5 Ways VR Will Innovate Design and Digital Workflows

Virtual Reality is the talk of the town. As a creative professional – should you pay attention to this?

If you have been anywhere near a tech-savvy friend or relative these past 12 months, chances are good that you may have heard mention of Virtual Reality at one point or another. Virtual Reality has steadily risen from being a gaming-oriented ambitious fantasy back in 2012, to an actual medium utilized by multi-national corporations and organizations from all around to world.

While computer gaming was its original intent, VR and 360° video technology has since then grown to solve real-world challenges such as:

With such enormous benefits to journalism, storytelling, psychology and health, it sure seems that Virtual Reality is here to stay. Does it then stand to reason to assume that it might also have some value for the creatives of the world?

I would like to argue the case, and present you with 5 ways it might transform the way we work:

1. Inspiring New Ideas With A New Platform

With Virtual Reality as a platform, you have the potential  to work with any material, brush or tool, and from within any environment you can think off. It even lets you do so in 3-dimensional space on a 1:1 scale. As a creative, this means that you’re no longer restricted to whatever tools (tech-based or traditional) are within your reach.

An Intous or Cintiq tablet will do many things for you, but when taking into account, the advancement of VR-based technology, it won’t be long until something new and exciting will start competing. Google’s Tilt Brush doesn’t look like a bad welcoming gift, inviting creatives to the platform:

You can step out of the canvas, away from that crouched back-breaking position of yours and paint your content in the air. This is something your Intous will never do. Once we step outside of the screen and into VR, what new ideas and assets will we create? Just imagine, where technology like this will have taken us in 4 years, when we’re writing 2020 in our calendars.

2. Improving Prototypes and 3D Modelling

Once 3D modelling goes from being something you do as a hobby to a profession, a tried-and-tested workflow is often what separates the pros from the hobbyists and enthusiasts. If you are working with any kind of professional 3D Modeling that leads to a prototype at some point, you know that it’s imperative to get the size and scale just right before production, and that’s an essential part of your work.

With Virtual Reality, we have the opportunity of designing and modelling these objects in a simulation in real-life size. By being able to do this, by having this testing environment that so closely emulates reality, you will get a much better hands-on experience with the product through your entire process.

Unity is just one of a handful of brands currently taking this concept into practice. Watch below as Timoni West, the principal designer at Unity’s Labs team displays the Unity VR Editor at the Hollywood Vision Summit 2016. The video is time-stamped for your benefit:

This tech will let you switch between evaluating and modifying the unit, time and time again until your prototype is just right, and ready to go. Should you happen to have pursued a career in the 3D modelling business, this might very well be a game-changer for you. In case you’re siting at the edge of your seat over all this CGI, head over to Tuts+ to get started!

Imagine, what you could build as a creator once this type of technology is mixed with the potential, scope and scale of stock libraries. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the goosebumps just thinking about it!

3. Establishing A Playground For Designers

Last year, Glen Keane, who has been a Walt Disney animator for 38 years, entered Virtual Reality and utilized the HTC Vive. In doing so, he rediscovered the characters from his past. See how this technology leaves a permanent impression on a man who has decades of traditional design on his resume:

“What is this amazing new world I just stepped into?” – Glen Keane

As a creative, sometimes you have to make and break things, simply for the sake of fun and experience. There is a trend growing among the creative portfolio networks of the world in which the person in question challenges themselves to a rigorous amount of published content creation, simply for the benefit from creating published work while learning. Doing so incentivizes you to do your best work, even though you’re still learning. It also nudges you a little bit outside of your comfort zone, which isn’t bad either.

These kinds of experiments has populated networks like Behance and Dribbble and every day there’s new impressive work uploaded, showcasing incredible works of art. By creating and breaking things, you flex your creative muscles, and I cannot recommend this enough. Virtual Reality will give you the chance to do all of this,  but in a brand-new environment and a brand new medium where there’s even more content to make and break!.

4. Improving Mock-Up Technology

Having access to mock-ups that will show you what a given piece of artwork or design will look like in real life, is a great tool, and on a daily basis helps creatives preview their work. Your design may look great, but how does it fit on the side of a pen? Is it even recognizable at that size? Does it look good on on a business card? How about on a T-shirt? These types of questions has historically been answered with rendered mock-ups, and this has been where 3D models and 2D artwork could really work together.

So how does Virtual Reality fit into this? Well, since Virtual Reality can be used as a platform to showcase realistic renders of 3D environments, I see no reason why the next step in mock-up technology shouldn’t be interactive, 360° video scenes with partially rendered elements saved as some version of Smart Objects. Imagine, what it would be like to tell your next big client the following:

“Yes, as promised, we have your campaign posters as they would look decorating a billboard in Time Square. Here, put these on first.”

Animated Outdoor Advertising Mock-ups by genetic96

On online marketplaces that distributes digital assets – templates and mock-ups always seem to have a favorable amount of attention. At Envato Market and on GraphicRiver especially, there exists an ecosystem that thrives very well on templates and mock-ups. Just take a look at the staggering inventory of Product Mockups. It’s no surprise that such demand has been met with flagship products like Envato Elements that provides unlimited downloads for a fixed monthly fee.

5. Strengthening Remote Teams

We know for a fact that a vast number of corporations and organizations from all over the world are utilizing remote employees for much of their work.

Having access to intellectual capacity from people residing in all corners of the globe is good business. It’s an incredibly powerful resource for any company and as such, any innovation in making cross-continental work easier is something to keep an eye out on. Cultural diversity often leads to intellectual diversity, and both enriches the work environment. Having a global team is almost always a big win.

Digital - VR Today Magazine
Does collaboration have to be made on-location for teams to work great together?

Virtual Reality takes that very same physical presence away from a local meeting-room somewhere in a corporate headquarter, and transfers it into a digital environment for all to access. Integrating this type of content into mass-communication platforms like Slack would be a great way for remote teams to meet, and for Virtual Reality to mature as something way beyond games.

Final Thoughts

While these 5 are interesting new ways of working with VR, the list goes on and on, and there’s much more to be said of what is to come. Web Design will be impacted by this as well, and much terrain is waiting to be explored once VR collides with web design and becomes a mainstream digital instrument.

Note on the pricing of VR: At the moment, most proper high-end VR gear will set you back several hundreds of dollars at a minimum. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive isn’t cheap technology, and the GearVR isn’t comparable to the two yet, as it’s powered by your phone. However – the cost of VR-related devices will no doubt race it’s way to a lower point as the years go by and the natural process of technological innovation proceeds. This will make the barrier for entry lower with each passing year, until every artist out there, new or old has the option to use a custom environment as an inspirational playground to facilitate their work.

As an aside, there’s plenty of high quality cardboards to be found if you want to take the technology for a spin without breaking your bank!

Featured photo: TechStage