The Top 3D & AR Takeaways from Adobe MAX 2019: Design Leaders Share Their Stories and Discoveries

Adobe Aero, along with Adobe Dimension and Substance by Adobe, made a big splash on the floor of the Community Pavilion at Adobe MAX 2019. 3D and AR design leaders who attended MAX say the industry has grown considerably in just a short time.

by Patrick Faller

posted on 12-02-2019

3D and immersive design is not exactly an emerging field — the concepts, workflows, and end results have been around in the commercial and art worlds for some time. But there is a major change in the works in the industry: never before has it been easier for digital creatives to access the tools they need to design in 3D and augmented reality (AR), and that is shaking up the industry in new and exciting ways.

At Adobe MAX 2019, held in Los Angeles in early November, 3D and AR references were everywhere. Of course, there was the much-anticipated launch of Adobe Aero, our AR authoring tool that allows you to design and share augmented reality experiences, and considerable updates to Adobe Dimension and Substance by Adobe, but 3D & AR was also a hot topic at third-party booths, in talks and receptions, and in the conversations of many designers excited by recent developments.

“I think 3D and AR media is getting democratized — more people are getting access to it and more people are able to express themselves with it; it’s not that sacrosanct thing that only a few people could do,” said Simoul Alva, visual designer at &Walsh, who took in as many 3D-associated activities as possible this MAX.

Simoul Alva’s editorial illustrations for Wired, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Medium:

“I use [Adobe Dimension] for illustration. It probably wasn’t intended for that, but I think people will start doing it more, and I mostly used it for branding projects as a visual language. Now you can use 3D to create an entire brand language…I see client presentations changing forever because of this work.” Read on for more highlights from Adobe MAX on the latest developments in 3D and AR, and watch the video below to hear more from Simoul as she demos some of the latest product features in Dimension and Aero released this year.

The emergence of a hybrid 3D world

As more and more graphic designers have gained the ability to design in 3D, the design industry itself has changed. 3D teams inside of companies and organizations are more and more ingrained with other designers; meanwhile, those designers, who might once have only ever worked in 2D, are now able to use 3D design tools to level up their own creations.

“3D is almost like an uncharted territory for a lot of designers, because a lot of them are graphic designers without 3D backgrounds. But with up and coming technology, including immersive tech like the ability to design AR experiences, everything is moving into a hybrid 3D world. Even though you are not trained in it, it’s almost expected that you know somewhat of a way to make a 3D composite,” said Benny Lee, global 3D design lead at Coca-Cola, who has used Dimension to completely transform Coke’s package design workflow.

Benny Lee says designers and design teams at Coca-Cola (which manages brands like Fanta) have become more used to working in 3D. These are the 2018 Fanta Halloween promotional cans initiated by Fanta NA brand team led by YiWen Lu in collaboration with illustrator, Ty Mattson. Adobe Dimension plays a key part in the visualization workflow.

At Adobe MAX’s 3D & AR reception, Benny and Liam Keating, product designer at Volvo, both shared their thoughts on how 3D is changing teams at the world’s big companies. While there are still barriers to entry when it comes to the actual creation of original 3D models, Liam said new workflows are allowing 2D designers to take over much of the manipulation of 3D assets, and he is excited by many of the new developments he saw at MAX.

“You have 3D designers that are very good at creating hardcore models, and then you have the 2D team. That 2D team increasingly takes those assets and manipulates, textures, and paints the materials themselves. They do the renders, take it into Photoshop. And that’s something we haven’t really seen before,” he said.

At Adobe MAX 2019, hardware partners, NVIDIA, doubled down on the capabilities of their tools to help 3D and immersive designers. Check out Liam Keating, Benny Lee, and others as they share their thoughts on 3D design and how NVIDIA RTX GPUs are improving workflows.

AI is making it quicker and easier than ever before to design in 3D

For professionals working with 3D assets, another key development in the industry that apparent at Adobe MAX 2019 is how processes are changing. Developments in AI are leading the way for easier, more intuitive 3D workflows. Nikola Damjanov, lead game artist at Nordeus, is a power user of Substance Alchemist and points to developments in the tool, and elsewhere in his workflow, that show how AI is making life much easier for 3D artists and designers.

“We’re seeing way more optimization of the process. For designers, we’re going to stop creating everything manually. We can already see how AI can create meshes out of prebuilt parts. We can see how AI can track animations from a single video and generate pictures or seen AI…every single tactical task you do is going to come down to a choice decision, not an actual manual task,” he said.

“This is great because it’s going to mean we can leave artists to only deal with art; historically game art production has always been a technical thing. You always had to care about optimization and about the process and pipeline. Just removing that kind of burden will help game artists focus more time on creativity and will also help artists from other disciplines get their foot in the door in the gaming garden, which is incredible.”

Work created by Nikola Damjanov with Substance Alchemist.

It’s another theme Benny Lee said was present across this Adobe MAX (through the many mentions of how Adobe Sensei is improving creative workflows), and one that strikes a personal chord with him. He is optimistic about the workflows of the future, which will use AI and machine learning technology to remove a lot of the drudgery from 3D design.

“When I look back at my first two years at Coke, I remember spending most of my time rendering. That’s not a very glamorous thing. It’s kind of boring, to be honest, and I feel there was a better use of my time than just spending on rendering. My time should be spent on visualizing. I feel advancements in AI and ML, things like that, can really help our designers a lot and empower them,” he said.

AR is the cornerstone of future digital experiences

For many designers working to create 3D designs, sharing their work can be a bit of a let down. In most cases, 3D creations will end up being viewed, delivered, and used in 2D. The barrier to entry in creating an augmented reality experience that shows off these 3D assets has traditionally been very high; Adobe is out to change this, and at MAX released Adobe Aero, which allows you to author and share AR experiences with your own assets, in both 2D and 3D file formats. For Simoul Alva, this was one of the highlights of her MAX.

“It can be a shame working in 3D, because you make these incredible 3D designs that will ultimately only be viewed in 2D. With Aero, it was just a few clicks to make any surface come to life with your own assets that you’ve made in Dimension, for example. Your 3D design doesn’t just live on as this static image, but comes to life as you can animate it as well in AR,” she said.

Simoul Alva and Substance by Adobe’s Taryn Hadfield experiment with Adobe Aero at MAX 2019.

“AR takes things to the next level, bringing things out of the 2D world and adding interaction. I think that that is the future,” added Benny.

See Adobe Aero in action. In this video, Allison Torneros, also known as Hueman, an Oakland-based graffiti artist, explains how Aero is changing her creative workflow and the way AR can expand her murals into an interactive experience.

For 3D artists at MAX, across industries, AR and the efforts to democratize it for designers presents a bunch of exciting opportunities, even beyond the art itself. For Nikola Damjanov and his work in video games, he’s looking at the prospect of prototyping experiences in AR to quickly see how assets look in 3D environments. For Liam Keating, at Volvo, the same is true: being able to contextualize 3D designs, and see what they look like in actual three dimensions, is a truly exciting prospect.

As 3D and immersive technology grows at MAX, so does the 3D & AR community

By far, the biggest point made by 3D leaders who attended MAX was that the 3D design community itself has grown immensely. Just as Adobe and other corporate partners at the conference are paying more attention to 3D, so are more and more designers from other disciplines. There is less and less ‘silo’ing’ of 3D teams, separate from other graphic design teams. Now, with shared abilities and a lower barrier to entry for graphic designers to do meaningful work in 3D, the focus is on ‘3D pipelines’ that involve lots of designers collaborating in an effort to create exciting work at a faster pace.

“I think what’s happened in the last five years in general in the world of 3D is incredible; how the tools have changed and the process. When I started in 3D almost a decade ago, creating was a very manual and daunting task. Now a lot of obstacles are removed, and I can see all of them being removed in the very near future,” said Nikola.

“Most companies and partners are embracing 3D and AR,” added Liam.

“It’s no longer a niche area with a very high cost of entry. Even a hobbyist with a Creative Cloud subscription has everything they need to prototype and create a 3D design and now even in AR. I think the more people that get into 3D, the more normal it becomes, and the more great tools we’ll see in the future.

Learn more about Adobe’s mission to provide apps that power a more efficient 3D workflow, helping you push your creative boundaries into new dimensions faster than ever before. To see how Adobe’s 3D & AR tools can help your workflow, check out these real-world use cases:

_Brand & Product Visualization
_Showcasing brand visualizations in 3D is a powerful way for designers to make better decisions while creating, persuading an audience, telling a story, and enticing customers.

Synthetic Photography
3D technology is reshaping traditional commercial photoshoot creation with synthetic photography.

_Environmental Design
Prototype and visualize spaces such as architectural interiors, signage, floor layouts, retail storefronts, and more.

Creative Play
The tools in the Adobe 3D & AR ecosystem have everything you need to let your imagination run wild and prepare for the next generation of design.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud