5 Brands Doing Cool Stuff With 3D Design

As consumers, we’ve known about 3D design for decades.

5 Brands Doing Cool Stuff With 3D Design

by David Rand

Posted on 10-24-2019

Asconsumers, we’ve known about 3D design for decades. It has stimulated our senses in animatedfilms like Toy Story and Shrek. And, of course, many of us grewup playing video games that featured lifelike 3D characters and scenery.

But lately, thanks in large part to advances in 3D design software and the introduction of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) capabilities, brands are embracing the technology more than ever. Indeed, the global 3D imaging market is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $16.6 billion next year, according to a MarketsandMarkets report.

In a nutshell, think of 3D design as a process where graphic artists use a variety of computer tools to produce a mathematical representation of a three-dimensional object or shape. Those incredibly realistic digital images can then be stored and shared across a variety of mediums, such as computers, television sets, movie screens, smartphones, video game platforms, and VR or AR headsets. They can even be converted into physical objects using 3D printers.

Many marketers today undoubtedly see 3D design as a creative goldmine—an opportunity to jazz up static images so they jump off the screen and capture the attention and imagination of viewers.

Here are five examples of brands we’ve seen innovating lately with 3D design.


ESPN, the cable sports network, is constantly exploring opportunities to put more pop into its program intros, segues to commercial breaks, and graphics for special events. Three-dimensional design plays a huge role.

To call attention to its documentary “Basketball: A Love Story, ” the broadcaster recently created a “Game Changers” feature that uses wax-like 3D images to illustrate the evolution of shooting, dribbling, passing, post ups, and dunking.

It also used 3D design to bring tennis rackets to life in a promotion for ESPN Youth Ident Tennis. The network’s coverage of the 2018 US Open was served up with unique transparent blue rackets. The network also captured an Emmy award in graphic design for its NFL draft coverage, which employed a number of 3D design elements.


Nike is a pioneer in using the technology on both its websites and for customizing 3D-printed sneakers for sports stars and fans.

Recently named “Design Company of the Year” by Fast Company , the shoemaker puts 3D design to work on a site called Nike By You, where customers can visualize and create one-of-a-kind footwear. On occasion, Nike also releases themed designs that allow users to create shoes tied to their favorite teams or events they care about. For instance, earlier this year, it offered the ability to customize its Nike Air Force 1 High or Low with collegiate hook-and-loop patches for Duke, Ohio State, Villanova, Kentucky, Oregon, and UConn.

Nike has also been a step ahead of many other companies in 3D printing. Initially using it for prototyping and design, Nike now incorporates 3D-printed components in its products, as well as a customizable “stretchy” sneaker called Flyprint that is completely made with a 3D print process.

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“Design is an incredibly critical differentiator for any brand,” Nike CEO Mark Parker told Fast Company in September. “I think you’ve got to move more quickly in terms of the innovation cycle, and it’s about presenting something that’s meaningful to people, relevant, and unexpected.”


Sephora, the French multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores, knows the value of letting customers try its products before buying them. In the digital age, it has recognized the need to do that online.

The retailer’s AR-enabled Sephora Virtual Artist tool, which it developed with ModiFace, lets customers virtually try on eye, lip, and cheek makeup using a head-and-shoulders photo uploaded to the website. From kiosks in stores or on a smartphone, the app measures a person’s lips and eyes and walks them through choosing the product shades that are best for their particular physical traits.

Sephora says more than 200 million product shades have been tried this way since the 2016 launch of Virtual Artist, which has spurred competitors to launch their own “try-on” apps.

“Digital and innovation have always been part of our DNA at Sephora,” Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s executive vice president of omni retail, told TechRepublic . “We are very focused on our customers, and we know that their life is increasingly reliant on digital. So, we know to be successful as a retailer, we’ve got to be where our clients are, and give (them) tools and experiences that meet their needs.”


Wayfair, an online furniture and home goods provider, has been gaga about 3D design for a few years now.

In 2018, it launched Wayfair Spaces, an interior design and room planning app that lets people explore professionally designed rooms and visualize products in their home using mixed reality. It works with Magic Leap’s AR headsets and is meant to make designing a room or entire home a great deal easier.

“[AR] lends itself to the problem we’re trying to solve, which is to visualize something before you buy it,” Shrenik Sadalgi, Wayfair’s director of next gen experiences, told Adweek . “We’re going to figure out what the right experience is. There are no interaction patterns that have been defined so far, so we need to figure out what that means.”

In addition to what it’s doing for its own website visitors, Wayfair is also promoting industrywide adoption of 3D modeling techniques. Last year, for instance, it launched Wayfair 3D University, which it touted as the industry’s first curriculum of 3D-modeling standards tailored for home furnishings suppliers and manufacturers. It also recently joined the Khronos Group, an open industry consortium to drive standards around 3D graphics, visual processing, and machine learning.


Williams-Sonoma, which owns the Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Williams-Sonoma brands, has also been front and center in providing customers with try-before-you-buy options.

For instance, Pottery Barn has its 3D Room View AR mobile app that lets users virtually place life-size, three-dimensional Pottery Barn products in a room, save and share room designs, and connect through the app to shop. Other retailers, such as IKEA and Target, have launched similar apps over the past few years.

Marketers at furniture companies like these said they view such apps as an opportunity to expose customers to their entire line of products, but they also hope to interest them in hiring their professional consultants to help further refine and complete home remodeling projects.

Topics: Insights & Inspiration, 3D & AR, Experience Cloud, Trends & Research, Digital Transformation, Customer Stories, Information Technology, CMO by Adobe