No matter the field of practice, one of the tricky tasks architects and designers consistently face is communicating their three-dimensional ideas to their often vision-challenged clients. Going beyond the flat representations of floorplans and elevations to capture the volume and cohesiveness of a structure or interior environment is a skill that can be incredibly time consuming. That’s why the multitalented Melissa Marcy, AIA, Allied Member ASID, NCARB, ASAI, has established Virtuality, Inc., a company specializing in architectural illustration and animation. However, Melissa is not just an artist; her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture (with a Concentration in Digital Media) and a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as her industry experience, give her the perspective (pun painfully intended) and understanding needed to work quickly and seamlessly with her design professional clients.
What is your first design memory” In other words, when did you start noticing elements of architecture and design and what interests did you take up as a result”
I think it was my kindergarten teacher who first mentioned to my parents that I may end up as an architect, but ever since I can remember I have been drawing things. Art in all forms has always been an important part of my life… and thus consumes most of my time.
What design positions have you had and how has each shaped you”
• Chicago Transit Authority – Engineering Department Intern (2000-2001)
CTA was a wonderful place to work – the people in the engineering department were all extremely nice and helped me to develop my drafting skills and understanding of construction documents. I was fortunate enough to be able to work on the blue line project and my experience with the CTA was invaluable to me.
• Postl-Yore and Associates, Inc. – Staff Architect (2002-2005)
Postl-Yore is a mid-sized architecture and engineering firm in the Chicagoland area that specializes in municipal, commercial, and large scale multifamily projects as well as civil engineering. While at Postl-Yore, I had the opportunity to work on some rather large projects such as a village hall, a teen center and a public works building. My experience there was a fundamental part of my growth as an architect – my boss, Alan Yore, always made sure that I received the experience I needed in every part of the design process from the early schematic design phase through the end of construction. I owe him a debt of gratitude as he has played the most influential part in my professional development out of all my mentors and I would not be where I am today without his help.
• Midwest Design Group – Architect (2005-2008)
Midwest Design Group is a small residential design firm in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. While working there, I was able to obtain a great deal of single family residential experience and after obtaining my license I had the honor of being promoted to the managing agent of the firm.
• Virtuality, Inc. – President (2008-Present)
I am now the owner and president of Virtuality, a small rendering and animation studio specializing in artwork for the architectural and interior design industries.
How did Virtuality come about and how long have you been at it”
I have always been drawn to the artistic portion of architecture and had been thinking of specializing in renderings and animation for a number of years. While working as an architect, I often provided rendering services either for our own clients or for other architects that we worked with. I was finally in a position to start my own firm in the spring of this year so I quickly seized the opportunity and started Virtuality.
What kind of services do you offer and what types of software / techniques do you use”
I offer both interior and exterior 3d renderings, 3d furniture and product illustration, 2d site and elevation illustration and walkthrough animations. My primary software is 3ds Max, but I also draw by hand when it is requested.
How are you getting the word out about Virtuality, how do you imagine it developing, and how do you see technology influencing the future of the architecture and design industry”
I am currently getting the word out mostly via the Internet, but I have also done some networking with other artists and architects/designers. My dream is to be able to expand Virtuality and give other artists work as well.
Technology has influenced the future of the architecture and design industry in two ways – first by creating both a global and national market for our work, beyond the local market of yesterday. The second way it is influencing the industry is by changing the way that we draw, present and market our projects. We can now develop and draft a building in 3d and show a client realistically what their project will look like long before the construction begins.
What is a typical day like for you”
Drawing, marketing, more drawing…
Compare the skills and wisdom that you learned in school to those that you have you learned only through your experiences.
In school I was taught how to design – in the real world I was taught how to build. School is meant to expand your creativity and teach you to think for yourself. Construction and professional issues on the other hand are much better learned under the watchful eye of a mentor than in a classroom.
How do you think that architects and interior designers can establish better communication and collaboration techniques”
Take advantage of events that your associations host to meet and network with your fellow designers. Use the Internet to market yourself and make connections with other people you might not otherwise meet. Most importantly, smile at and be kind to everyone you interact with and treat everyone with respect and sincerity – this is just as important in business as it is in all other areas of your life.
What is the best advice that you could give a student emerging from school”
Do your best, work hard and try to learn everything you can from everyone around you. Never forget how to play and keep in touch with your friends and family regardless of what life throws your way.
Now for the lighter side…
What trips were you fortunate enough to take in 2008″
My friend and I took a trip to Los Angeles over new years and spent a week with our friends from college that we hadn’t seen for a number of years. Now that it is getting cold in Chicago again, I would like to go back. I also took a trip with my mother and my dog Xena (she is a family member too!!) to visit Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville just prior to the opening of Virtuality. The artistic culture and warmth of the people from those places filled me with the energy, love and enthusiasm I needed to start my new business.
What’s your favorite cold weather holiday dish”
Hands down – pumpkin pie!
Are you an early bird or a night owl, and why do you think that is”
Definitely a night owl – I think from years of not sleeping during architecture school, my body is now accustomed to that off-schedule. Perhaps if I were to move to the other side of the earth, I would be considered normal.
What the one thing that you wish you knew more about”
I would like to know more about everything, but if I had to pick one professional thing to know more about, it would be architecture. The more I learn about the architectural field, the more I realize that there is so much more to know. One of my first architectural mentors told me that architects know a little about everything and a lot about nothing – I didn’t believe him at the time, but I now understand just what he was saying.
Need Melissa’s services or want to become one of her artists” Then put your best foot forward and email her at email@example.com. And if you really want to get in her good graces, show some love to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA].