23 December 2009

Riding Google's Wave

This is a kitchen layout.

Here's another view of it.

So far as kitchen designs go, it does what it needs to do at a price point someone's willing to pay. In addition to that it has a lot of function built into a relatively small space and it pulls off all that function while still looking orderly and clean. A design like this will last a family for years and barring any radical changes in popular taste, this kitchen renovation is a purchase they will never have to make again.

Obviously, it's one of mine and it's a Sketchup model. How it got to its current state though is a good story.

Around a month or so ago, two of my long time readers contacted me about designing a floor plan for a house they're renovating. That's not unusual, I get calls like that all the time. What was unusual was that they were 300 miles away and their budget wouldn't allow for any on-site time for me.

So they sent me a .pdf of their floor plan and a SketchUp model of the house the way it's configured now.

So I rebuilt their floor plan on top of the one they'd provided and I designed a kitchen in it. I specified a bunch of finishes and thought long and hard about all of the parts that were going to go into this project.

Ordinarily, when I have the basics of a floor plan and a budget put together, I call on the client and we have a sit down to review everything. Ordinarily, I print out everything on 11" x 17" paper and we talk through the whole plan. I take notes during that conversation and then make whatever changes are needed after the appointment. That's pretty much how kitchen design works and it's worked that way since the days of hand drawn renderings.

Well in this case, my clients were too far away to drive for an appointment, so we arranged for a virtual one.

The conversation was going to be about budgets, so I exported my SketchUp model as an AutoCad file and then imported it into 20/20. 20/20 is a CAD derived POS software I use to price kitchens. The clients in question are also users of Google Wave and the plan was to use Wave as a collaboration tool if we needed it.

At the appointed hour, they called me (on my Google Voice number, natch) and I e-mailed them a couple of perspective drawings. Now these files are huge and e-mailing them takes forever.

Eventually the files arrived and we started our conversation. There were some changes that needed to be made so I started making them as we spoke.

As I made changes, I would save them as .jpg files and pop them right into the Wave we'd started. Sort of like this.

Once I would set the .jpg files into Wave, they were visible immediately to my clients. They would click on them and see them in full size. It was amazing, there was no guess work or chance for miscommunication. What I couldn't get over was the speed at which I could make a change, make a .jpg and then get it in front of them to see what they thought.

In the course of an hour-and-a-half phone call we accomplished something that usually takes weeks.

The next day I had a hangover from drinking all that Google Kool-Aid the night before but I couldn't help but to think that I'd somehow touched the future of my profession. Doing design long-distance has always had the problem of not being immediate, but Google Wave just changed that.

Google Wave is where distance communication is headed. But it's not just for static communication, after all that's what e-mail does. But Wave is immediate and it happens in real time. It's not chat because it can have everything from calendars to maps inserted right into the stream without missing a beat. For now, Google Wave is in limited release. As cool as it is, it's not quite ready for prime time. With time, its functionality will increase and improve. For now though, it's an impressive tool and I can't get near it without thinking about how powerful it will be when it's fully up to speed.

So congrats Google Gang, you came up with another winner. If you'd like to learn more about Google Wave, here's a link to Google's Wave information page.


  1. oh no! more technology for this old dog to adapt to! but it sounds pretty awesome, paul. i've been wondering about it, but haven't known anyone using it. thanks for the review!

  2. It's still in beta testing mode and it's not fully functional yet but what's there is amazing and it's just whetting my appetite for when it goes into full release. It is most definitely where all of this is headed and the idea of breaking down geographic barriers to what I do for a living thrills me to the core.

  3. Love it! Great way to communicate.

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