3D Limits, or How to Avoid Killing 3D with 3D applications?

I’d like to discuss 3D. The following 3D Perspectives blog post “Do Designers Really Want to Communicate in 3D?” got me thinking about when and how 3D is efficient and how to apply these practices in our implementations. There is no debate – 3D inspires! We can see what we are going to design, visualize engineering analyses, present and explain problems in a way that we cannot do in plain English words. But are limits for 3D? How can we collaborate efficiently on 3D and non-3D information?

There are a few basic types of communication in the design world. You can communicate to:

1/ present the design of product;

2/ describe a problem;

3/ discuss a particular solution.

What are the key decision points designers need in order to communicate in 3D? I think that the main point is around productivity. If 3D helps them improve their productivity, they will definitely take the “3D story” seriously and use it as an instrument for their daily work. But even if sounds like 3D is appropriate for a regular designer’s life, is 3D-orientation really that obvious?

I will try to delve into a typical designer’s activities and will figure out where 3D could help as well as harm. In other words, where are the limits of 3D?. 

Designer Activity

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1.     Search specific design assembly/part/…  


3D is good because you can see what you’re searching for

3D is bad because it might show you 150 visually similar parts? I’m not sure that’s so helpful…

2.     Collaborate – i.e. discover a specific problem together?


3D is good because you can see the problem in 3D visually… I really like being able to see this…


3D isn’t always good in this case because the problem can’t always be represented visually. Sometimes you need the right balance of 3D together with textual information

3.     Co-design


3D is great!  Collaborative design is only possible in 3D…

But 3D is not always ideal, as design requires a good combination of visual and non- visual capabilities in order to keep records of discussions (i.e. IM with SolidWorks; 3DLive with buddy-list)


4.     Demo product, communicate with customer


3D is good as a picture is worth a thousand words, however….

3D isn’t always ideal in this case, because if  customers are interested in particular non-visual aspects, they will need to get access to these characteristics as simply as possible.

 So, my conclusion is that 3D is very important in the way we can provide a context for discussion and communication, – the ability to visualize and actually co-design our work. In certain cases, using non-3D user experience is the only way to work for designer to make right decision. Also, presenting non-visual information can be easily understood – sometimes too much 3D information creates an information overload. And ultimately, Excel-like communication, in many cases, can be the only efficient way to present a problem or issue.

So, to measure user productivity and work on the user experience is the only real way to find 3D limits. I’d like to hear your feedback about your personal experience with 3D.



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