When I embarked on my career as a spry 24 year old draftsman for Trudell in 2008, I worked with many well-seasoned engineers.

Dick Trudell, the dry-humored founder with a penchant for detail began to think about hanging his hat. For years he hand drafted plans, brushing away the rubber filings that clung to the 24”x36” parchment of his drafting table. But as years went on his role as drafter/engineer emulsified into hand sketched designs which evolved into computerized plans. I use the word “hand sketched” lightly, they were as meticulous as any eagle-eyed person could be.

Dick received his degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Vermont in the early 60’s when a slide rule and pocket charts were the computers of the day. Walking into Dick’s office I would often see outdated drafting and surveying equipment lying in crevices of the room that would spark a conversation; “Wow! What is THIS?!”

Karen Petterson, a retired landscape architect who was employed for many years at Trudell created beautifully colored rendition plans much like she learned in college. As photoshop emerged, Karen taught herself how to superimpose images that showcased her client’s vision. This was, as I see it, the first of Trudell’s many baby steps into the 3D world.

In my 11 years at Trudell I have seen a lot of change in the industry: Land Desktop’s transition to the shaky grounds of Civil 3D’s ever improving drafting software; the surveyor’s field books slowly fading from of memory to be replaced by data collectors, and the implementation of drones for no-nonsense geospatial survey analysis. 2-dimensional drafted plans have been the gold standard since the invention of the chisel and hammer. Meaning would be conveyed to a learned eye by the pen and paper. Ideas for construction layout would be presented to the lords of ladies of the lands and thus the first draftspersons were born.

It wasn’t until 1957 when Dr. Patrick Hanratty created the first computer aided program coined PRONTO which would eventually replace the tedium of hand drafted plans and thus revolutionized the industry. Inasmuch, 3D wireframe technology was developed in the very late 60’s well after Dick Trudell received his degree from UVM but it still had a long way to go. The potential of a 3D medium was not fully realized until a young energetic man named John Lasseter promoted 3D animation in the mid 80’s while he was employed by a company you may have heard of: Walt Disney Studios. John was terminated by bringing such blasphemy to a traditional and well-established realm that could shatter the world which they knew. His termination from Disney was a knee-jerk reaction to an inevitable change in animation. Not one to give up on his ideas, John developed a program with a group of computer science researchers and founded a company called PIXAR. A decade later, he created the first full length animated movie: Toy Story.

Just like any innovative idea, the advent of 3D design is heralded by a desire or need to improve and move forward as a functioning society. 3D models, renders and animation is just one step closer to that goal.

2D design will become the Pinocchio and Cinderella of yesteryears. With tools and apps revolutionizing the marketplace at break-neck speed it can be challenging to keep up with the changes. 3D worlds are becoming easier, cheaper and faster to realize than ever before. 20 years ago the 3D industry was monopolized by the video and gaming industry but it is now barreling with momentum in the private sector. Soon all the drafting tables, slide rules and pens will be put away, stored into the attic of a long-retired designer to collect the dust which the 3D world will leave them in.

Dick and Karen are retired now but I wonder what they would think, of how the design world has changed in their lifetimes. If Dick were to see what we’re accomplishing today, I would like to think it would spark up a conversation like the old days, “Wow! What is THIS!?”