Interviews

By Jeff Mottle

Women in Arch Viz - Keely Colcleugh

 

Suzhou competition for Kevin Daly Architects

Tell us about your current role and what you are doing in the industry.

I am the founder and CEO of a creative studio called Kilograph in LA. We are about 25 people creating communication design materials for the architecture, real estate development, and entertainment industries. Our products range from illustrations, animations and virtual reality experiences to branding, interactive design and signage design projects.

What was the path you took to get where you are today and was this always the role you thought you would have? What was your dream job as a kid and why?

I worked as an architect for a number of years, left to work in visual effects, and then found my way back to architecture via communication design and related fields. When I was a kid my dream job was to be an architect. My father wanted to be an architect at one point so I heard a lot about this profession growing up. That and I always loved to draw and build things.

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

Best decision - starting my own company. Worst decision - tie between dropping out of college with a full scholarship to pursue a job opportunity or starting my own company with an infant at home.

Based on our industry survey, women still only represent 7% of the industry.  Do you have any thoughts on this, how it can be changed, and if it will be changed in the foreseeable future.

We need to move from an industry that focuses too heavily on process and software settings to one that is more creative. There are no shortage of female concept artists and architects. There is no reason this should be in the case in arch viz other a possible over-focus on tech. Design and art are not given the same priority in the broad discourse and education of arch viz artists as render settings. The further we push as an industry away from creative innovation to a numbers and style game, the fewer women, and talented artists in general, will be attracted to the profession. 

Suzhou competition for Kevin Daly Architects

Name three other women, who are not working in this industry, that impacted your work artistically and/or the path you took to get where you are today. [include links if applicable]

Paula Scher, Zaha Hadid, Petra Blaise


Paula Scher
 

Zaha Hadid


Zaha Hadid


Paula Scher


Petra Blaise

Petra Blaise

 

What motivates/inspires you the most?

Challenges that require creative risk to uncertain outcomes. Basically every exciting job we've had.

What lessons have you learned in your career to date that you think would benefit others in the field?

Your voice is important and needs to be heard if you want to be a creative partner with your clients. Mean what you say at all times (don't ever say what you think a client wants to here). You may lose some business contracts but you'll keep the good ones.

Suzhou competition for Kevin Daly Architects

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Empower leaders to rise within your organization (even if it feels like loss of control at first) they will lead you to longer term success. 

What has been your proudest achievement in business to date?

Thriving as an office and growing to over 20 employees in 7 years. Getting the opportunity to work with groups impacting the future of cities: from public transit to autonomous vehicles,  and seeing our work as a central piece in these discussions. On a more technical level - getting our first contract for a fully immersive 6DOF VR experience with a major clothing retailer. We gently pushed them from more traditional visualization requests to this medium as it seemed like the perfect solution to their problem. It paid off and we continuing to develop content for them.  Seeing the entire client team completely engrossed in the virtual experience for the first time was fascinating. Design decisions were getting made and everyone had a "holy shit this is real" moment.

What other artistic pursuits or creative outlets do you pursue outside of your day to day work?  

I am on the board of the Architecture and Design museum of Los Angeles and very involved with the museum's mission to engage and outreach to the community at large. Much of our time is devoted to supporting, fundraising, and helping with important initiatives related to the design community in LA and it is incredibly fulfilling. I am also working on a few side projects exploring the potential of VR for more personal architectural narratives. 

Where do you see the industry going?  Does it look significantly different from where it is today? If so, how?

I think the industry is at a difficult point. The barrier to entry in arch viz is very low compared to other industries which creates a huge pool of vendors without standards of practice. Architects also have increasingly more capability to create resolved renderings in-house. We have seen this happening slowly over the years but with more intensity in the past two years where it is either ultra low-end or ultra high-end that is left for still renderings. The middle is gone unless there is an unrealistic deadline to accomplish or renderings come "packaged" with other deliverables.

Film, creative VR, full marketing / branding packages will live on but only if archviz re-asserts itself as a creative partner solution instead of the "renderer". 

Please name five artists, creatives or business people (outside of the archviz industry) who have inspired you.

Florence Knoll, Wim Wenders, Bruce Mau, Patti Smith, Barbara Bestor

Please name five artists within the industry you think have influenced your own work or have influenced the industry?

Matthew Bannister, Trond Greve, Eric de Broches des Combes , Peter Guthrie.

As a women do you feel you had to work harder or do anything differently than your male counterparts to get where you are today?

Not work harder, just be more serious on the job. It has been a very tough road starting your own company and raising a family but I don't know how different it would have been if I were a man, maybe the same?

What advice would you give women thinking about entering into the arch viz industry?

Please do! We need more of you!

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you as it pertains to working in this industry?

I think the challenges are going away every day. The next generation is more computer literate, code literate, has rarely experienced any obstacles based on their sex. The obstacles I would see are the same that pertain to the next generation of men - decreasing value for still renderings, more competition from all around the world, a need to assert the relevance of "art" in the industry of arch viz. It is more difficult in the US with so little priorty given to art education, funding etc.. Here Europe will be at an advantage.

Where do you envision yourself 10 years from now? What are you doing and what did you do to get there?

Working on projects that promote innovative design communication at all scales (from signage design to app development and videos with a human connection), for all communities. Taking on work regardless of fee if it fits within our mission statement.

Please take one of your favorite projects and walk us through the piece from start to finish.  

Kol Emeth - Animation, Stills, 6DOF VR, 

Kol Emeth was a project for a new Synagogue in Paolo Alto California. Initially we were contracted to develop a short animation for fundraising purposes. The design was so beautiful and there were so many moments of contemplation throughout the video. We used 3ds max and vray with after effects for minor post production/ color grading. DOF and volume lights were rendered in. Our approach was to highlight the sound effects that one might encounter in a sacred space as well as the sound effects in the natural environment. The synagogue's design was very indoor-outdoor and lent itself to this kind of vibe. We mixed these effects into the background track and cued to the animation. It was really effective.

 

Kol Emeth VR from Kilograph on Vimeo.

Once the video was created we proceeded to craft a series of still images (one of which won an ASAI award :, with different characters who might occupy this place as both a community center and a religious place. As our studio began to embark on high end VR projects we were really searching for the perfect immersion experience to show our clients the power of VR. Something that wasn't too personal (like a residence) but that had a sense of spatial intimacy. We decided to go back to Kol Emeth. Our process for scripting the VR film came from a conversation about clients dislike of  teleporting and 'learning' in VR space. They weren't able to relax and enjoy. We also were really interested in trying non photorealistic modes of representation in VR so we opted for a black and white environment with exaggerated volume lighting. 360 sound in the central space added to the overall experience and enhanced what we were trying to do with sound cues in the original film. Once the experience was complete we transported viewers around the space over the span of a couple minutes and slowly transitioned back from black and white to photoreal progressing with time. The most incredible thing about this experience is the total sense of immersion people felt and their very real emotional response to only the architecture. Without fail someone always says to us "that changed my life" when the headset comes off.  It is a pretty incredible feeling to facilitate that connection between human beings and spaces. We'd like to continue to explore the potential of this medium as well as more collaborative forms of VR.

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Women in Arch Viz - Keely Colcleugh founder and CEO of the creative studio Kilograph in Los Angeles.

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About the author

Jeff Mottle

Founder at CGarchitect

placeCalgary, CA