It all began in the late 80’s. IBM compatible PCs just began appearing in homes. I remember my family’s first PC. It was an Epson that had less than 1 MB of memory, something like 8 MHz (12 with Turbo switch on!), and of course one of those amazing 5.25″ floppy drives. There were basically 3 things I did with this machine- entered addresses into a spreadsheet for a friends car wash business, played Leisure Suit Larry, and created graphics with Autodesk Animator Pro. It was utterly basic software but you could do some pretty neat things with it. I also enjoyed sketching buildings, dragons, and random depictions of Iron Maiden’s “Eddy”. Most of which I remember doing at my desk during classes.
It wasn’t until high school that I began to see a vision for myself though. I had been taking drafting classes, learning simple mechanical drawing skills, intro to CAD, blue prints, and plotters. I was amazed by all this. I nearly accepted an internship at Allied Signal, and had I gone my life could have turned out drastically different. But some arrangements with my drafting instructor fell through and so did the internship. So I continued with architectural drafting at the community college and further targeted my interests toward architecture. Well, maybe it was more than that… I seem to remember thinking I would actually be a famous architect eventually, and began looking into universities with renowned architecture programs. In hindsight, I didn’t take that effort too seriously and ultimately chose Arizona State. Not to say ASU isn’t very good, it’s a very good school. But the only other school I actually visited was University of Arizona. For someone with such high aspirations I would think a more extensive search would be appropriate. But I think this perhaps foreshadowed what was to come 4 years later.
Overall Arizona State was a great experience. I became enrolled in the architecture program and was really enjoying it right from the start. Dorm life as a freshmen was amazing and it was my first taste of true freedom. And then, a small, but life-changing event occured. I don’t remember the exact situation, but my roommate told me about this guy up on the 4th floor who was playing with some 3D animation software. Being interested in computer graphics I had to go up and see, and when I did… as simple as it was, I found it to be completely mind-blowing! It was Autodesk’s 3D Studio R2 for DOS. So I quickly bought a student version of the software and it became a hobby almost overnight. Second semester began and I registered for one of ASU’s first 3D graphics courses.
I learned more about 3D software and graphics workstations, expanded my portfolio of rendered images, and made some important contacts as well. A short time later, was searching for some part-time work, and by chance my roommate showed me an ad in the university classifieds titled “architectural draftsman needed to do presentation renderings”. It sounded like the perfect gig for me, so I called and set up an interview and, even with my somewhat remedial portfolio, got the job. I had no idea at the time, but that was another life-changing moment.
This part-time gig continued all throughout my time at Arizona State. Primarily, I was producing renderings of retail kiosks and pushcarts, several each week. Somewhere along the way I picked up a couple more clients and began adding trade show booths, timeshare sales areas, and cosmetics counters to my portfolio. At the same time, school work was becoming ever more demanding. I had been accepted into the program’s upper division and learning design theory was getting pretty intense. The truth is, I wasn’t really enjoying it. It wasn’t what I was expecting. And when I did my internship, I found it to be quite the wake-up call. I found the “real world” to be quite different from what we were doing in school. And though there were parts of each that I did enjoy, I began feeling like a career in architecture might not be for me. That notion was probably eased along by the fact that I already had a steady income stream doing something that I really loved and was passionate about.
John is the principle and founder of Digital-X. After obtaining his architecture degree from Arizona State University in 1997, John put Digital-X in motion rather than pursuing a traditional career in architecture. His 25 years of experience with computer generated renderings afford him the luxury of passing harsh judgement on all work before it leaves the outbox.