According to Gary Bortz, Principal Designer and Director of Bortz Product Design , people struggle to imagine what a product would look like in 3D when shown a 2D static image.
This is not surprising since one cannot expect people not trained to think in 3D to do so. Gary explains that the issue was really evident on a number of levels in one of the projects he had worked on recently.
A graphic design company, whom the marketing department worked closely with, was commissioned to provide the initial direction on a product design project.
Since they worked only in 2D, they provided realistic 2D images of the bottle that were approved by marketing to Gary for further work.
After interpreting the images and confirming his interpretation with the graphics department, he modelled up the proposal in 3D CAD and using 3D pdf format sent it back to the graphics people to see if the initial static realistic 2D and words had actually conveyed their intent. It was close but not completely accurate.
Gary had used SolidWorks’ CAD package to create these 3D models. The software has a proprietary open source viewer that can be downloaded onto any computer and allows the recipient of a SolidWorks or Edrawing (or a range of other specialised 3D files) to open and view the files with a range of options.
But strict IT regulations at various companies can prevent recipients from viewing it.
Gary decided to use the 3D pdf feature in Adobe Acrobat reader, a program that is on almost everyone’s computer, making the 3D pdf format a viable option.
This 3D feature in Acrobat allows recipients to have the control to view the product from all angles, switch components on and off and a lot more.
After a few more iterations with the graphics and marketing departments, Gary was able to create a model that had the aesthetics to satisfy marketing and a form that could be manufactured.
At this stage, the entire process was still in a virtual world and in essence, 2D. The model needed to be prototyped so that they could verify that they had achieved the design intent.
Leveraging the same CAD data used to produce the 3D pdf files, the team was able to commission rapid prototypes that were almost true to life and confirmed what the team had imagined.
Key learnings from the exercise:
- Don’t rely on an interpretation of a 2D image
- Use quick hand sketches to get a basic direction to cover aesthetics, function, features and ergonomics among others
- Get into 3D as quickly as possible, especially when designing housings or packs as this will help establish the rough volumes, envelope sizes or correct fits
- Do a final confirmation using rapid prototyping
- Make sure the whole team understands and uses the tools available to them
Gary Bortz is an Accredited Designer and Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional as well as an Advanced Surfacing Specialist.
Gary has over 20 years of industrial design and project management experience, working on a diverse range of products from consumer goods and packaging to street furniture.