why model? Edited by Patrick G. Whalen

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In the 21st century, do scale models really still maintain a viable place in the marketplace of photo-realistic renderings and virtual reality? Traditional models are costly, take considerable time and effort to build and require space to display. They are relatively fragile and therefore need to be protected from possible damage. In the cost-cutting and time constrained climate of the modern age, what are the ultimate advantages and benefits of scale models that justify investing in them and dealing with the challenges of transportation and maintenance?

Let's start at the cost end. Computer generated 3D simulations can be cheaper than physical models, perhaps even more so if your organization has 3D programmers on a payroll. These simulations can give your audience some idea of your design, but the scope and scale of the design can be lost in on-screen presentation. A 3D simulation that will fully achieve the scope and scale of a design will typically be much more expensive and time consuming. Even with such investment in computer simulations, the desired impression is not a guarantee.

Years of continued attempts at replacing physical scale models with virtual simulations have resulted in the same answer. No amount of computer programming or special effects can replace the impression of physical scale models. There is a particular power that only scale models are able to harness. Believe it or not, models have a magic appeal. It is the model alone that has the power to wake up the childlike spirit in all of us. A well crafted model draws people to spend hours examining every amazing detail. It is the human sense for adventure that draws people into the magical land of the scale model. No matter what direction a person comes from, each one experiences something different and no one is left bored or indifferent. It is this magic that causes models to receive more attention than even real-life subjects at trade shows.

The fact that the scale model is a physical entity creates a unique advantage that other visualization methods cannot achieve. Models transmit a real sense of perspective and deliver a perception of accomplishment and existence. This is perhaps the most important effect that models have. The representation of architectural designs, crafts, inventions or consumer products most often results in more favorable reception by decision makers and investors. The ability to point out and emphasize specific features of buildings, yachts or resorts encourages potential buyers to envision themselves within the display and creates an instant bond. To illustrate this more personally, consider the cute puppy in the window of a pet store. The sight draws in potential customers and once the puppy is in their hands, they can no longer part with it.

Another advantage is that the physical scale model is 100% vision friendly. More people than is realized are unable to process and translate 2D images such as drawings, rendering and in many cases 3D simulations. Anthropologically speaking, 3D representations in fact are not actually “three-dimensional” as they are displayed upon a flat surface. This format requires the viewer's sense of imagination and ability to mentally combine 2D fragments into the whole picture. An important investor or decision maker may not be able to comprehend such a presentation in full and as a result will not appreciate it. This is not the desired effect to have upon such important figures within the scope of a sales presentation.

Manufacturers and wholesalers of large subjects such as vehicles, crafts and structures certainly will benefit from specific advantages of scale models. The real-life size of many products are typically cost-preventative or logistically impossible to display at venues such as trade shows. Scaled down replicas of large products may be the only way to introduce them and are much more affordable to transport. No matter the size of a booth, space is always a limiting factor at trade shows and scale models are a perfect solution. We will develop this topic further in our article “Marketing Models of Vehicles and Aircraft”.

Models win the constant attention of the crowd and will keep potential buyers coming, and staying. Scale models at a trade shows will boost the sales effectiveness of a presentation by 300% or even more, much to the delight of salespeople. The return on investment with a scale model will be realized after very few sales.

Since the 1950s, movies and interactive shows became customary in museum and exhibit design. However, these devices are no match to museum scale replicas or dioramas which remain the most spectacular, explanatory and educational. Very often, the model or diorama becomes a star and pride of a specific museum or exhibit.

In conclusion we return back to the subject of the cost of scale models. Yes, professionally built models can be expensive, but the advantages and benefits prevail. Investment in a scale model proves to your opponents and customers alike that you are serious and truly believe in your idea or design. "You get what you pay for" holds true and if you need to stage a real presentation that will win praise and attention, cause you to appear confident and competitive, the scale model is your answer. You will not find a tool more effective in achieving a spectacular and ultimate victory.



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