Rayon recently launched.
Over the summer, our goal has been to double down on our “Light-BIM” thesis: more powerful than CAD, more accessible than BIM, Rayon has been crafted to fill a gap left by legacy softwares in our industry.
By giving our V1 some more depth and stability, we have done our best to firm up the foundations of our product. A glossy video we made for the occasion (watch below 📺) touched upon many of these core features…maybe at the expense of Rayon’s depth, and the convictions that went into making this tool a new approach to architectural software.
In this article, we would like to go a bit deeper, and explain how Light-BIM actually translates into clear principles at every level of our product’s foundations: design, stylize, list & publish.
Chapter 1: Design ✏️
Designers generally try to find a balance between rigor vs spontaneity; in design software, this usually translates into a tension between free-form design vs working with systems that scale.
In architecture, this explains in great part the ever-lasting tension between the simplicity of CAD primitives and the logic of BIM families: on the one hand, simple geometrical shapes; on the other, objects shipping with hard-coded behaviors and assemblage rules (so-called “grammars”).
Both worlds have their shortcomings. Working with simple shapes (primitives) allows users to express their ideas easily…but puts the burden of specifying properties and handling precision back on them. Designing with BIM families offers a certain speed and accuracy to designers…while narrowing down the palette of allowed design moves, usually at the expense of the creative process.
In Rayon, we have built ways to harvest the spontaneity that comes with free-form design while offering users the ability to work with precision and at scale.
First, by the means of powerful, generic interactions, users can (1) build block definitions and nest them, (2) assign behaviors to them like hosting for example (watch below 📺), (3) enrich definitions with properties, styles, images, etc. This triad offers users the flexibility to quickly sketch quick drawings or build entire systems…while keeping a certain level of creative freedom…(more on this in our documentation)
Then, by the means of simple edition quick actions and powerful multistep commands, users can either sketch intuitively, or specify with precision (watch below 📺).
More concretely, in Rayon, interactions with shapes on the canvas happen at first through the bounding box, and the whole array of actions users can perform on it (flip, rotate, move, align, etc). These interactions are simple, and accessible to all. Now, as the design of space calls for precision too, all actions can also be performed using CAD-like commands; there, steps, input values (Distance, Angle, Offset distance, etc) can be specified.
This back-and-forth between quick actions and commands allow designers to find the right balance between intuition and precision.
Chapter 2: Stylize 🎨
In architectural design software, the aesthetics of things are either constrained by the layering logic (in CAD), or by the specificities of object families (in BIM). The presence of software like Photoshop and Illustrator in our industry is a telling testimony to designers’ wish to find alternative, more playful ways to enrich their drawings.
To address this reality, styles in Rayon have been built as rich descriptors. They encapsulate obvious things — like the color of a line — to more granular details like the thickness of a wall, or the head type of an arrow. For most settings, libraries are readily available for users to tap into (watch below 📺).
Then, similarly to the logic of blocks, styles allow either working fast or working deep: they can be assigned “on the fly” and remain an afterthought, or be mutualized across things and help users entirely restyle their drawing in just a few clicks.
That flexibility addresses architecture’s specificity as a design discipline: the design of space is not quite on the side of graphic design — it is not as expressive, and is certainly more pragmatic —, yet it is not entirely comfortable with the styling logic of engineering softwares — technical drawing still have to convey a sense of aesthetics in architecture. That is why, Rayon’s notion of style threads the needle between these two worlds. More on styles in our documentation.
Chapter 3: List ☑️
To top it all off, listing things to count, sort, or even group them is essential in the built world. After all, buildings can be seen as databases of built components… therefore drawings should be easily queryable.
This is where metadata come into play.
Put simply, metadata are properties assigned onto objects. It is the brand of a piece of furniture, the ID of a door, the material of a floor, etc. Today, metadata are the forgotten child of CAD environments, and the bread-and-butter of BIM platforms. It really is a clear difference between these two worlds.
That is also why a Light-BIM solution has to find a reasonable in-between. Our thinking here has been to offer simple (and not simplistic) tagging capabilities to users.
Rayon’s first gets the obvious out of the way: items carry “natural” properties. A surface as an area, a wall has a length, etc.
Then “custom” properties can be created, and tagged onto objects (blocks, walls, zones). Basic abstractions.
Finally, tables allow listing everything “live” at (almost) no setup cost (watch below 📺). There, operations like sum, average, group by (both on properties or location), etc can be performed. More on this in our documentation.
Chapter 4: Publish 📫
From you to your team, there should be almost no barriers in this internet era. And yet, the file logic made sharing work fairly painful within CAD or BIM workflows (something we described in depth in previous posts).
Interestingly, in architecture, when paying closer attention to our industry’s habits, the very notion of sharing hides quite different ways of sending work to others. At Rayon, we identify at least three ways (watch below 📺), that our current app addresses differently…
1/ Sending a drawing might be the most obvious one. Yesterday, this meant printing document sets or sending emails with attached floor plans. While still offering pages export, to ensure people can easily create document sets, Rayon addressed this use case by providing a one-click link sharing. More on this in our documentation.
2/ Next, is sharing assets. In our industry, designers typically rely on blocks, 2D items representing commonly used items. However, finding high quality assets is notoriously hard (or expensive). Trying to trace this back to a root cause can lead us simply to notice how much legacy tools did not tackle the need for people to share not just single models/drawings, but rather curated libraries of assets. “Trapped” in the file logic, CAD blocks failed to become a resource easily available to designers. At Rayon, by the very fact of being web-based, we can quite easily facilitate the sharing of assets, thanks to our publishing feature. A model becomes a library, and items can be served to the broader community in a much easier way than yesterday. More on this in our documentation.
3/ Last but not least, designers typically need to share their work, so as to set up drawing guidelines within organizations or teams. This time, it is not quite about releasing document sets, but rather providing graphic charters for people to follow. Page layouts, line styles, layer structure, title blocks, etc: by specifying guidelines at different levels, designers ensure the consistency of collective outputs. To tackle that use case, Rayon recently implemented templates. With templates, models can be turned into baselines for team members to follow. More on this in our documentation.
In between the lines of this frame-by-frame walkthrough, we hope that another essential value of our product begins to transpire: reliability.
Although the past 4 months could have been about building new things, our thinking has been to invest in Rayon’s reliability. Latency, bugs, half-baked features, etc do not sit well with the level of trust people want to place in their design tools.
And when the (re)design of a building can span from weeks to some time multiple months —if not years — people will only embrace solutions that truly feel trustworthy.
It is a high bar to pass for Rayon, but one that today drives our collective work on our software’s foundations.
Rayon is hiring, check out our jobboard!