Camira chats with CAD agency owner, Diane Butterworth

With space planning software becoming increasingly important in the interior design world, we caught up with Diane Butterworth, founder and owner of Diane Butterworth Ltd, an office planning and design consultancy, to learn all about the world of CAD.

Diane has worked with Camira over a number of years in creating tileable scans of our textiles – enabling customers to create lifelike depictions of their upholstery choices, her expertise has been invaluable in allowing us to develop our digital offering.

In this Q&A, we discuss everything from what exactly we mean by the term tileable, how 3D visualisation benefits architects and designers, and what she thinks the future of space planning software will look like…

There was a gap in the market and it was the spark I needed to start my own business.

Your company, Diane Butterworth, now supports a number of key suppliers and manufacturers in the office industry, could you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the world of CAD? What drew you to specialise in this increasingly important part of design?

I was first introduced to CAD over 10 years ago in my first year of university. I studied product design and, as a form of communicating my ideas, it was fantastic. I can’t draw by hand, so the pragmatic approach of a computer fits my style really well.

I became a space planner in 2011. Back then, I felt designs often lacked individuality as it was rare that a manufacturer had their products available as a digital file, meaning generic models were used and slightly altered in space to ensure the footprint was correct. As for 3D, it was rare, to say the least.

With the BIM level 2 government mandate coming into focus in 2016, specific models became more of a requirement than a luxury. This gap in the market was the spark I needed to start my own business, designed to offer manufacturers support in creating digital versions of their products.

Using 3D visualisation as a tool to communicate a design can really speed up the process

Translating and envisioning a 2D design can be difficult if you’re not used to it. Using 3D visulisation as a tool to communicate a design, both to team members and clients, can really speed up the process. 3D gives everyone the best possible chance to envisage how the product will look within the space. A 2D plan may look great with symmetrical furniture or a shape etched into the carpet, but switching to a 3D plan of the same space offers a true representation of the product within the space.

3D is not only used for visualisation. Using a 3D model of the actual product you’re interested in buying allows architects and designers to view how each element interacts. 3D is commonly used for clash detection which can save a huge amount of time and money.

What are the benefits of 3D visualisation for architects and designers? How do they assist in a project's development?

Tileable images can take a design from a concept to real life.

You've created tileable images of Camira textiles for a number of years, allowing customers to realistically depict furniture upholstery within their 3D renders. Could you tell us a little bit about what it means for a fabric to be 'tileable'? How do you go about creating these images?

If an image is tileable, it means you cannot see a seam between repeats of the image. Say you wanted to see what an entire chair would look like covered in a certain textile; using a small textile sample risks low image quality resulting in distortion, at worst even missing the full repeat of the pattern on the sample. We create the majority of Camira samples at 13.5 cm, meaning the image is easy to duplicate across the surface without risking distortion or cutting off the pattern.

To transform a physical sample into a digital version, it is either scanned or photographed under controlled lighting. The image is then edited to remove shadowing, amend distorting, fix anomalies in the weave and colour correct. To ensure the image is truly seamless, we then load it into CAD and wrap it around both a screen and sofa.

3D visualisation has become an expectation within the industry, so having access to high-quality tileable images is incredibly important. It’s the final asset that can take a design from a concept to real life.

The ways in which a digital environment can be built and customised is truly endless.

There are two elements to how coronavirus has impacted space planning. The more obvious is, well, spacing. The initial aftermath of the outbreak found us creating COVID-19 secure plans, highlighting safe desks and laying out directional walkways for existing offices. I believe at least a small aspect of this will stick around in space planning. In my experience, employees have enjoyed the extended personal space they’ve been afforded since these plans have been in place.

The second element is the increase in home working; a precaution that most businesses were forced to implement during lockdown. Technology and processes were challenged, but for the most part, it was successful and many companies don’t look desperate to get back to their usual format. Office spaces are likely to act more of a hub rather than where ‘the work’ is completed.

Finally, how do you think the outbreak of coronavirus will impact the future of space planning? Do you predict an increased use of virtual resources - such as pCon - as a result of the pandemic?

Final thoughts...

I think it’s inevitable that following the pandemic we will see an increase in virtual resources across every industry imaginable. While digital meetings and team calls were present in one way or another before the lockdown, they certainly came into their own in the past 6 months! We certainly can’t underestimate the desire for human interaction, but I think the potential for something like a virtual showroom is huge.

The ways in which a digital environment can be built and customised is truly endless – the potential for this kind of project has only scratched the surface of what it could do within our industry. The sense of touch is absolutely invaluable when it comes to textiles, so figuring out how this will be explored is a really exciting prospect. While I’m not an expert in what technology could be used, I have a feeling the use of scanning could be a doorway to the future of the crossroads between textile production and space planning. For now, I suppose we’ll all have to watch this space.

If you’d like to learn more about the services provided by Diane Butterworth Ltd, you can get in touch here.