Design collaboration: Ford and Reebok designers took car from sketch to 3D model

They had never met but a napkin sketch of a car brought two senior designers together over Instagram. After 40 hours of design collaboration, and through the use of Gravity Sketch, they had several 3D models of the car inspired by an 8-year-old boy.

Oluwaseyi Sosanya
Design collaboration: Ford and Reebok designers took car from sketch to 3D model
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Working together to bring new ideas to life is second nature for designers. Not only when they’re at work but all the time, including when they’re at home. So, when senior designer at Reebok Brian Rinella heard that his son’s 8-year old friend was interested in drawing cars, and possibly a designer in the making, he decided to support the young kid’s dreams. Then the design community stepped in and took it a step further – through the use of Gravity Sketch.

Brian Rinella remembers what it’s like being a young kid with big dreams. So, when he learned that his son’s friend Nik dreams of becoming a car designer, he was thrilled. However, it was when Nik told him that he draws a new car every single day, that Brian was hit with a wave of inspiration.

That kind of enthusiasm was something Brian recognized from himself as a young boy. He too had dreamt of becoming a designer from an early age – today, as a senior designer at Reebok, he has become exactly that. However, that doesn’t mean that this 8-year-old boy didn’t inspire Brian to do more – and to continue to challenge himself.

He now had a new goal: To draw a new car every day. The first one was, of course, dedicated to Nik in a show of support to his dreams.

The initial napkin sketch created by Brian and posted on Instagram

“I thought it was the coolest thing that he’ll sketch a new car every day. I said to Nik ‘I’m going to try that out too, that’s awesome man. You inspire me,’” Brian remembers.

For designers, design is a part of their everyday life and brings meaning to just about everything they do. These creative minds are always trying new techniques to level up their skills, and part of that is getting out of their comfort zone to embrace something completely different. So despite car design not being part of his usual repertoire as a shoe designer, Brian didn’t let that stop him. Hoping to also inspire other designers, Brian then posted his first daily car sketch on Instagram, dedicated to Nik. Nevertheless, Brian wasn’t quite prepared for just how the design community would react to it – and how much it would help support a young kid’s dreams.

The power of community

There are many ways for designers to find inspiration. One of them is through seeing the work of others in the design community. Michael Smith, senior designer at Ford, was scrolling through his Instagram feed one day after he came home from work.

Here, he came across Brian’s post with the napkin sketch of a car. And Michael was hit by a dose of the same inspiration that Brian had felt. Seeing an opportunity to encourage 8-year-old Nik to go after what he wants but also a chance to use his new tool, Gravity Sketch, had Michael intrigued.

Always on the look-out for new technologies that can help him improve his skills, Michael had invested in the new 3D design technologies and Gravity Sketch. This was the first time he was empowered to create in 3D through gestural interactions. Gravity Sketch makes 3D ideation a lot faster and more intuitive. This in turn frees up time to further express creativity unrestricted, rather than being stuck with slower and more cumbersome screen based programs.

“Having seen this little napkin sketch was an opportunity to question ‘how fast can I get that into 3D?’ I think Gravity Sketch is great for lots of things and I think showing off how little time it takes to design or go from thought to 3D is a big selling point and I’m always trying to challenge myself,” Michael says.

With both a challenge at hand and an opportunity to help another designer in the community, Michael began transforming the napkin sketch to a 3D model. In just 20 minutes using Gravity Sketch, the first version was done. Then it was shared with Brian on Instagram.

“I was like ‘are you kidding me? A real car designer was a) liking anything I did and b) he was inspired enough by it to make something’. I went to Nik immediately and showed him and he was just floored when he saw the initial sketch that Michael had done,” Brian says.

Initial 3D sketch from the design collaboration
The first 3D sketch created by Michael, based on Brian's initial sketch

The collaboration continued

But that’s not where it ended. Over the course of the next two weeks, Michael spent around 40 hours continuing to iterate the design to create a fully formed 3D model, based on Brian’s original napkin sketch. The car – that turned into an Alfa Romeo – went through transformation after transformation as the two designers collaborated together despite never actually speaking or meeting in person.

Car interior sketch from Gravity Sketch
Sketching out the interior
Final car model from the design collaboration
The final model

However, not knowing each other didn’t stop the two designers. Neither did the fact that they were from two very different design fields. A shoe designer and a car designer might not seem like the most natural match for many. However, the different approaches to design resulted in a long row of designs that connected not only the two designers but also parts of the design community that were following the car’s journey from napkin sketch to 3D model. There was no need for lengthy communication; the spirit of design is collaborative and supportive – these two understood this cultural tradition firmly.

In the video below you can see Brian and Michael talking to each other for the very first time, with a little help from Gravity Sketch.

Venturing into new territories

The entire design process left the shoe designer taken aback at just how quickly Michael was able to transform the car into 3D. It also made him curious to see just what Gravity Sketch was all about – and how he could use it himself. Brian was hooked and has been using Gravity Sketch ever since, both for designing at work and at home.

The inspiration and learning process was a two way street for the two designers and still is today, where they – like so many other designers – find inspiration through the work of others, and seeing how others experiment and design regardless of their industry background.

These kinds of collaborations open the industry up to a completely new world where design tools such as Gravity Sketch help making design cooperation across teams and industries easier. Both Michael and Brian now get new ideas from seeing each other’s work.

“I want almost all the shoes Brian shows on his Instagram. I don’t have enough money to buy all the shoes that I like but the inspiration I get from it is the materiality. When I look at footwear, the way the others are playing with Gravity Sketch and showing the exploration and the materiality is tremendous to me. And so is the time saving,” Michael says.

Cross-industry collaborations can take design to a completely new level. In the case with Brian, his napkin sketch led to a lot more than he thought possible, and poses some interesting questions about the future of design. What does the future of design look like if we see more cross disciplinary collaborations? And how will design disciplines merge over the next few years with the rise of social media and the emergence of design solutions that truly connect people?

Collection of process images from Gravity Sketch of the design collaboration
The final set of sketches from the collaboration

Scroll down to see a range of images from the design process. The final models are also available to view on Sketchfab in doors open and doors closed configurations here and here.

If you want to see more work from Brian and Michael, you can follow them on Instagram @nells18 and @idrawcars_in3d.

Follow @gravitysketch on Instagram where we will regularly share a wide range of inspiring work from designers within our community!

Initial 3D sketches from the design collaboration
Initial 3D wireframe sketch created in Gravity Sketch, based on the initial napkin sketch
Early render from the design collaboration in Gravity Sketch, showing initial surfaces
Initial surfaces
Final render in SketchFab from the design collaboration
Interior of final model from Gravity Sketch rendered on SketchFab
Exterior of final model from Gravity Sketch rendered on SketchFab
Photoshop render of the 3D car model created in Gravity Sketch. Shown at Targa Florio.
Photoshop render of the car at Targo Florio, Italy
GT variant of the 3D car model from the design collaboration
Photoshop render of a GT version of the car
Final render in VRed from the design collaboration
Final render created with VRed
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