Do Designers Really Want to Communicate in 3D?

I was chatting with Anne Asensio the other day and she asked me,

“Kate, how much do you think designers want to communicate directly in 3D? There’re tons of blogs, website and email exchanges, but what about sharing in 3D?”

Here at 3D Perspectives and in the hallways at Dassault Systèmes we’ve been chatting about this. Richard’s Say it in 3D! blogpost generated a lot of interest and action in the comments section, and similar chats are happening in places like the Product Design Forum (thank you csven!).

Anne has observed, and I’m guessing you’ll agree, that in general people with design blogs or websites aren’t communicating in 3D. Why?

On one hand 3D is arguably a legitimate and practical universal language. On the other, employing 3D to communicate (online for the sake of this debate) is far from being mainstream.

Do we not have the right technologies to easily do this? Is it an oversight? Or is it not really preferred or important?

Please share your perspective in the mini poll below. By answering you’ll get to see the poll results.



  • Raym

    I think Designers want to share their ideas with the easiest medium they can get. After doing a quick around in some Design studios, the Designers are still using sketches and drawings on paper that sometimes pinned on a board in a dedicated room to share their concepts. For sure, they’re using also 3D for rendering the concept and generate high level quality photos to share with others. But it is at a second step, not at the early beginning.
    Why in general people with design blogs or websites aren’t communicating in 3D? I would say because we’re still missing a 3D tool, widget for blog or a 3d website, that allows us to imagine, create, share, collaborate and experience in the easiest way as a drawing/sketch does: easy-to-use,user-friendly & intuitive GUI, available from anywhere on any browser/Operating System on any device(mobile or not), with No compromise on tremendous features, power & performances (CPU/RAM light weight, responsiveness…) and no installation required. Some examples: a powerful presentation: SlideRocket (; a powerful photo editor: Aviary (…

  • I’d vote Word and 3D but it’s not in the propositions.

    While some things can be expressed by images or 3D there is still many ideas that need words to be explained.

  • Rachael

    I think people will choose to communicate more in 3D when it becomes easy. Why do so many people use PPT to do presentations? Because it is very easy to use. (It is so easy in fact, that people deliver some truly horrible presentations. But that’s not the point of this comment.)

    What’s been missing is the link to be able to simply ‘put’ 3D somewhere. That situation is rapidly changing, though, with the advent of tools like 3D PDF and XVL. In time, people will start to use them as naturally as we use Word, email, PPT etc.

  • Although designers think in 3D they communicate and make decisions in 2D. This makes sense to me because they must simplify what they are trying to do in order to gain speed. 3D is the result of a set of actions. The key is ease and speed, look at two designers sitting at a table, what is the most appropriate design medium? A napkin of course. This really is not a problem because all participants are capable of abstracting the 2D gestures into a 3D result…

    You could go on to ask if a designer draws an isometric view on a napkin is he communicating in 2D or 3D?

  • Sebastien

    I think that today, designer still prefer sketches that 3D because you are sharing a dream and a vision, not particularly a defined product. When designing in 3D, many things must be defined and there are still boundaries implied by the system. The whole geometry must be defined, not only a single view. Drawing still enables to share easily and fast a view of a 3D object without completely defining it… But I also believe that the tools we are developing are helping shortening the time between the sketch and the 3D, which really helps to speed up innovation. The more intuitive and easy friendly the tools will become, the more they will be used and divulged among others to express ideas.

  • Hi Sebastien, I liked your point about ‘sharing a dream and vision’ before defined product. It reminded me of writing. I always carry around a mini paper notebook and pencil so I can scribble down ideas for writing projects as they arise. And they always pop up when I’m away from my computer! At the grocery store, on the way to the metro, etc. So although I’m not a design engineer or 3D artist, I agree that there’s a step before communicating and that’s dreaming, brainstorming, harnessing your intuition. I’d guess that like for writers, this process is very personal for the 3D folks and will vary in method. Best, Kate

  • Pieter

    I agree with Sebastien. I think designers are looking for good tools to express ideas.
    As long as designers are trained in doing this with a pencil and a piece of paper then this will probably be their tool during their entire career. It is often also their strenght. (they are masters in producing nice sketches of objects that end up into being ugly because the conversion to a real 3D product is not optimal)
    Designers will only change this sketching habit if they are trained to design in 3D.
    So I believe DS should concentrate on educating young designers as soon as possible.
    My experience with design schools projects is that we are now having tools that add enough value to revolutionize the way designers want to inovate.
    So my answer to this question is that for the moment pencel and paper is still the preferred tool for a designer but it is (as always) just a metter of educating,changing the mindset of the future designers. Once they have tasted from the advantages 3d offers during a design process it will be very hard for them to go back to pencil and paper…

  • Too many ideas in this design to communicate them with sketches…

  • Mich

    I would split my view in 2 parts:
    – Very early ideation stages are still easier to share with sketches, awaiting for 3D tools to be available on hand-held devices with more intuitive user interfaces
    – When it comes to concept development, no doubt for me that 3D adds a significant value to share a design intent and ensure that it is perfectly understood!

  • Sebastien

    Thanks kate and Pieter for your comments. I think we all agree with mich’s view. As a designer, I would want to communicate in 3D but my initial ideas and thoughts would need to be pencilled out first.

    The more the 3D tools will be easy to use and the more aware or educated designer will be with 3D tools, the shorter the time or effort it will take from one medium to the other.

    Nevertheless, I do think there is still a lot of resistance to change in the designer world and drawing classes are still a essential part of designer’s education. How long will that stay this way? Are there really any benefits? Is the 3D rendering limiting the imagination inspired a 2D sketch? What are we really loosing when going from one medium to the other?