Visualizing the Intangible: The Whimsical 3D Designs of Khyati Trehan

3D artwork created by Khyati Trehan.

“A 3D visual can bring people close to reality. But it also has the potential to take you far from it. It gives you the power to make your own worlds, control the mood a space sets.”

Khyati Trehan knows what she’s talking about — as a successful international designer, she regularly maximizes the possibilities that 3D design offers. In her words, she works especially hard to bring “clarity, emotion, movement, and identity to content” in her role as communication designer at IDEO in Munich.
Khyati’s crisp, whimsical style has been drawing more and more attention over the years; she is constantly being profiled by publications around the world of design, and companies like Samsung have been commissioning her to bring their brands to life.

A 3D flower designed by Khyati Trehan for Samsung India. From the Floral Fluid collection.

Khyati Trehan’s work for Samsung.

Khyati began with strong technical knowledge, honed at India’s National Institute of Design. At the Institute, teachers focused on “sharpening the senses,” which is a clear influence on how sensorially evocative her work has become. Speaking about her education, Khyati elaborates: “I feel like I’ve benefited by knowing my beziers and basics, before doing fancy 3D renders. Switching between tools in my overall practice has also been rewarding because I surprise myself with what I end up making. The last tool I’ve dabbled in or the last project I’ve finished always influences the next one in some way. A lot of interesting work happens at these kinds of intersections, and my experience helps me bounce around between these disciplines.”

Read on to learn more about Khyati’s 3D process and how she’s developed her craft, and check out her full tutorial on how to create your own whimsical 3D creation in Adobe Dimension (you can see the full project on Khyati’s Behance page).

A whimsical 3D labyrinth designed by Khyati Trehan in Adobe Dimension.

Whimsical, labyrinth-like buildings created in Adobe Dimension by Khyati Trehan.

Memories and daydreams

A series entitled Memory Palette, which has garnered significant attention online and has been featured on Behance’s illustration gallery, is an exploration of textures and colors that stand out in her recent memories. In many ways, it is emblematic of what makes Khyati’s work so special.

'Mixed Berries Cheesecake' 3D artwork created by Khyati Trehan from the 'Memory Palette' series.

Mixed Berries Cheesecake” from the “Memory Palette” series.

The results are so poignant, and have clearly resonated with so many, that it’s worth pausing to understand exactly how she traces her thoughts to create design concepts. By captioning a piece of hers called Memory Mirror in a recent Instagram post_,_ she sheds some light on this:

Her caption reads:

“Having lived in Berlin for more than a year now, I make mental notes almost everyday of all the things I took for granted back home. So many of the moments that came rushing back to me had the cozy corner of my living room in the background. I’ve spent countless hours on that same spot; spending time with family and friends, having grown-up conversations with my mum over the classic chai-pakora-rain trio, eating jars of every kind of achaar with my sister, having Mirambika reunions, sketching some of my best ideas, leaving my laptop to render overnight, and hastily unpacking freshly delivered food from Sagar or Bengali sweets. It is the sunniest spot in the house, as my cats Kira and Rukia who laze there all afternoon would gladly confirm.”

As you can see in the post, the cats that have become bronze statues, the memories as refracted mirrors, the mysterious presentational aspect that makes it seem as if the objects in a home are telling this story, about objects in a home. In this, Khyati has truly generated an image that evokes an actual dreamscape, similar to something our sleeping minds would generate in the unconscious. Yet, as we all know, those dreams are often messier and less aesthetically pleasing! The elegance with which she executes her ideas is astounding, as seen in her piece below.

'Re-Imagine Your Workspace' 3D artwork created by Khyati Trehan.

Artwork created by Khyati Trehan.

From imitating reality, to inventing realities

“I was drawn to 3D because you’re essentially whipping up spaces and objects that are close to reality, out of thin air. Practically, in some of my past projects, it has even replaced photography, thereby reducing cost and time. Designing in 3D has added new dimension (pun intended) to the way I visualize ideas,” said Khyati.

But for an artist with as active an imagination as hers, pure photorealism isn’t enough to fuel the creative drive forever. She says she felt “limited” by 3D tools in the beginning. “My initial explorations were quite literal, clicking buttons, testing features, and flowing with the process of creating.” After a while, this creative flow brought her to more exciting and uncharted territory.

Once she began releasing expectations of how 3D tools should be used, and familiarized herself with the ins and outs of Dimension, everything changed. “An asset will always be the sum of its parts, and those parts can be taken apart. For example, in one of my first few tests, I used the lid of a cylindrical jar for its wavy surface, and the reflections it picked up. The starter assets offer so much more than it seems at first glance.”

“My work now is a lot more conceptual and intentional, creating meaning by finding relations between seemingly unrelated things; drawing parallels that others don’t see ‘til you show them. I feel that there are so many concepts that surface just because of knowing the possibilities of a tool.”

When efficiency facilitates creative freedom

“Dimension gives you a head start in a lot of ways. You’re further down the usual pipeline of work since a lot of assets, like models and materials are there in front of you already. While in other softwares I’d make every material from scratch, the materials in the starter assets were sufficient and did a lot of the work for me.”

Artwork created by Khyati Trehan demonstrates the use of light and shadow play for 3D designs in Adobe Dimension.

More shadow play in Dimension. Created by Khyati Trehan.

Graphic designer, Khyati Trehan seated in a pose against a backdrop of gold foil.

Graphic designer Khyati Trehan, originally from India and now based in Munich.

For someone as inventive as she is, it’s surprising to hear that one of her favorite aspects of working with Dimension is purely practical.

“One of the things that every 3D artist shares their pain on is render times. When I switched to Dimension, the speed and quality of the render preview was pretty amazing. I could move things around, choose lighting options, and see these changes in real time. That’s not what I’m used to. I’m used to making my composition and then ‘finding out’ what the results are once the preview finally shows up. With a faster render you can try more options and make decisions after multiple iterations, and the end result ends up being better,” she stated.

The democratization of 3D design

“I hope 3D tools move towards being more accessible to newbies and I think Dimension is doing just that. The medium has also come really far in terms of achieving realism, and just like the history of art, it’s moving towards being more expressive.”

Abstract 3D artwork created by Khyati Trehan.

“Like a magic trick.” Khyati Trehan’s 3D art, made in Dimension.

“I often get asked about ‘how’ something was made as a reaction to my 3D work, unlike my 2D work. It feels a little like a magic trick to people. I sense a lot of curiosity about the process of creation.”

'Happy Thoughts' 3D artwork created by Khyati Trehan.

A piece entitled “Happy Thoughts”

Are you curious about how to create an isometric fantasy landscape like this one? We asked Khyati to create a tutorial on this exact subject! She is really open about sharing her thought process there, so if you’re inspired at all by the possibilities of working with Dimension, we highly recommend checking this one out. While you’re at it, head over to Khyati’s Behance page to see the full project she created with Adobe Dimension.