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Layout, Sweet Layout | The Importance of SketchUp Layout

Topics Covered

All jokes aside….Trimble’s companion to Sketchup…the dainty app called Layout IS an actual professional tool.

Professional Recognition of Layout

I was sitting in an architectural office in a Mediterranean city of some bit of popularity. I was there to ostensibly discuss with the office manager the value of a new freelance platform for Sketchup and Layout professionals that I founded with some partners. I ended up in a conference room with the entire staff of say 15 members (who all belonged to a global firm of some 35,000 employees) and before I could get to any discussion of the value of freelance professionals being a boon for a mid-sized office, I threw up some images of drawing packages and construction document sets that were produced in a full Sketchup to Layout workflow.

This was a group of people doing large scale urban projects who have access to the best software tools on the planet. If you are reading this, you probably know these tools as well. Every person in that room had heard of Sketchup and had modelled with it for various lengths of time. However, save one person in the back of the room, not a single person in that room had even heard of Layout.

The Power of SketchUp and Layout Combined

The images I threw on the giant screen at the other end of the room were then met with full on scepticism. “No way that was made in Layout!!” was the general mood. Everyone was talking and mocking. I kept my cool and repeated over and over, “No, this is all Layout and there is no AutoCAD, Revit, ArchiCAD or any other tool involved.”

Cornerstone Design Group - Residential House Plans

After much discussion, the bigger question came down to BIM. For the most part Sketchup and Layout, in native form, is still not ready for BIM and may never be, so that office, while excited to see something different and new (I still couldn’t believe Layout was “new” for them), they shook my hand and we parted ways. I walked out muttering, “Flummoxed by a lack of Layout marketing…”

Addressing Layout’s Speed Issues

This event convinced me that it is far past time for the professional architecture and design community to give Sketchup’s “drawing” companion Layout a professional welcome; even if Trimble & Sketchup wont. There is no single tool on the market today that can offer the professional results at the price that Trimble’s Sketchup AND Layout can offer. For $299 a year per seat, an office can have full 3D modelling with one of the most intuitive modelers on the market and also produce full permit ready construction documents. Think about that just for a few moments. Which tool in your office can do that?

Full disclosure: With every great piece of software, there seems to be an Achilles heel, so for those that don’t know: Layout has speed issues. The detractors are many and I understand the complaints and have experienced them. However, after finding real solutions for myself, reading hundreds of Sketchup forum posts and testing professional & non-professional users, I can say with all certainty that Layout’s speed issue is most often made 1000 times worse by a lack of knowledge about Sketchup Hygiene.

Understanding SketchUp Hygiene

Yes…Cleanliness still matters. Try taking 5 days of table scraps from your families meals and throwing that into your kitchen sink. Do you think your garbage disposal will be able to handle the load? The answer is an obvious no. Does this mean that the garbage disposal isn’t professional grade? No! I checked mine; it has “Professional” in capitalised letters.

Cornerstone Design Group - Construction Details for Commercial Medical

Introducing Layout Ready Modelling

What is the issue then? It’s a lack of user knowledge. Professional tools work when the user has a professional understanding of how to use them. Garbage disposals work great when a slow consistent flow of mess is fed into them. Layout works similarly. We don’t refer to what we feed Layout as a mess though. In actuality, it requires the exact opposite of a mess and many Sketchup users do exactly that, feed it a mess of geometry and then marvel with exasperation when it Bug Splats.

So enter a new term into the Sketchup lexicon: Layout Ready Modelling

Many of you might know about Tags, Groups or Components in Sketchup. Maybe you know about Styles and Scenes. But do you know the roles each of these play in viewport management in Layout? If you don’t you are missing a golden opportunity to speed up your workflow.

Layout Ready Modelling is the knowledge base for proper Sketchup Hygiene that makes Layout more than a professional tool; it actually becomes a powerhouse. It is not a proprietary system. We at Sloped coined the phrase in our attempts to distinguish the professional Sketchup & Layout skillset needed by design offices.

Make Architecture - Rooftop Renovation

It’s simply thinking about how Layout produces the best and fastest drawings and then modelling in Sketchup to accomplish that task. What is interesting is that a user who functions this way has the most organised, clean and light-weight Sketchup models. Models that any other user can jump into and easily understand and contribute to.

Why Drafting is Making a Comeback

Layout, whatever its weaknesses, in the hands of professional users who understand Layout Ready Modelling, can make Layout sing sonnets, not nursery rhymes. And isn’t it sonnets that all designers are working to create? Don’t we really want to get the apps out of the way? Don’t we want tools that quickly and effectively get our visions communicated and into the built reality? Were you aware that drafting is making a comeback? Why is this? One answer might be that software can impede creativity.

This is why Sketchup has found such success. It’s super simple to bring things to life. But in that process of creating, many of us failed to learn the right way to model. Then, in the absence of professional skills, the process of getting to permitted construction documents (the real deliverable) broke up on the rocks of Layout. So we scoffed and called it a “gloried graphics program” and trudged back to AutoCAD.

The Future of SketchUp & Layout Workflows

Layout Ready Modelling will bring this frustrating process to heal. The days of exporting and importing to other 2D platforms will end. And, the more professionals that convert and contribute to the push for adoption of the full service that Sketchup provides, the faster that company will be convinced to put money into real solutions for the speed problems.

And this is the last thing I want to say. We at Sloped hear a lot of comments about the transition pain point. “We love the idea of moving to a full Sketchup to Layout workflow. But we just don’t have the time to interrupt our workflow to build a new one and then convert.” Totally understandable actually. If there was only a platform where one could hire a certified freelance Sketchup & Layout professional to help solve this problem…if only.

Make Architecture - 2 Flat Renovation

Sloped: Bridging the Gap

Oh, wait, one of those exists now…enter shameless marketing…it’s called Sloped, LC. Our goal at Sloped is to be the professional source of advice and encouragement for design firms interested in full Sketchup and Layout workflows. We are working design professionals. We have our own offices, and we have all onboarded full workflows.

We are building a platform where you can get help in your own transition to Sketchup & Layout workflows, find freelance professionals to build those workflows and also contract with those same freelance professionals as labour alternatives if your office is has employment issues or shortages.

Santiago Molina | Raphael, Lopez, Uribe & Cia LTDA - City U Renovation Project

The SketchUp & Layout Revolution

Stop solving 3D design issues with 2D drafting apps and multiple software solutions. Stop using Layout like a ham-fisted violinist, learn Layout Ready Modelling. Join the Sketchup & Layout revolution. We believe it could transform your office.

Keith Brooks
Sloped Founding Partner

For more examples of Layout drawings visit: https://www.sloped.io/document-examples

Learn how to use SketchUp Layout with ArchAdemia

Learn more about mastering SketchUp Layout by watching the trailer below and heading to our SketchUp Layout course page; https://archademia.com/lessons/sketchup-layout/

Not many appreciate that SketchUp has some serious production tools up its sleeve! One of its most powerful features is Layout, which allows designers to turn models into construction drawings. This series of SketchUp tutorials will open you up to a new way of viewing the software itself and how effective it can be as a one-stop shop of producing concept designs and high quality drawings & details.

What is ArchAdemia?

A place for creatives to elevate skills, industry knowledge, confidence, well-being & career success! Our platform is perfect for design students, qualified architects, interior designers and archviz artists of all skill levels.

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