Mike Lin Phenomenon

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    ALEX P

    Why is it that He/his style has become some sort of standard in landscape rendering?   When did this phenomenon/standard begin. Or more importantly why did it begin? Do ‘people’ actually like it?

    All renderings done in this Lin-scape literally all look exactly the same. Some nameless plaza in some generic mall in some generic cityscape.  Is that an oak, maple, salix?  I dont know.. they all look the same in these renderings.  It just depends on what prisma marker you grab that will determine if this nameless orb is a spring dogwood or autumn burning bush.  

    I would rather ‘be tight’ than produce some rendering in this style, not to mention his class/required products are so expensive it makes this elusive ‘loose’ quality an equivalent to LA’s 1%. Occupy Prisma?

    Curious to see if there are any others questioning of this style of rendering. 

    (Don’t get me wrong, I would rather see some Lin-scape than some awful sketchup ‘rendering’ where green = grass)


    I see your at it again Alex. Focusing on what’s really not important. It doesn’t matter if a tree looks a maple or an oak it’s about form and expressing a feeling. Shade tree… blah, blah, move on. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Okame Cherry or a Crape Myrtle at the conceptual stage. Flowering tree with XYZ characteristics done – think big picture first, details later. You wouldn’t design a home starting with furnishings and window treatments.


    I’m not sure when Mike started, but I took his 2 (or 3) day class in the late eighties. He was popular then because his style was fast, fun and most importantly it communicated design intent. I agree a lot of my classmates took his week long course and everyone had snappy marker drawings with happy dots. But the thing is, Mike’s class was an excellent foundation. My drawings look nothing like Mike Lin’s style now. He taught me how to be loose and not labor over drawings. Why sit and spend hours drawing thousands of leaves in detail with a fine pen when can express the same feeling with a quick suggestion of leaves. Being able to draw quickly allows a designer to spend more time doing what’s important-designing.

    ALEX P

    oh craig.  lighten up. 

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The basic style pre-dates Lin and was pretty standard Landscape Architecture graphics prior to the computer revolution. I had friends who took his workshop in 1982. The big deal was not the style as it was the standard look. It was the ease and comfort in the technique. That gave people comfort and confidence to acheive pretty much the same look that everyone in the profession was doing.

    If you could not do that style, by whatever technique, you were not going to get a job in Landscape Architecture up until after that time simply because there was no alternative. I know this because I could not draw well and was told this by my professors. I did drop out until CAD was prevalent enough to make learning it a viable way to enter the profession. Now there are many graphic tools and options that are being used in the profession – old style rendering is still one of them.


    Why ?

         Maybe because its a good START and it improves the quality of rendering . Some people don’t have the talent to draw but they gain confidence from this book . Mike Lin showed us the ABC for rendering .. but Hey .. after that its easy to create your own STYLE . The key word here is ( Practice ) .

        The main issue you are addressing is the type of media he always using .Markers are expensive , but he gave other alternatives .I bought lots of Markers just to know how to use them , but after that i really don’t use them .  For me i like to mix water color with colored pencil and ink . Or can start with water color and ink the out lines in a loose way . What i mean the sky is your limit .

    ALEX P

    I attempted to start another forum entry about graphics and their importance, and many of the people commenting on that thread belittled the very importance of graphics.  I am very confused, some say yes they are important other say no.  I get the foundations stuff.  I took drawing 101 at college.  I understand the need to communicate ideas quickly and effectively.  However, like sketchup, many use this as a final product.  So that is where I am drawing my confusion and dislike.  Its called sketchup,not final product up.  I enjoy looking at these sketch renderings, and yes am a bit jealous that I cant ‘be loose’.  In fact it was one of those EDSA renderings that got me interested in LA (very topical i know).  However once I found out that my school was not going to teach us how to draw like that, and I certainly could not afford to go to one of the classes, I quickly had to find a rendering style that I could do. 

    I am not downgrading all the mega firms listed above, clearly they make a lot of money being loose.   

    Jason T. Radice

    You must also keep in mind that hand graphics are very expensive for a firm. Time is money, which is why there are very few architectural renderers in business anymore. Almost every firm used to have one, or they farmed it out. Now, if they want hand graphics, or even 3D work, much is farmed out to Asia.

    But by developing a quick method of drawing and rendering, these firms were able to communicate just enough to get the point across, while being vague enough to allow for some wiggle room. You can get in it deep by presenting a detailed drawing to the public or a board, and then present soemthing that looks different later on in the process. The ‘sketcy’ drawings help, and convey “concept” not “finished rendering”.


    The point is, its fast, it can be taught, and like the visual language that has been developed for site analysis, some universality is a good thing. I have developed my own design style for concept and dd that is VERY quick, out of the ‘need for speed’ because of nonexistent budgets. And one of these days when I have the time and money, I would love to take Lin’s class, as I know my hand drawing sucks. It is the same concept as exam prep materials or classes. You learn the shortcuts and techniques that offer the best result for the least effort, and in business, that is worth its weight in myrrh.


    Obviously you still don’t understand that the final product is not the glitzy photo realistic drawing nor is it the masterfully crafted hand rendering, it’s what ends up in the ground. Some how, you missed something while you were focusing on fonts and other things that are of little importance to an LA.


    But, I agree with you about raw SketchUp drawings. They can be pretty cold and lifeless. I like to tone them down and soften them in a rendering program like Shaderlight (sp?) and Photoshop. Then I put hand work on top of that image. I guess a lot people are using this method now. No? I’m a little isolated now.


    This might be my last piece of advice to you Alex. Stop wasting your time screwing around with fonts and drawing perfect trees and focus on acquiring skills an LA office would be willing to pay you for. That way you don’t have to be jealous of people who have skills that you don’t have.

    ALEX P

    I never once mentioned some pin sharp photo realistic rendering.  Im not wasting my time screwing around with typefaces.  I only use 1, helvetica neue.  So i can spend more time thinking about design.   As mentioned in another thread, Im not working at a LA firm, per se because i think LA has more to offer and just firm work. (just say’n) 

    Lana Merrill

    What’s up with the helvetica neue? I agree it’s the most readable, simplistic form of font, but that’s not to say there aren’t fonts worthy of use. Your forceful, repetitive reference ignites a rebellious side in not only myself, but I’m sure others. I’m sure your also a Mac obsessive who thinks PCs are completely worthless. Your criticism insinuates lack of real world experience which I assumed you had considering your level of criticism throughout several discussions. No insult intended, just an aggressive responsive to an aggressive post. I only give a word of caution when questioning the successes of the people who have helped shape your career in one form or another.

    ALEX P

    opinions are called that for a reason.  im an addict.  yes i need a mac and helvetica (neue) because i like their effects.  true, i lack real world experience, in some things. but that should not constitute my passion for good design.  is that something that gets beaten out of you when you get experience? if so, count me out!!  I care a lot about good design.  I only use this one typeface, so i dont think about it all the time, just like we all know auto-cad by heart, and dont have to look up/ waste time searching for how to draw a poly line (it’s pl by the way).  The main thing that i hate about lin-scaping is that is is so over prescribed.  i will reiterate what i said in another response.  It was those lin-scapes that got me interested in LA.  so im not knocking the master, per se. Lana, i grew up on a pc, so i dont think they are worthless.  I use microsoft word everyday, so im far from a mac-oholic. 

    One side bar:  sometimes you have to be repetitive to get some menial point across.  How many times did you have to hear about the benefits of permeable pavers, native plants, storm water recharge before you started implementing them?  im guessing more than once. Helvetica is my knight in shining armour for a much larger design issue.  im not some trendy hipster who works at american apparel. I truly believe in this stuff. 

    Lana Merrill

    Good argument. But I did not say anything of good/bad design. Experience has nothing to do with a passion for good design; experience should expand those obsessions, guide the development of your own style and focus of choice (urban/residential/commercial). Experience doesn’t beat anything out of you; it gives shape to your passion through the development of your own style. 

    Just as firms use only one font style, it’s entirely okay to use your own. (I actually use Helvetica myself in a lot of projects…but I also don’t limit myself to only Helvetica). Plus, Helvetica is used everywhere, not just American Apparel – don’t bash the hipsters, they’re good designers too.

    Remember to stay open-minded and instead of questioning the success, dissect the success into principles that you can apply to your own designs.

    CJ Davis

    I think what you are seeing is also a by product of schools no longer teaching drawing and rendering techniques.  i know graduating with an urban planning degree i had one class in 4 years where i had the chance to draw anything, and what we were told was “the computer will to everything” what they didnt tell us is that you have to understand the basics of hand drawing and graphics to apply them effectively in the computer.

    with that said, there are a limited number of choices when it comes to learning sketching and rendering techniques after school.  i took mike’s 2-day class and learned a lot, the style didnt stick i found myself leaning other directions, however with a limited number of teachers will  get a limited number of styles. 

    Jamie Chen

    I’m wonder how you actually conceptualize designs yourself if you insist on such detail all the time right off the bat.

    Don’t you do bubble diagraming at all? It’s not a plaza yet, it’s a nebulous “gathering space” connected with “circulation” indicated by dashed lines and everything has great big arrows, right? 

    Thinking about species specifics is putting the cart before the horse. 

    The “nameless orb” is part of that; you don’t have a plug-and-play planting list for everything, do you? But you do know whether or not you what a deciduous vs. coniferous tree and approximately how large it would be. 

    So you do that; throw out the quick idea of a tree. 

    You know who else can do that, besides Mike Lin?

    Bob Ross. 

    I knew of him before Mike Lin (information on his style was introduced in college for me) and Bob Ross and his “happy little trees” and “happy little bushes” where he was rolling out scenes with quickness and forming just the right impression of a place in a light manner that was inspiring. 

    So no, you don’t know what species of tree Mr. Ross was dabbling out with his paint. You didn’t know how tall exactly they were or how close they were together.

    That’s not the point, at that stage of conceptualization. It’s about ambience and spatial quality

    The way I see it, one can wow a potential client with computer generated graphics (that have a quick turnaround time, great for billings) or you can seduce with media that has tactile qualities. It’s all good. 

    The time for precision would be for making plans after the client’s taken the plunge and actually booked you for the job. Then turn that globule into a xx caliper Lagerstroemia or whatever. 


    Very clever dude.

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