Five questions on VR Design with John A. Frye

Five questions on VR Design with John A. Frye
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Over the past three years, we have grown an amazing community of professional designers, artists, and students. We work closely with the community to further develop Gravity Sketch to better fit their workflows. Every day we speak with customers and users to gain insights and a better understanding of how they work, what motivates them and what we can do better as a team.

As we expand our focus into the collaborative space and workflows which include a variety of roles from designers, to engineers, to clients; we are reaching out to key community members to gather insights and feedback. We are sharing some answers from a few typical questions we ask in our sessions, we are calling this the Five Questions series.

Today we are sharing answers from John A. Frye – Principal Designer, Digital Modeling and Visualization Group Leader at Honda R&D (@Fryewerk on Instagram)

How did you first discover GS and what drew your attention?

Through work, I’ve been looking at new design process tools for many years. One of the true unicorns has been a 3D software that has the ease of creation that sketching on paper offers. We’ve seen some tries at this, but none were quite natural or simple enough for designers to pick up readily. Around 2017 I saw an online demo for Gravity Sketch that really looked promising. My friend and coworker James Robbins was already building up his personal VR system and started to produce some amazing automotive builds.

How did you integrate GS into your workflow?

I have an extensive background and high level of skill making A-class nurbs finished design surfaces in Alias, but have always wanted to incorporate 3D in the early stage of concept creation. As my goal is to explore volume and line flexibly in multiple views and also understand the best angle for a design to really sell the image, I grab a very rough thumbnail doodle from a sketchpad, photograph it with my iPhone and upload to LandingPad. Using Oculus Quest, I bring in the sketch as a background image reference and quickly begin to explore the shape of the design, volume, and line. Major moves of proportion for vehicles that I have freedom to play with like height to length, wheelbase, track, all make a huge difference on the overall impression and feel of the design. Being able to quickly explore options and crank out screenshots using different camera lenses, I take those images and select one for a final rendering to work over. I am looking forward to learning the sub-D and more advanced surfacing tools so I can go deeper into the design refinement in that first 3D stage.


What excites you about remote virtual collaboration (co-creation) in this current work climate?

Well, location is no longer relevant for virtual collaboration, as long as you can figure out a good overlap of waking hours of the day when working with international teams! I did a Gravity Sketch collab session with two other designers and thought it was fascinating that when working on something like a car, you can organically develop a design in areas-working on one area, taking a break then moving around to another part of a car and talking with the designer about the area that he or she is currently developing. When I think about a full sized clay in a design studio with a crew on it, the conversation and process is similar, but the tools and implements and physical bodies don’t get in the way. It’s amazing really and I see how developing design spaces like automotive interiors will happen easily because ergonomic decisions can be made quickly at the very beginning of development.


Where do you feel Co-creation could have the biggest impact in the entire design process?

Compared to standard digital processes, parts of a shared design often change that would affect other parts of the design being developed by teammates. Notification is manual, and sometimes communication is lacking. Alignment of all the parts often is not cohesive. Working together on a single model in a single space is seamless and current so there’s no surprises. In the digital modelling space, we often are isolated in our own areas, bringing people together in a single design space during the creation of a design helps things proceed forward quickly and also reduces the frequency of those design review meetings which slow down the process.


What words of wisdom would you share with people who are considering diving into VR design for the first time?

Gravity Sketch on Quest is a great place to start without investing in a graphics capable VR workstation. If you get a chance, just pick it up and start to play with it. Compared to most 3D modeling programs, Gravity Sketch balances ease of use with potential for high quality surfacing.


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