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Modeling the future: NYSID students hit the ground running with 3D skills

From a passion and background that started with architecture and interior design, Professor Leyla Aghayeva has always been inspired by the concept and 3D design process. Because of this interest, she’s been teaching SketchUp, V-Ray, 3DS Max, and Photoshop for the past few years to some of the top interior design students in the country at New York School of Interior Design (NYSID). We learn about her class, teaching style, and how SketchUp helps her students excel.

3D design process

What does your course look like in a semester and how do you incorporate SketchUp? 

One of the courses that I've been teaching focuses specifically on SketchUp & V-Ray — it's a seven-week mini-course. In this course, we start with the basics of 3D modeling in SketchUp such as building walls, slabs, windows, and doors. From there, we learn to import CAD plans, use Layers to organize our files, and use 3D Warehouse to add furniture. Throughout the course, the class learns how to use materials, how to create Scenes, and how to add Styles. We also learn how to use V-Ray for SketchUp to produce renderings. At the end of the course, students are familiar with 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, and are able to continue using SketchUp in their current or future projects.

How do you prepare your students for their future careers?

I share my knowledge and some of my experience in addressing challenges throughout my studies and work. I also share information on what they need to get started when they graduate, like building a portfolio or how to look for work. I like to provide support and answer my students' questions from their other projects. I appreciate it when they reach out to me for suggestions on additional tools in SketchUp, or really any of the programs that I teach.

Could you share any SketchUp work from yourself or your students?

In my SketchUp course, we work on two mini-projects: designing a bathroom and designing a staircase. For both projects, we create 3D models in SketchUp as well as use V-Ray for final renderings. We produce SketchUp Style Views, and either section or interior renderings of the bathroom in the first half of the course. In the second half, we focus on modeling a few staircase options. Since there are different SketchUp tools we can use to create staircases, the class is able to create more than one staircase, which helps them practice their SketchUp skills. They choose their favorite, final option and render it in V-Ray. 

I usually ask my students to focus only on the main elements of each project, so that we have more time to practice the tools necessary to visualize those elements in both SketchUp and V-Ray. I’ve tried structuring this course in many different ways throughout the years of teaching it, but this current structure seems to be the most successful in terms of scale and tools that we can utilize in seven weeks. 

SketchUp course
NYSID SketchUp course
Seven week mini course
NYSID 3D modeling
Staircase in SketchUp

Demonstration of the course content provided to students by Professor Aghayeva.

Two of Professor Aghayeva’s students talk to us about the work they produced during the course, and what future careers they want to pursue after graduation.

Meet NYSID student, Violette Chartock...

What program are you in at the New York School of Interior Design? And why did you choose this school?

I am in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA-1) full-time, three-year program at NYSID. My focus is commercial interior design with a particular interest in hospitality and retail design. 

I chose NYSID because I thought it was the best school for preparing me to become a professional interior designer. From faculty being practicing designers to coursework that was rigorous and incorporative of 2D and 3D software, the school impressed me academically. As soon as I toured the campus, and saw the thesis projects, which featured incredible, realistic renderings of interior spaces, I was sold. The school’s ability to teach students to transform their ideas into a visual form through technology stood out. Now, after studying at NYSID for almost two years, and having built close connections with students and faculty, who are passionate about design, I know I made the right choice.

Could you share with us your experience using SketchUp at your college? How does it solve your design challenges?

I use SketchUp in most of my courses, including Interior Design Studio, Lighting Design, and Kitchen & Bath Design, because it enables me to communicate my ideas in all stages of a project, from initial concepts to final details. It helps solve many design challenges by enabling me to quickly create 3D versions of concepts so that I can see the relationship between spaces and design elements. It allows me to quickly test different iterations, whether that be by editing the visibility of layers, by duplicating objects or by creating different scenes. It also facilitates collaboration because professors and peers can see my ideas through the lens of SketchUp and provide feedback.

I’ve continued to use it throughout my process in designing the structural elements, furniture, materials, and lighting of interiors.

During Professor Aghayeva’s course, what did your SketchUp workflow look like, and were you able to learn SketchUp fast?

Due to SketchUp’s intuitiveness and Professor Aghayeva’s supportive style of teaching, I was able to learn SketchUp extremely fast - faster than I have ever learned any software.

The workflow consisted of importing AutoCAD floor plans and then building geometry in SketchUp, using groups, components, and layers. The next stage involved creating sections and scenes, followed by editing materials and lighting in SketchUp and V-Ray.

Finally, we rendered using V-Ray, making adjustments to our models so that the renderings fit our visions.

I would not have learned as quickly and extensively, if not for Professor Aghayeva. Her thorough understanding of SketchUp paired with her encouraging approach, made me look forward to learning SketchUp each week.

NYSID and 3D modeling
Learning SketchUp at NYSID
Bathroom designs in SketchUp
Staircase 3D modeling
SketchUp at NYSID
Professor Leyla teaching SketchUp
Bathroom and staircase design options from Violette’s SketchUp summer course.
SketchUp and V-Ray
SketchUp and interior design
New York School of Interior Design
Interior Design and 3D modeling
3D modeling college class
SketchUp and rendering

Through practicing the skills I learned in that class, plus additional tips that Leyla taught me, I created work for a retail and office project.

What do you plan to do when you graduate? Do you think you will continue using SketchUp?

I hope to work at a hospitality interior design firm, and focus on wellness-related projects.

I plan to continue using SketchUp because it has become a part of my workflow in that I go back-and-forth between drawing by hand, modeling by hand, and modeling on the computer. Additionally, because of SketchUp’s integration with other software such as AutoCAD, Rhino, and Revit, I foresee it being of use in a variety of projects. It will enable me to connect with teams of people with different skill sets and backgrounds.

Meet NYSID student, Elaine Browne...

What program are you in at the New York School of Interior Design? Why did you choose this school?

I am enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design at NYSID. I chose to study here first and foremost because the school has a fantastic reputation. The small class sizes make for an intimate learning experience, a rare find in New York City. The average number of students for studio classes is approximately twelve to thirteen allowing for individual attention. Also, the location is ideal for me, as I live in the Upper East Side and can walk to school.

Could you share with us your experience using SketchUp at your college? How does it solve your design challenges?

I learned SketchUp over the course of seven weeks. While the pace was certainly fast, each week logically built my knowledge and confidence. Our professor provided helpful videos to visually convey design techniques. These videos were a great reference for complex areas that were, at first, a little more intricate to grasp. However, after just a short couple of weeks, the intuitiveness of the program became familiar to me.

One thing I really appreciate about SketchUp is how well it works with other design programs. Using a SketchUp Extension, I was easily able to maintain AutoCAD scale proportions and print my drawings to PDF.

For interior design, using correct dimensions is a basic imperative. Prior to taking this SketchUp class, moving between programs to print-at-scale for presentations was always a major source of stress. Now, I am happy to report that it is no longer the case.

Yay! That’s wonderful to hear.

During Professor Aghayeva’s course, what did your SketchUp workflow look like? And were you able to learn SketchUp fast?

In our 3-hour weekly studio classes, we covered a lot of work. In addition, I spent about eight hours each week on homework assignments. I still have a lot to learn and hope to do an advanced SketchUp class next. I find that SketchUp is the best tool to create unique pieces of curvilinear furniture, my personal favorite for interiors.

Interior design floor plan
V-Ray rendering 3D models
Building section in 3D
Colorful renderings in SketchUp and V-Ray
Interior design course
NYSID 3D modeling

Staircase perspectives in SketchUp

Coursework completed by Elaine in Professor Aghayeva’s seven-week class.

What do you plan to do when you graduate?

When I get to the finish line, I plan to take a deep breath of gratitude for all the help and encouragement I received along the way. I am grateful to be part of the NYSID design community. I still need to decide on the specific area I will lean towards. Thankfully, I am fortunate to have a design education from an exceptional school. Also, having a great foundation in modern design tools, like SketchUp, allows me many opportunities. 

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About the Author

When Cara's not writing copy or learning about customer workflows, you can find her on top of a 14,000 ft mountain, hitting up those Colorado ski slopes, or binging Netflix shows on her couch.

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