Role Models

As Detroit continues its renaissance, starry-eyed developers must increasingly provide compelling stories with their projects: a “why” to pair with blueprints and price tags.
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Zoyes Creative building and streetscape model
Photographs by Hayden Stinebaugh

Zoyes Creative in Ferndale designs and creates 3-D printed and laser-cut models of  buildings and cities, virtual reality experiences, environmental designs, animations and imaging, brand development, print and web design, and renderings, all to help make narratives tangible. The husband-and-wife team of Dean and Aimee Zoyes are partners and co-founders.

Models and branding materials have been commissioned by Bedrock Detroit, Olympia Development of Michigan, and other companies looking to transform the comeback city and surrounding areas. While models have been used in architecture for many decades, Zoyes Creative got in the market a decade ago. More and more, customers both here and around the country are asking for display-worthy pieces that are complemented by dramatic sound, lasers, and other special touches.

“We’re putting you in a place,” Dean Zoyes says. “We’re telling you this building exists (before it does).”

Having a cohesive package helps potential investors envision projects. The display models especially are useful as community members are increasingly involved in the development process via town hall meetings and online communication platforms.

“The model becomes the canvas, and the story can change,” Aimee Zoyes explains.

For example, a 130-square-foot model depicting downtown Detroit and encompassing more than 900 buildings was commissioned by Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc. and the Rock Family of Companies. It’s housed in Bedrock’s headquarters at 630 Woodward Ave., overlooking Campus Martius.

Dean Zoyes
Dean Zoyes and his wife, Aimee, launched Zoyes Creative in 2009 to enhance brands with design.

Zoyes continues to add to the piece as Gilbert’s vision grows. Moment Factory, a company in Montreal, took the model further by using four projectors to display traffic patterns, time of day, and more onto and around the display. Viewers also can hold a tablet over specific buildings to get more information about the structures.

Another Zoyes project was a roofless model of Little Caesars Arena and the immediate surrounding area. The display re-creates 20,000 3-D printed fans in the stands, each about one-quarter-inch tall. All are cheering except one with his arms folded — Dean Zoyes says his staff snuck a Toronto fan into the stadium. 

Company personnel often have to sign nondisclosure agreements because they experience spaces before everyone else, Dean Zoyes says. Aimee says clients are bringing the company into projects earlier and earlier.

To produce realistic scenes, employees spend hours studying satellite images of the Motor City. Aimee Zoyes says the company plans to move to downtown Detroit next year, but it won’t be much of an adjustment for the team.

“My staff knows every building on every street,” Dean Zoyes says.

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