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11 Apr 2024

Products don’t live in isolation, neither should our ideas

By Oluwaseyi Sosanya

The role of a designer is pivotal in shaping the future, crafting visions that provide glimpses into what product lies ahead. Designers start by identifying challenges or problems, typically defined by the broader organization’s product goals and objectives. Their task is multifaceted, requiring consideration of numerous factors before proposing a design and the story behind it; this includes cultural influences, the competitive landscape, and human behavior.

Context is key

Context is crucial in product design because it ensures that the final product is not just aesthetically pleasing but also functional and suited to its intended environment. Designers must consider how a product will be used, who will use it, and under what conditions. For instance, if a company is designing an off-road vehicle, they might visit the Mojave Desert to understand the environment and gather firsthand insights from locals and users.

How this information is then used within a design needs to then be communicated to others involved in the process to lead to better decision-making and more successful products.

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The challenges of isolated design presentations

Traditionally, we’ve seen designers presenting their ideas through sketches or images. While these methods can be effective, they often lack the necessary context, making it difficult for stakeholders to fully grasp the environment and usability of the proposed design. Even with 2D or 3D renderings, the complete experience, especially in terms of human interaction and real-world application, often falls short.

In contemporary design processes, stakeholders are often presented with lengthy PowerPoint decks, sometimes spanning 50-60 slides. These presentations aim to convey the designer’s journey, contextualizing the proposed design with imagery, narrative quotes, and interviews from relevant users. While this method can prompt valuable feedback, it frequently leads to confusion and questions due to a lack of clarity. Stakeholders struggle to connect the dots and understand the designer’s rationale, resulting in diluted impact and resistance to the design.

Crafting a compelling design story with Gravity Sketch

The emergence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the design process is particularly exciting. Whether viewed through a VR headset, on a screen, or via a handheld device with AR passthrough, these technologies help narrate the story of the design. They can show the design within its intended environment and demonstrate its application and use. This contextualization is vital because product design serves a specific function and purpose. Without context, a product design becomes an art piece.

Using Gravity Sketch, designers can incorporate cultural, environmental, and human elements into their presentations. Designers can showcase their iterative process, highlighting each stage of their thinking and the reference imagery that influenced their decisions along the way, from early ideation to hand-off. This approach lets stakeholders explore the design journey at their own pace. They can view early iterations, understand the inspiration behind the design, and see how additional information, like feedback, shaped subsequent versions.

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Immersing and engaging stakeholders

We’ve seen customers use Gravity Sketch to revolutionize their design process by using these virtual environments, where designs can be placed and experienced in context. The platform allows designers to build entire settings complete with props, environmental elements, and human factors. This setup helps stakeholders, including leadership, engineering, and various other teams, immerse themselves in the design, experiencing it as it would exist in the real world.

By replacing traditional 2D mediums with an immersive Gravity Sketch environment, many questions that arise in conventional presentations are preemptively answered, saving people and the process time. In one footwear example of this, a designer guided stakeholders through the entire design journey, from cultural and environmental influences to athlete science, culminating with the final design displayed on a store shelf. This approach demonstrated how the design would stand alongside competitive products, providing a comprehensive and compelling narrative that traditional presentations often fail to achieve. This method not only enhances understanding but also fosters greater engagement and buy-in from all involved parties.

From Concept to Context with Storytelling

In a recent live panel discussion we spoke with educator and researcher Alejandro Lozano Robledo, to discuss how integrating designs into real-world contexts enhances storytelling.

As we continue to see the community and customers embracing 3D for product design, we’re seeing momentum in bringing stakeholders into the experience to review work in 3D too. Alejandro mentions how the key to unlocking this is exploring the easiest ways to bring people into the virtual space who may never have used VR before, or don’t have access to a headset. This point of friction is something that at Gravity Sketch we need to continue to build powerful collaborative and presentation tools around.

If you have product feedback on presentations and immersive environments, head to the Discord channel to discuss and bring suggestions directly to the Gravity Sketch team.