1.0 What is Visualization?

Cuba LaCueva Photosimulation

Design visualization could be defined at its simplest as the simulated representation of a design concept and it's contextual impacts or improvements. Traditionally, design visualization (DV) techniques have been directed towards better communication of what the design will look like. This focus has driven a broad application of DV in the public involvement area- visualization is almost always a required component of large scale infrastructure and transportation projects. More recently, the focus has been the integration of DV into the overall notion of 'context sensitive' design. As important as what the design will look like, is the explanation of how will it work, and how it will contribute to or impact it's context. The notion of better understanding how a design will function as well as what it will look like is essential not only to the public involvement process, but to the designers and planners of the project as well. Designers are relying more on DV techniques to improve their understanding of their designs, and to communicate more effectively with their colleagues as well.

A design visualization can be anything from a simple shaded view within a Microstation drawing, to a fully texture mapped and animated 3D model. A wireframe view in perspective could be considered visualization if it imparts some image of what the design will look like. The term generally brings to mind the more commonly used techniques such as rendered static views of 3D models and photosimulations. This guide is intended to show that useful visualizations can be produced with more accessible tools.

It is a common perception among Federal Lands Highway (FLH) staff that visualization techniques are costly and highly specialized endeavors applicable only to very large or controversial projects. Within FLH, DV techniques are not routinely used for medium and small scale projects. This guide introduces visualization tools and innovative practices to the highway designer, with the idea that these techniques will eventually be integrated into the design process, and used whenever there are design issues or communication needs. The goal is to enable application of simple, low cost techniques and new tools that provide a high relative payback in supporting the notion of context sensitive solutions to design problems.