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Working with a remote architectural visualization studio:
the art of nuance

01 I’d like to work with a remote Studio.

So you’re looking for an architectural visualization company. You’re in love with the portfolio, but there’s a catch: the studio is a 10-hour flight away from your office. Sound familiar?

Remote is the new normal. And after the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s often the only possible option. As if those projects needed any more complications (in addition to 'the deadline is in 3 days' scenario).

How can you minimize the risks and optimize the communication? Below we’re sharing what has been working for us over the years — as we’ve always been doing most of our work remotely.

02 What are the challenges I’m most likely to face?

Us humans function in a very simple way — it’s easier to trust what you can see (or even touch — thus the famous all-American handshake). This definitely applies to work relations — it’s easier to feel confident about the projects executed by the people you’ve met.

This highlights the most common issue with remote collaboration — the inability to meet the people you’re dealing with.

Many challenges stem from this main challenge in one way or the other:

  • It’s very hard to present the input in full detail and to *literally* point out the important aspects of it (‘I’d like this facade to look like this one, but more like that one over there’).

  • After, questions pop up randomly as all the sides involved review the data. This creates a crazy amount of extremely time-consuming back-and-forth.

  • The forced lag in receiving the necessary response (or validation of important aspects being well-acknowledged) makes it easy for things to fall through the cracks. This -> time wasted.  

Now add the time-zone difference. ‘When should we arrange a meeting?’ is probably a bigger concern than doing the actual work. If the time difference is over a certain # of hours this sometimes means losing a full business day unless a meeting is planned in advance.

Then comes the language barrier. As you hire a foreign architectural rendering studio, you can never be 100% sure the communication will go smoothly — you can’t rely on gestures to deliver the message just as much as you would with face-to-face communication. 

03  How can I fix this?

Logically, the solution lies in the realm of eliminating the consequences of not being able to meet in person. In other words, the objective is to make the communication as efficient as possible and to be able to predict the rough patches and misunderstanding zones.

  1. Consider the best practices.

It’s more convenient when the studio is ahead in time. A 7- or even 10-hour difference will mean the team will begin earlier and even work as you sleep (dreamy, isn’t it?).

Such a scenario is probably even more convenient than actually working within the same time zone — the work goes non-stop and there’s no delay at all. If you’re located in the US — Europe is the best option in terms of time. Western Europe will find it more convenient to work with the East.

  1. Set clear boundaries from the get-go.

Use services like Worldtimebuddy (you can get a free Chrome extension too) to check how your time zones overlap reasonably. This will allow you to select time slots for calls that will suit both sides.

Also, this will help you get clear expectations on update frequencies, etc. which is very important: predictable communication makes life easier for everyone.

  1. Elaborate your input like there’s no tomorrow.

The more detailed the input, the fewer calls are needed. Provide as much information as possible and structure it well, so that the logic is easy to trace. Add comments if something might be unclear. It may take time, but it will save you time in the long run. And honestly —  no one wants to be on that call for a full hour for an issue that could have been clarified in one well-assembled email.

Pleasant bonus? Having everything in writing also eliminates the language barrier and grants great version control.

  1. Providing good references is a must.

If you’ve chosen a studio based on their unique style — say, hyperreal archiviz — make sure to point out the visuals the studio has created before that you liked most.

04 Final words of wisdom.

Remote communication is giving us the opportunities we’ve never had before. With the right approach it grants the freedom that makes perfect sense in the global world we live in. It allows us to not be limited by local talent and to have a variety of options to choose from. And it’s not going away anytime soon so it might be just the right time to introduce a certain etiquette, a set of guidelines or a blueprint for teams to follow. 

Here’s a small checklist we came up with update it with more tips as you see fit.

Checklist:

  1. Make use of the time zone difference (Worldtimebuddy will help)
  2. Make the communication predictable and set clear boundaries
  3. Write a very (very) detailed input
  4. Find great references
  5. Press ‘reply all’ with caution
  6. Don’t forget those are real people at the end of the line