New App Developed at U-M Takes the Guesswork out of Populating Renderings

A new app developed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor helps take the guesswork out of populating human scale figures into final architectural renderings. The app is called People Party.
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An example of People Party's human scale figures populating an architectural rendering. // Courtesy of Primary Projects
An example of People Party’s human scale figures populating an architectural rendering. // Courtesy of Primary Projects

A new app developed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor helps take the guesswork out of populating human scale figures into final architectural renderings. The app is called People Party.

The last step in rendering a future building or a space for an architect or designer is populating it with human figures to add a sense of life and provide a sense of scale. Boyer says this is a crucial step, but one often fraught with challenges.

“It’s amazing how much time and effort that architects, generally entry-level staffers, put into collecting images of people and cutting them out at special angles in order to fit them into a final image,” says Brian Boyer, assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and director of Taubman College’s Urban Technology program.

“It’s on the designer’s shoulders to make decisions about the representation of the population in the space, and when you’re fighting to get things done on a deadline, representation is too often the thing that slips.”

People Party was developed by Dash Marshall, a Detroit- and Brooklyn-based architecture and strategic design studio co-founded by Boyer. The app allows users to upload a scene or rendering, input the city where the image is situated, and the app automatically generates a population of human figures based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We’re introducing data into what is typically a process driven by idiosyncratic artistic choices,” he says. “If you’re designing a space in a specific city, the people in the drawing should reflect the makeup of that city.

“If you enter the location as Detroit, for example, the diversity of the scale figures generated in the app will align with the actual population — 78 percent African American, 14 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic or Latino, etc.”

In addition to this, the color block-style “party people” appear in a wide range of genders, ages, and body shapes. The app adds more diversity with the inclusion of those with varying mobility needs, such as wheelchairs, crutches, and canes.

Besides these inclusivity features, the app is versatile, allowing users to adjust the color palette, size, pose, or garments to reflect a seasonal scene. Boyer believes there are many potential uses for the app beyond the world of architecture and design.

“In a sense, we’re creating an easy tool to make more sophisticated images of community—we want it to be joyful,” he says. “It’s useful to architects, but I can also see it being used as dynamic clip art for product design, corporate reporting, presentations, social media, museums, exhibitions, and more.”

The app is currently in a free, limited pre-release phase where users can sign up to be added to a wait list with rolling acceptance. Dash Marshall intends to officially launch People Party in January 2022 after beta testing is complete.

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