light coming through the trees. This needed to be recreated on the cyclists and ribbons.
Indoor Volleyball - The process of creating this image was very similar to Handball.
CGA: Could you tell us a bit about your crowd shots and what was involved in creating them? Was there a lot of custom photo shoots involved?
DH: We needed to be resourceful and creative in the way we made crowds since there was no budget for custom photo shoots. It was important to make them look unique as all the images were going to be seen in one book, and we didn't want any obvious repeats. A lot of time at the beginning was spent on researching and developing ways of using the images sourced to fit this requirement. The images were sourced from Getty Images, our own private photography and our own photo library. We used a combination of many different images, and also altered colours within the crowd. It was also important to make the perspective and scale of the crowd fit the image.
CGA: What was the most rewarding part of this project?
DH: Getting the bid book and seeing the final images printed in it was very satisfying, as was seeing our images in the RIBA London 2012 exhibition, on the BBC websites and for our design team in receiving praise and gratitude for a job well done. The most rewarding thing of all would be to see the Olympic Games come to London in 2012. We truly believe that London is the best contender.
CGA: Is there any more work for Designhive in the future from the London 2012?
DH: We have already been asked to provide further images for the IOC visit, and were asked to design the RIBA exhibition of the Olympic Bid for the RIBA London head office. Following the success of this event, London 2012 are hoping to raise more sponsorship to commission Designhive to adapt the exhibition into a portable display format to tour then UK RIBA regional offices, other UK and International events and then possibly Singapore in the summer.
CGA: For any company making to the five-year mark and being able to attract jobs like those you have done for the IOC is no small feat. Could you tell us what has led to your success and how you were able to grow your team and company?
DH: I believe our success is based on being focused on servicing the architectural industry, providing consistent quality work and exploring and using the latest technologies. In addition, we concentrate on delivering what our customers need, being pro-active with every project and building long term relationships with our clients. Our business has grown from word of mouth and repeat business from happy clients who enjoy our straightforward honest approach, keen pricing and enthusiasm for good design. As directors of the company we value quality of life and sustainable business ethics which means we look after our clients, suppliers and staff and encourage a good work/life balance. We believe that this results in greater productivity and a happier, more fulfilled workforce. Clients enjoy working with us as we have a “can do” approach and we make it our business to understand their business and needs.
CGA: What is in the future for Designhive?
DH: This year is Designhives fifth anniversary, so we will be celebrating at some point! In the meantime, we will continue to do what we do best: helping our clients to sell their designs and win planning applications through producing high quality images and animations. As we develop and grow as a business we plan to remain independent, be adaptable to change in our market place and be as pro-active in learning new technologies that will help us deliver faster results and more creative solutions for our clients.
CGA: What advice would you give to other up and coming Visualization firms looking to companies such as yours?
DH: Be prepared to go the extra mile to make your clients happy, stay focused on quality, manage your clients’ expectations, speak their language, understand their business needs and be able to adapt and respond quickly to tight deadlines Respect you design team, invest in them, your IT and your customers. Be clear about where you are heading, what you are aiming to be, have a business plan, keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and how the industry is changing. Make technology work for you, be creative. Use new techniques always with a view to what your customer will gain from it.
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