Why the world needs more 3D designers
Our new survey, produced in collaboration with Adobe Substance 3D, has revealed that, in the world of 3D design, demand is so high that there is more work to do than there are designers to do it. So where is everyone?
Video games. Blockbuster VFX. Hyperreal simulations of the latest tech. Until recently, these were the domains of 3D design; a highly-specialised discipline that was limited to certain sectors and dependent on the creative knowledge of a select few.
But all that is changing. As part of It’s Nice That’s new 3D Skills Report, created in partnership with Adobe Substance 3D, we surveyed a sample group of designers and studios in order to better understand the landscape of 3D design right now. The results paint a picture of an industry in the midst of a boom – with demand for 3D design skills at an all-time high.
In fact, of the 88 independent 3D creatives surveyed, 63 per cent said the demand for 3D skills is so high right now they are having to turn clients and projects down, due to both the rising volume of work and the relatively small number of people trained to take it on. Not only is 3D design booming, but there aren’t enough designers to go round.
As the pandemic further moved life online, both visual artists and the clients they work for have been hungry for ways to express themselves virtually. Meanwhile, a revolution in GPU power – the “graphics processing unit” that renders graphics in computers – is transforming what was once a slow, painful process into one that allows artists to generate 3D visuals in real-time. At the same time, 3D software has become more accessible and easy to use, with online communities of 3D artists helping each other push the boundaries of the medium.
Then there’s the design itself. As a discipline, 3D design has never been as colourful, varied and inspiring as it is right now. Creatives are using new technologies to design everything from uncannily lifelike human avatars to surreal, child-like dreamscapes. For these artists, the medium is also becoming a fundamental part of the creative process, allowing them to mock up simulations of their ideas with speed and ease. And this innovation isn’t limited to the arts. Outside of the creative industries, 3D designers are making VR simulations to train people in areas as far-reaching as medicine and the military.
“Perfect photorealism will become more and more accessible, and whether to go for a conventional shoot or a CGI production will become almost only a matter of budget.”Said one creative at a 3D Studio
Through the abundance of possibility it offers, 3D has emerged as the most exciting frontier in design. So why haven’t more creatives realised it yet?
As the findings in our landmark 3D Skills Report reveal, demand for 3D is at an all-time high. Not only did 63 per cent of the independent creatives we surveyed say they are having to turn clients down due to the volume of work coming in; of the in-house creatives, 80 per cent said clients ask for 3D skills at least five times a year. If demand is outstripping supply, why aren’t more artists getting involved?
Perhaps many feel the world of 3D isn’t for them. Our survey also revealed that a huge proportion of artists aren’t represented in the 3D design world — specifically female creatives. 78 per cent of the 88 creatives surveyed said there are more men than women in the world of 3D design. “It can be hard for a woman to feel welcome in the ‘boys' tech club’,” said one 3D artist respondent.
To dig deeper, we asked female 3D artist Loulou João from Ghent, Belgium, to shed further light on the findings in our report. “Everything that's related to tech is male dominated, so 3D has the same problems that tech has,” she tells us. “Girls aren’t being told that they can do this too, that they don’t have to create that super high-tech watch. Girls are not being motivated, or just don't think they can do it. But I do think that's changing.”
Another key barrier to entry with 3D is time. While most creatives in our survey said learning 3D skills is only “averagely” difficult, 78 per cent said that learning more 3D skills was too time consuming. For Loulou, for example, it took three months of full-time learning before she felt comfortable using 3D design software.
However this barrier is being lifted by a new suite of tools, like those available via Adobe Substance 3D. “The idea was to make sure anybody could use these programs with just some Photoshop experience,” said Frédéric Kohler, Director, Business Development, 3D&I at Adobe, Paris. “When you look at the UX and UI of both pieces of software, it looks very similar to Photoshop, so creatives will find it very familiar. For both programs, the learning curve is just a few hours, even for people who’ve only worked in 2D.”
“By seeing how the technology is developing and becoming more user-friendly, it will almost feel like we are using a pen and paper.”Said an independent creator
One of the most exciting things about the democratisation of 3D software is getting it in the hands of artists from more traditional disciplines. “If someone has been a ceramicist for ten years, they're going to be able to make some really beautiful objects in 3D and bring a certain integrity and understanding to the medium,” adds Jack Featherstone, co-founder and creative director of Tomorrow Bureau in London.
With hordes of untapped talent ready to unleash their ideas on a new suite of tools, we’re on the cusp of a 3D revolution. And with experts signalling that the metaverse is coming, 3D design is set to have a far reaching impact, across the creative industries and beyond. Designers, artists, illustrators, filmmakers — consider this your call to arms. A virtual world of opportunity awaits you.
If you’re a creative – or you manage a studio – and the possibilities of 3D design have sparked your interest, now’s a great time to learn more. In partnership with Adobe Substance 3D we’ve just launched our 3D Skills Report, which contains everything you need to understand the world of 3D design right now, from the people who are driving it forward. Download it today to start your journey with 3D design, and explore the creative possibilities it offers.
About the Author
Kate Hollowood is a freelance journalist covering a range of subjects — from mental health and female empowerment, to art and design — for titles like Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, the i paper and It’s Nice That. Based in London, she also creates copy and content for brands like Flo, Nike Run Club, Laced and Ace & Tate.