Are you sitting comfy in your chair pushing that pixel for the perfect Dribbble shot? Well, sorry for ruining your flow, but meanwhile in a galaxy not so far away, people are building the future. You know that “beyond mobile” future everybody is talking about. Yes it’s here, and guess what, it’s not all rectangles and shiny buttons, shit is about to change, and you want to be prepared.
But how do I prepare for this AR/VR future? Fuck if I know. I’m not here to tell you how, I’m here to wake you up from your comfy designer chair where you’ve been pushing pixels and building interfaces for as long as you know.
GDC and CES this year was all about VR and AR, it’s all everybody in the tech world is talking about, so you better get your head out of the sand and be ready for change.
I’m not saying that you’ll lose your job if you don’t adapt, 2D interfaces will die and 3D will take over the world, it’s not that scenario. Also if you’re thinking this will be the next “flat” design or other new flashy trend, sorry to disappoint, but it’s not. It’s an entirely different story, and you’ll need to adapt fast or end up being left behind. That’s if you’re not among the lucky ones who are working in game design or other related industry that involves working with Unity/Unreal engines, Cinema4D or other 3D design tools. Either way, everyone will need to adapt to this new medium, but it’s better to be prepared.
This VR/AR design thing is all pretty new, we’re talking about unexplored territory here, so be prepared for some rough roads. Right now people at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Oculus, LeapMotion and lots of other companies are exploring and experimenting with new design patterns and interactions that would set the ground for this VR/AR future we’re about to build.
With this being a new medium the materials you can read on VR/AR design are pretty scarce. LeapMotion has a really nice blog where you can learn more about designing in VR/AR, things they learned along the way when experimenting through design. I recommend also reading the Oculus Rift best practices for building worlds in VR.
Jean-Marc Denis product designer at Google has an interesting article on his personal experience with VR and the challenges that come with this new medium.
What About Me?
How am I going to fit into all this? It’s all up to you, get out of your comfort zone and learn, test and experiment. First of all, you’ll need some proper gear. Buy a Meta for AR, it has great potential and most important it’s way cheaper then the HoloLens from Microsoft. When it comes to VR, you’ll need to choose between Oculus and Vive for now, or maybe Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR if you’re looking for entry level low priced gadgets.
Personally I would buy the Vive, it’s $200 more expensive than Oculus but at least you can experiment with their room-scale tracking for which you can design some really unique experiences.
Now that you have your gear setup, don’t be lazy, get ready to put some extra hours and learn Cinema4D, experiment with Unity, it will help you when the real hunting season begins. When the shit hits the fan and everybody is searching for designers with experience in AR/VR/3D design, you don’t want to be the one who still pushes pixels for perfect Dribbble shots.
User experience and design is about to enter a whole new era, where new VR/AR experiences will change the world we live in today. It’s up to us how we are going to shape that world, if we’ll make VR/AR the “next mobile” or something beyond that.
It’s our duty as designers to make this new world the best it can be, by building seamless experiences that enhance and complement our human values, it’s our opportunity to the shape the future and do it properly.
If you’re interested or want to share your experience with designing for VR/AR, you can join us here. Let’s build an awesome community where we can learn and experiment together. For more articles on VR/AR design I’ve made a publication focused on design here. Follow or let me know if you want to write.
Vlad Drimbau(Product designer, digital nomad, food lover, photography enthusiast. I tweet @vlaxor and post boring photos on Exposure at https://vlaxor.exposure.co/)