Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2019
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Planner 5D

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Useful home design tool held back by bugs and a lack of help

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Arts
  • Science

Skills
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
9–12
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Pros: Intuitive navigation and an extensive library of objects and customizations in the paid version.

Cons: Design selections don't always stick; the free version is severely limited; there's hardly any help available.

Bottom Line: The paid version has potential as a design tool, but it'd benefit from more thorough educational materials like a thorough tutorial and/or a community.

Planner 5D would be a good fit for STEAM classes, maker labs, or classes focused on drafting and design. It could also fit well into science and math classes that are looking for ways to practically translate and apply learning on measurement, geometry, and the environment (if designs are meant to be eco-conscious). Teachers will want to test out the free version to get a sense of the tool. If it'll work, upgrade to the paid version, which is best suited to classroom use. Since there's almost no help or tutorial, teachers will want to prepare themselves to present the tool (or create a tutorial) and answer questions. Once students are set up, have them plan out the layout of a house, community space, or business under a set of constraints (e.g., a more modern school library). They can draft a floor plan on grid paper and then translate it to Planner 5D and create an interior. This allows students to combine math, art, and technical skills together. Note that students will have an easier time designing in the 2D view than in the 3D view: In 2D, items snap to walls better, and elements are rotatable. 3D mode is best for tweaking and object edits. Designs can be done individually, or groups can work together to come to decisions collectively or by dividing responsibilities and roles. Once students have initial designs, they can present them and get critiques, which they must incorporate into a final design. These final designs can even be converted into physical scale models.

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Planner 5D is an architecture, interior, and landscape design app and website that allows users to create architectural models. Designs can be created, edited, and manipulated in 2D and 3D, easily switching between the two modes. The app's interface makes it easy to zoom, move around, and change the viewing angle, and designs can be shared. The app contains no help or tutorial, however, which results in a very steep learning curve and a lack of knowledge about what's even possible within the app. There are both free and paid versions. The free version has limited functionality (only a couple of elements are available for each type, and most of them aren't editable, including roof size), but users will see enough to determine whether they want to pay or not.

To get started, users can either customize one of the included example templates or start from scratch, creating buildings of up to three stories. They can lay out a home or other structure, including outdoor landscaping. Spaces can be furnished using a library of several thousand (in the paid version) pieces of furniture, objects, plants, people, textures, and design and architectural elements. If desired, designs can be rendered in an HD photo that looks more life-like than the usual interface. Free accounts have a very limited number of HD photos included. Enabled devices can create floor plans from users' real-life surroundings using Apple's ARKit features. This can be useful for testing out classroom or home arrangements without moving any furniture, but it's less useful for precise designs or oddly shaped spaces.

Students can use Planner 5D to learn architectural and interior design skills alongside spatial reasoning, mathematics, and a little bit of engineering. Working in the tool will get students thinking more deeply about spaces they inhabit and what makes them useful or functional. It can also help students experiment with color combinations, lighting effects, or landscape design, or with architectural or engineering problem-solving using basic measurements to calculate areas, design floor plans, or assign tasks to members of a team.

The limited functionality of this app can help those new to designing get up to speed, but users will quickly run into the limitations of the app and want to do things that would require a more sophisticated tool, such as easily lining up exterior walls of a top floor and bottom floor. There's a surprising lack of instructions or tutorials, and there's nowhere to go with questions (other than a contact form) -- these kinds of resources would be helpful for classroom use. The tool itself is a bit buggy. The app version has some issues with responsiveness: Sometimes when you tap an item to change its texture or some other feature, it doesn't actually change the element. It's also difficult to line up the rooms or walls of different stories, or do any real-life home design with precise measurements, making this app much better for theoretical design than any kind of real-life use. It can be used for a light introduction to design, like arranging and designing interior or exterior spaces, but precise, functional home designs would be better done in a more sophisticated tool.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Several example designs are included to help show possibilities; these designs can be customized, or students can begin from scratch. Either way, there's not much guidance, so it can get tough fast.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

It's a functional design tool, whether for creative projects or as part of a more structured lesson. Students can experiment and build skills, but they'll need to work to discover what's possible.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's no help or tutorial, just a basic FAQ. The site touts a large community of designers, but there doesn't seem to be a way to access a forum from the app or even from the web.


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