By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

January 10, 2023 | 8 min read

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Design experts from Adobe, Fox Agency, Experience Futures and Pearlfisher explore the challenges and opportunities for individuals and businesses to unlock the full potential of 3D design.

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How can you overcome the time, budget and talent challenges facing 3D design projects?

The demand and appetite for 3D design is only getting bigger – yet organizations are struggling to keep up. According to new research from The Drum and Adobe, time limitations, budget constraints and access to talent are among the biggest challenges facing 3D design projects currently – but cutting-edge tech could be the leveller we’ve all been waiting for.

“3D design is a tool in the toolbox – and it’s becoming a much more important tool to rely on,” says David Ramskov, digital director at creative design and branding agency Pearlfisher. “We’re on the verge of the broader democratization of 3D designers, the tools are much more accessible today and we’re seeing 3D assets form holistic, seamless, and distinctive brand experiences. Thinking holistically about the problem you’re trying to solve as designers, through 3D or 2D digital experience, that passion and an understanding of the problem is crucial.”

Ramskov was speaking as part of a recent webinar from The Drum and Adobe, bringing together experts from across the 3D design ecosystem to understand the barriers to entry in the rapidly growing 3D design industry and how tech is helping solve issues currently inhibiting 3D projects.

Getting off the starting blocks

For a third (33%) of designers, 3D in the next step in their natural career progression – driven by their passion (46%), eagerness to learn and develop new skills (38%) and a desire to work in a more creative industry (31%). And while there’s a positive attitude towards getting into the industry, it’s a hard one to crack, largely due to challenges around training, skills and funding.

In the past, 3D was perceived as a technical and difficult skill to master. Add to that the broad spectrum of focus areas and it can seem overwhelming – but only if you try to tackle everything at once.

“For me, it was the overwhelming feeling of not really knowing where to start,” says Hannah Leadbeater, 3D & motion designer at B2B tech marketing firm Fox Agency. “Learning the principles was simple but mastering this skill is very difficult, especially with the complexities of the multiple paths you can go down. My advice would be to do research into what trends are out there to find something that inspires you, find your own style and fall in love with it. That will make you more creative, imaginative and make the process of learning it easier and more fun.”

When designers find their motivation entry point and take things one step at a time, they have an opportunity to really enhance their experience, adds Vincent Gault, senior technical artist & community manager at Adobe 3D & Immersive: “Start by discovering and mastering one tool, and then add tools on top of this. Don’t try to master everything at once, instead rely on your skills and see how you can enhance your experience.”

Finding your focus

When designers have found their passion, the desire for 3D skills from businesses is sure to open doors. As Howard Pyle, founder at Experience Futures, says: “Having 3D on the resume is something that can be very specific and rare – but as most organizations are looking to spread out into specific virtual spaces and generate new objects and new worlds, it’s important for designers to be able to round out their experience. It’s always been an adjunct space but more and more it’s becoming part of a rounded portfolio of a design organization and for a designer’s background.”

While the research found that access to talent (38%) was among the top three challenges facing 3D design projects currently, time limitations (55%) and budget constraints (60%) are inhibiting the potential to execute 3D design projects once in the industry.

An understanding of the interface is key – with the experts advising to go back to the basics of learning software, experimenting, and understanding what tools can do what.

“It’s really important to first understand your workflow and understand what could make it faster, easier and more efficient,” says Gault. “Identifying this, finding the good people, finding someone who can take a look at your pipeline and has the expertise, you will quickly see that you could do something 20 times faster if you do it in this way in 3D.”

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Breaking down the barriers

Almost a third (31%) of 3D design professionals say that ‘cutting edge technology and software’ is the number one factor that will improve the industry for future 3D designers. The problem is that with so many different tools and technologies emerging in the 3D space, there’s a lack of standardization across platforms to give designers the solution to address their challenges.

“Many solutions are like one big box with everything inside – but we prefer to split this in different tools – each of them dedicated to one section of the pipeline,” adds Gault. “This way, we can create a clear user experience and really focus on what people are doing at the same time without having a huge user interface – giving artists less barriers to make what they are good at.”

As the lines between the physical and digital worlds blur, there’s an opportunity for designers to apply best practices from the best of both worlds. And for 3D designers working in digital product and mixed realities, Pyle notes that there is a need to think about, understand and learn principles of inclusive technology and think like UX designers as well. “There will ultimately be a huge social impact to those virtual worlds that we’re creating,” he says. “It’s important not just to be the best designer, but to think about the context of the individual you’re designing these experiences for.”

Watch the full webinar ‘Designing for the future: breaking down the barriers to 3D design’ at the top of the page.

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