The product design discipline is a constantly evolving art form. From the Wacom tablet to the 3D printer, for years designers have embraced emerging technologies to help with visualization and resolution of complex design challenges. Practitioners are constantly experimenting with tools to empower them to create new products better and faster. From the design of household appliances to mobile wearable technologies the challenges designers face when designing new products are ever-evolving; new materials, manufacturing processes, user experiences, and business models are just a few of the challenges an industrial designer faces when developing a product for a client. In addition, the time to market for many products has shortened, in turn reducing the length of the design pipeline. The discipline has become much more challenging: both clients and customers expect great design, a great experience, and great quality from goods and services we purchase or interact with. Now more than ever, designers turn to technology as a source of inspiration and support in this ongoing evolution.
For the past four years, we have been developing a design software and platform which will support designers with ideation and aid in the problem-solving phases of the design process. Through working and exploring ideas immersively in 3D from the onset, we have found that many design disciplines are able to not only accelerate the early phases of the design process but to collaborate and share ideas in a more effective way.
To demonstrate this, we’ve made a workflow video showcasing a step-by-step design pipeline with Gravity Sketch, demonstrating the key areas in the pipeline where the software can transform the workflow, improve collaboration, and reduce development time.
Mood boarding and gathering inspiration as reference images is often the kickoff for the ideation phase of a project. In Gravity Sketch you can bring in all of your images as .png or .jpeg files and create a spatial mood board, placing images anywhere in your immersive workspace.
The transition from 2D sketches to digital 3D models is one of the most challenging phases of the design process. The emotion, character, and intent of the hand-drawn line is almost impossible to carry through to the digital model; often compromises are made to accommodate the capability of the software or limitations of the CAD operator. As a result, the 3D iteration process is costly and time-consuming. Designers are able to bridge the gap between hand sketching and CAD modeling with the sketches created in Gravity Sketch, as content can be imported and exploited in a variety of file formats that are compatible with CAD software.
Over the years designers have built strong ideation skills through the use of pen and paper, and we understand the value of 2D sketching. We embrace this and build tools that can help designers leverage their 2D design skills in the 3D digital landscape while maintaining the ambiguity and flair of a hand-drawn sketch. We aim to preserve the designer’s knowledge and skills developed over years of training. Motion-tracked controllers allow us to translate hand gestures into strokes, bringing a joyful experience that closely resembles that of sketching with pen and paper.
Expressing ideas at the napkin sketch phase, at scale, in 3D, allows designers to troubleshoot proportions and explore iterations of ideas prior to any major investment of time or resources. This also promotes further creative expression as new forms and shapes can be explored directly in 3D, as opposed to being translated from 2D. The designer can focus on the user and human-factors right from the outset, in turn, reducing the need for multiple physical prototypes.
Every designed product has an intended user, designers must consider human factors from the earliest stages of their research and investigation. Ergonomics are considered at the early stages of the design process through 2D sketches and multiple physical prototypes. Exploring ergonomics immersively from the outset allows designers to more clearly understand the human factors and address the spatial challenges around their design virtually prior to investing time and resources downstream. In Gravity Sketch users can access poseable prefabricated mannequins which can be used to explore how the users will interact with the design or set scenarios to help simulate the product in real life situations. This allows you to integrate human factors into your design in a much richer way earlier in the workflow.
Being immersed in a sketch allows you to put yourself in the position of the user and explore the physical interactions with the product as they would. In the later stages of your workflow, pulling in the mannequins helps to showcase scenarios around the end use of the design. For design reviews, showcasing the use of your product in context, in an immersive VR environment, helps validate the decisions made during product development for you and the client.
Clean Line Drawing
After the early rounds of ideation, start blocking out forms and model a more detailed design. With the use of symmetry and point input mode, the designer can draw clean lines creating a wireframe of the product.
Gravity Sketches are easily brought into the workflow through seamlessly importing the 3D sketch into a CAD software package via the export of an IGES, FBX, and OBJ file. The resulting export will open in Alias or Rhino with like-for-like accuracy and, if exported as IGES or FBX with NURBS, each stroke and surface can be further edited and manipulated in the CAD software. Bring models made with CAD tools into Gravity Sketch via OBJ and IGES import to use as an underlay for sketch-overs.
The Surfaces tool allows for the exploration of complex concave and convex forms. Rather than laying our curves and typing in commands with a keyboard and mouse in a CAD software, drawing a NURBS or SubD surface with a gestural input allows designers to achieve a much more expressive 3D design language and explore forms in a much more intuitive way. There is also the possibility to accurately lay out characterful shapes and curves that will persist through to the final product. All of the data is carried over when the sketch is exported and imported to other CAD software packages.
Primitive Shapes and Volumes
Quickly get a better understanding of the form and volume of a design through the use of primitive shapes. You can block out the rough volume of the design, or draw freehand with the volume tool to create nondestructive solid models. All of the content created with the creation tools provided can be edited at any time allowing for the development of additional iterations.
Subdivision Modeling (SubD), is one of the latest and most powerful geometry additions to the tool. As seen in this video, this geometry method allows freeform editing capabilities. Create a surface or define a primitive shape, then edit by pushing, pulling and extruding freely. By extruding the face of a primitive shape (like a cube), develop organic or structural forms. Jump between smooth and faceted forms with a simple toggle. Edits can be made in both the smooth and faceted state, giving the designer the flexibility to define their own creative flow.
Altering the shape of a stroke is akin to altering the weight of a vector in Adobe Illustrator on but with a three-dimensional shape. Being immersed in VR allows the user to get to a three-dimensional object much faster and unlock endless iterations and spend much more time in the creative problem-solving phase of design.
Precision is a phrase that has become synonymous with millimetre accuracy more from an engineering standpoint. In Gravity Sketch, designers are achieving true creative fidelity faster and more accurately (true to the initial idea) than through the use of a classical CAD software which, in reality, was initially developed to help in the production of manufacturable 3D models.
Build Detailed Scenarios with Ease
All Gravity Sketch content can be saved and imported as a prefab or component, giving designers the ability to build libraries of content that can be reused at any time during their workflow. Loading up prefab models (alongside the mannequins provided) is an easy way to quickly build detailed scenarios which allow designs to be viewed in simulations of real life contexts. Some designers take this process quite far and use the scenes they create to hold design reviews with clients in VR. This storytelling ability is native to industrial designers. They can enhance the delivery of the concepts and bring their client on an immersive journey during the design process – a journey that is often intangible and difficult to share.
Foam mockups have been a standard prototyping tool of the industrial design profession for decades. With any object larger than two by two feet, 1:1 scale model-making is almost a given, designers will use the physical model to make more informed decisions about the design and user experience, evaluate its scale, and potential manufacturing challenges. Many organizations invest in laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC mills to create physical models from CAD data (e.g. a model made in SolidWorks) to create more dimensionally precise mockups. Iterations of the CAD model for subsequent physical models require a bit of back and forth between editing the CAD model and preparing the design for digital rapid fabrication. This is the most common method we see designers employing for working through ergonomic constraints or challenges.
In Gravity Sketch, poseable mannequins can also be used to explore more advanced ergonomic challenges, showcasing user interactions, or even how end-users or customers will use the product. Here, we see a lever underneath the table to showcase the user interacting with one function of the product. The manipulatable joints on the mannequin extend not just to the limbs, but the individual extremities as well, allowing for an infinite number of poses. Additionally, Gravity Sketch allows for the quick mock-up retail scenarios and product usage or rough digital environments to showcase products and ideas in context from very early on in the design process.
Quickly take screenshots of work inside the application, from any angle and any stage of the development. The screenshots are saved as .pngs which can be easily brought into Photoshop and used as an underlay for sketch-overs or detailed renders. The benefit is that the designer will know the exact proportions are correct, with the correct perspective used everytime.
Design Reviews and Collaboration
Rather than evaluating 2D renders behind a screen, teams can immerse themselves in the product at any stage of the development. Design reviews are an excellent way to utilize the tool; invite colleagues and other stakeholders into the VR environment to allow them to experience your proposal at 1:1 scale from their own vantage point. This clears up a lot of miscommunication that could result from the poor 3D translation of a 2D sketch.
The collaboration feature allows team members from different geographical locations to meet in the same virtual studio to ideate, review and collaborate on the same design in real-time. Users collaborating can edit a design live, working together for true creative collaboration, no matter where they are in the world.
Designs from Our Community
We’ve elaborated on one possible workflow, although there are many different variations as designers explore with Gravity Sketch to find their own personal workflow. We always look to the wealth of creativity that we find in our community of designers for possible examples to share.
In this video, Fed Rios designs a bike frame in just a single sitting. From an imported reference image, he sketches out the form to get the proportions of the bike frame first, before adding in the wheels, then detailing the form using the surface tool.
In another video, Fed creates a chair by sketching over a pre-existing model. In his caption, he describes the frame as “bent steel” topped with “bent plywood” and a cushion. Check out more of his work on his Instagram @fedriosdesign.
Lukas Hilfiker created this design for power washer by sketching out the rough form and placing the design in the context with a mock-up using the poseable mannequins. After this he created a more detailed design, focusing on the more elaborate ergonomics when users are interacting with the product.
Check out more of his work on Instagram @lukas.hilfiker.
Nick Baker creates around 300 iterations of a lamp idea in the same scene with only a couple of the tools offered. He can then explore the few designs he is satisfied within Keyshot or even make more informed and confident 3D physical prototypes.
Check out more of his work on Instagram @nickpbaker
If you’d like to find out more about how Gravity Sketch can improve your workflow, contact us via email, on our social channels, or speak to us directly on our Discord; we’d be happy to arrange a demonstration.