From creating cars and footwear to imaging experiential new worlds inside the metaverse, product and software design teams have long operated using 2D tools, and without an effective form of online collaboration for distributed design teams doing this work.
That’s made industrial design expensive and cumbersome, putting prototyping beyond the reach of some and making the process time-consuming and costly for designers and brands.
Among industries that advanced 3D design, automotive took an early lead, with vast display rooms outfitted with custom projector arrays. No wonder automotive was the first major client of Gravity Sketch, where co-founder and Chief Experience Officer (CXO) Daniela Paredes Fuentes said digital is making collaborative 3D design intuitive and affordable.
Confronted with a pandemic-era problem of not being able to work in a lab setting together is has kindled broader interest in a design platform not limited by old ways of doing things.
“It’s essentially allowing people to have a video call, like a Zoom call, but … if you’re creating three-dimensional objects and talking about three-dimensional objects, you always had to be in the same room. With the pandemic it wasn’t possible. Companies had to figure how to make their teams continue to be productive. Gravity Sketch … allowed them to do that.”
She said, “When we began, we weren’t really interested in making this massive tech company that was going to make millions.” It actually started out as a master’s degree project.
“Our interest was to figure out how to enable people to create and communicate in the most intuitive way, full stop. We started connecting very early on with people in the community that were looking for the same thing. We want to communicate in an easier way, and working spatially has always been the dream.”
It’s a dream shared by design teams inside Gravity Sketch’s A-list clients including Adidas, Ford, Reebok and Volkswagen, which led to the company’s $33 million Series A fundraise in April.
Saying “we didn’t invent anything new, we only made it happen and the technology was there,” Fuentes said. A designer at Ford fell in love with the VR-assisted design platform “and decided that it was a great tool for his team to be using.”
Empowering Design Teams
As product and experience designers look at the world and its needs through new post-pandemic VR goggles, collaborative digital 3D design can bring better designs to market faster.
It’s as much about community as it is technology, Fuentes told PYMNTS, as the company’s goal is rooted in connecting the community of industrial designers and empowering them.
The industrial designer from Ford Motors who “fell in love” with the platform is member of the global online community of designers looking for better digital tools, and that’s an effect Fuentes is counting on for Gravity Sketch to realize its vision and succeed commercially.
“Ford, Reebok, Adidas, they’re doing very interesting work. We have other customers doing movies with Gravity Sketch, doing furniture and so on,” she said. “The most important part is to understand that all of them have three-dimensional ideas and they’re having to bring them out of their head for somebody else to understand, for someone else to continue with the process.”
Limitations of many common industrial design systems like CAD/CAM software and other visualization tools can’t match the digital precision offered by new platform like Gravity Sketch.
She told PYMNTS, “This is what they’re using it for. They’re using it for exploring a lot of different shapes. Within Gravity Sketch you only have six tools. It’s very easy and simple to use … and every designer uses it in a different way. They’re using it for shape exploration, to bring other people into the conversation, for collaboration.”
On the Gravity Sketch platform, the six indispensable 3D design tools are the “stroke tool” which is a digital stylus; the “ink tool” for expressiveness in designs; the “volume tool” for visualizing space; the “curved surface tool” which Fuentes said was inspired by how car designers ideate shapes; “primitives” which handles shapes; and the “SubD” tool enabling designers to subdivide the spaces they are imaging inside their headset.
“Plenty More 3D Content”
Armed with $33 million, the company that started as a college project is focused on product improvements, staffing up, and community building for designers, Fuentes told PYMNTS.
She said the capital infusion is an opportunity for the company founded in 2014 and up until now funded “in a very guerrilla, experimental, bootstrapped kind of way.”
“We’re going to be able to grow our commercial team quite a bit, which is going to allow us to reach places in the world where we haven’t been able to go. It’s also going to allow us to grow our customer success team, which for us is kind of like the most important part, because we want to always be there with the customer.”
As for the next three years, Fuentes told PYMNTS, “We want to be a company that is really pushing 3D workflows and enabling multiple people to connect. We say 3D workflows because we don’t necessarily think that everything is going to be happening inside of Gravity Sketch.”
Calling other 3D design innovators as “partners” rather than the competition, she believes the global industrial design community can break its dependence on 2D screens and make the leap.
“There’s going to be plenty more 3D content that needs to be made, with the metaverse, with NFTs, with you name it, three-dimensional interfaces that are going to have to be made. Movies are constantly moving in that direction,” she said.
“There’s constantly an increasing need for 3D content and there’s more and more people going in that direction.”