Special effects technology can facilitate dynamic sketching in the early stage of a design project without needing time-consuming effort. This form of sketching was tested in a design studio taught by the author. The study of dynamic materials and oceanfront site conditions set the stage at the beginning of a design process for a more comprehensive analysis later on. On the one hand, the risk of using special effects tools is that the visual look can seem convincing, but the apparent result is based upon an overly simplified set of assumptions. On the other hand, the use of such technology can be very stimulating to the design imagination without requiring complex analysis that may bog down the free flow of ideas. Once a greater commitment is made to a particular design proposal, more complete physical analysis and modelling can be undertaken to help avoid the risk of false first impressions. In the studio, cloth simulation was used to develop the design of tension membrane structures (tents) that retracted and unfurled in a series of complex movements.  Fluid dynamics effects were used in the design and development of related boat dock facilities. A wind-tunnel simulation tool was used to explore the performance of the tension-membrane fabrics under varied wind loads. The visualization techniques were complemented by • ¼ to • ½ scale assembled components created by rapid prototyping. The use of an actual wind-tunnel further tested the prototypes in some cases. On the whole, quickly implemented special effects were the starting point for reacting to and developing some initial design concepts and served as the basis for more complete physical modelling of prototypes later on. Using animation as a design method is well established in other work (Hirschberg 06).  Animation is also a helpful way to work out the step by step assembly of complex architectural form (Mark 95).  The special effects tools permit a larger range of initial design alternatives to be initially considered that are subsequently narrowed down by physically based prototypes that are more predictive of real world performance.