The Losses That Come From Virtualizing

02008-08-30 | Computer, Design | 8 comments

The Losses That Come From Virtualizing
Using computers to model the physical world has become increasingly common; products as diverse as cars and planes, pharmaceuticals and cellphones are almost entirely conceived, specified and designed on a computer screen. Typically, only when these creations are nearly ready for mass manufacturing are prototypes made — and often not by the people who designed them.

However, some engineers and designers are realizing that there are losses that come from virtualizing.

There have long been stories of students who design things on CAD that are impossible to manufacture, or that are 10 or 100 times too large, because virtualizing the design process divorces it from actual things.

As one designer I know put it, learning to draw teaches common sense; doing things on a computer doesn’t.
(Via Beyond the Beyond)


  1. Rob

    The problem here isn’t CAD, which is essentially a method of mechanical drawing; the problem is that the write seems to be confusing CAD with a discipline such as architecture.

    CAD designers know very little of architecture or automobile design but can put together visually stunning drawings that are impossible to build. These drawings should be considered visual art, not the design work of architects or mechanical engineers.

  2. Anonymous

    I just recently worked with a seasoned architect that still draws everything by hand and is also an experienced contractor. He shared his knowledge with his employees fresh out of college that do use CAD.
    Hands on knowledge is extremely valuable but this architect also has a big heart.

  3. Will

    Without CAD some of the architectural and engineering feats we see now would not be possible. From a design standpoint and scale standpoint, sure hand drawing will work. But when you throw in multiple variables such as structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fixtures, furniture etc. it is very tough to see conflicts and interactions. This is especially true on multilevel or very unique buildings.

    Drafting a small building with little to no architectural features may be possible and fun but it is not feasible or even practical for the current state of commercial construction and some residential construction. CAD is not the end all for building design, but sure eliminates struggles in the build.

  4. Anonymous

    Yes, as a contractor, it is important that the HVAC system, electrical, security, FA System , and anything that pertains to the mechanical contractor is laid out when taking off a job for bid or to be submitted for approval of local, state, and federal building codes. Yes, CAD is a great overlay for between walls, ceiling and crawl space. Gives a fantastic visual in the planning and design. Human touch, I truly believe is irreplaceable! :) All in all you can have the fantastic set of prints but if not in the hands of skilled crafted laborer hmm – the finished product sure does not meet the carefully laid out CAD drawing.

  5. ottmar

    Will: I think the point is not to reject the computer (and CAD) – the point is to find a balance. I would not want to work with an architect who cannot draw on a napkin when we meet to discuss his or her design. :)

  6. Anonymous

    Yes, thank you, Ottmar. :)

  7. Luz

    A few semesters ago, I recently had a student in my office who was working as an architect but changing professions because he no longer found it enjoyable. In his words, “it’s all computerized now”. He said the profession has just become too boring for him.

  8. Will

    I agree and architect should be able to whip up a scaled elevation and floorplan by hand. CAD vs. Drafting = Ease of use vs. Creativity and maybe artist vs. machinist. The problem I deal with everyday and the problem with most projects is form vs. function and CAD helps with this situation.


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