Stoughton web designers
Hello and welcome to this web designers Web Designer Stoughton video tutorial.
I’m Owen Corso from Google.
And today, we’re going to build a rich media expandable creative with video.
Let’s start by selecting file, New File.
This opens a dialog box where we will set up our ad.
First, let’s make out high of project.
We have four options– The default is Display & Video 360so we will leave that as is.
How I joined Google
I’m no color expert. Far from, actually. Throughout my career, I’ve depended on visual designers better than myself to produce an engaging palette and apply it harmoniously across a UI.
Yet, as a systems designer, I’m often in the position to provoke and validate color decisions as a system takes shape. Here’s a 16 lessons I’ve learned while stabilizing a primary palette, tint and shade choices, secondary palettes, and solving for accessible contrast.
By primary, we’re talking colors used everywhere including your brand colors, neutrals, and a typically interactive digital blue.
#1. Stabilize Brand Colors Quickly
︎Every organization has one, two, or no more than a few core brand colors. THE red. THE blue. THE orange. Settle on them. Even if reasonably set up with a color variable or two, nothing signals a design system team that can’t get their act together than constantly changing primary colors.
Takeaway: Decide your essential brand colors early, because they spread widely, quickly.
#2. Involve Brand (If You Alter a Brand Color)
Is brand blue a bit dull? Can’t resist the urge to liven it up? Nothing poisons early collaboration more than a casual “We saturated the brand orange for web” followed by brand reacting with “You did what?” Oh the sacrilege!
Takeaway: Brand colors are the brand team’s territory. So discuss adjustments with them and defer to their judgment as needed.
#3. Drop the Neutral Neutrals
From dark-as-night charcoal to fluffy light gray, neutrals provide essential UI scaffolding. Loading a system with neutrals, even a few, risks giving teams access to muddy colors. They can also lead to “wireframey” designs. And, neither dark nor light type has sufficiently accessible contrast on a medium gray background.
Takeaway: Provide a few light grays and a few dark grays to achieve useful contrast, but don’t get wishy washy wireframey. Consider avoiding medium grays in between.
#4. Go “Digital Blue.” Everybody Else Does.
My past five design systems settled on a saturated blue as a default button and link color. Links have always been blue, perhaps since the dawn of the first browser. This “Digital” blue, a utility color for links and clickable items, is essential in any core palette.
Takeaway: When (not if 😉 ) you go with your “Digital Blue,” choose an accessible one and make sure it doesn’t clash with the brand’s own blue, or red, orange, purple, or green.
Tints & Shades Per Color
You can’t have just a few colors and call it a day, right? System users often need to tune a color choice across a range, reuse with ease, and know their boundaries.
#5. Stack the Tint & Shade Range, Per Color
Color palette display patterns long predate the web. Yet I still love me a compactly arranged tint stack. They can be just…gorgeous. The best stacks visualize more than just a color, combining its name with HEX codes, code variables, and other indicators (such as prohibiting overlaid type). A quick scan is all you need.
Takeaway: Stack available colors in each hue, and treat the stack as a visualization to include important details compactly.Material Design’s Indigo and Deep Orange
#6. Name Tints & Shades by Brightness
We’ve all been there. A month into the system, the neutrals $color-gray-1, $color-gray-2, … , $color-gray-7 — are stable. And then, in a stroke, you’ve got another tint to add stuck between -1 and -2. That numbering system stinks.
Takeaway: Scale color names between 0 and 100 based on brightness, such as $color-gray-05 and $color-gray-92. The scale reflects a familiar range from dark to light, allows for injecting new options between, and heck if I won’t remember $color-gray- 93 until we retire it later.
#7. Limit Tint & Shade Quantity
At the core of a good system is choice without endless options, a stable aesthetic to serve as a starting point. Odds are, you aren’t Material Design, intended to serve countless products. In most cases, a design system need not offer boundless choices. The more choices you provide, the tougher it’ll be to control harmonic combinations and a consistent feel across applications.
Takeaway: Offer a handful of options and avoid tedious variety. Empower system users with just enough choice: more than a single option, but only up to a few intentional choices.
#8. Tell Me How To Transform: Hand-Pick or Functionally
Modern tools like SASS and Stylus offer transformation functions like darken and lighten to shift a color by a brightness percentage. These handy tools enable a you to alter a color for subtle contrasts like a hovered button or tiered navigation.
But transforms can be troublesome: carefully crafted base colors can become inaccessible alternatives (see below), a page’s overall palette can muddy, or a “5% system” that works on moderately bright colors yields insufficient contrast for a very light or dark case.
Takeaway: Deliberately allow — or avoid — color transformations in your system. If you endorse the practice, then offer examples of when and how to do it effectively in your system, such as 5–10% for moderately bright cases and 10–20% in more extreme cases. If transformations should be avoided , document that succinctly.
Beyond the brand colors and their variants, well-considered color systems array the broader variety of colors reserved for varied purposes.
#9. Define Meaningful Sets Like Feedback Colors
Most systems reserve a certain red for errors, green for success, yellow for warning, and (possibly a lighter sky) blue for informational messages. Feedback color is critical, because it’s positioned at the top of the page interacting with other key components and/or encountered as a result of an unwelcome circumstance. Without system guidance, such messages become embedded in product code, the result of product teams solving a challenge quickly and moving on.
Takeaway: Explore and define the standard feedback colors and other relevant sets to ensure that colors fit harmoniously rather wedging them in later or having teammates recall “I just grabbed it from Google.”Typical feedback colors: success, warning, error and informational
#10. Illustrate Theme Variety
In some systems, color use is customized per product, section, or brand. Often, this may be a result of relating a master brand (think, Marriott International) to its sub-brands (think Courtyard Hotels, Ritz Carlton, and Moxy Hotels). Or it’s a prefab themes like Ambient Warmth and Frozen Blue. Maybe the user is complete control, and you need to illustrate the breadth of (all the havoc of) what they can do.
Takeaway: Reveal the range of themes available compactly, and set boundaries around allowable theme colors in certain contexts.Theme colors for multiple Marriott.com hotels, derived from product pages
#11. Define How Theming Works
It’s not enough to simply say “Go ahead and theme it!” A theme color may apply to predictable accents throughout a UI such as button background-color, active tab background-color, or a primary navigation’s thick border-top. Just as important, theme colors may be forbidden from altering other bits, such as long form type or — yikes! — a link color that ends up invisible.
Takeaway: Identify how theming works, particularly via reference to specific UI element properties in play. Just as important, articulate which — if not most — elements are off limits.
#12. Avoid Guiding on Color-Mixing Until (At Least) Dust Settles
One of my favorite all time design system tools is Google’s MDL Color Customizer, which enables users to combine primary and secondary UI colors effectively. It’s so easy, and the outcome so helpful. Yet, the system teams I work with either don’t want to provide this kind of flexibility or lack the time and care necessary to solve such a combinatoric challenge.
Takeaway: Avoid the rabbit hole of solving for a vast array of color combinations unless it’s a core system value. In most cases, system users will pair up their own combinations or benefit from a tool more dedicated to doing just that. Help them propagate their choice rather than solving for every combination they may consider. That experimentation is their job.Serve users of your system by making it efficient to propagate their choice through a product, rather than making the choice for them.
Contrast & Accessibility
Solving for accessible color contrast should a core practice of setting up any digital color system from the get go. However, design can be tumultuous place, and teams can lose sometimes. Or some members don’t know about accessibility. Or they simply don’t prioritize it.
A systems team can engrain accessible practices into a workflow to provoke and spread values in accessibility broadly across an enterprise.
#13. Check Contrast Early & Ritually
It happens often: a few weeks or days before a product — or design system — launch, finally somebody notices. The design team hasn’t taken necessary care to ensure the primary and secondary color palette is being applied in a way to meet WCAG 2.0 color contrast of 3.0 (for large, heavier type) or 4.5 (for standard type). So designers — and then, their developers — scramble to determine fixes and inject it into the code.
Takeaway: Any system designer responsible for color must be familiar with WCAG 2.0 rules, have a tool (like Tanaguru) to test color pairs, and incorporate the practice into color selection.Tanaguru, one of many accessibility calculators online
#14. Explore Accessible Color Choices Across Ranges
A drawback of WCAG guidelines is its stark threshold: a color pair passes or fails. This leaves designers yearning for more, but worse leaves stakeholders flummoxed at how bad the color pair fails and how much it needs to change.
Conversation quickens when we reveal a spectrum of choices, with the pass/fail line fairly evident. This transforms the process from trial and error to tuning a dial. Before, it was “That pair failed. Let’s try again.” Now, it’s an enlightening “Oh, so that’s how dark the blue needs to be” followed by a rational discussion to balance visual tone, brand identity, and accessibility sensitivities.
Takeaway: When exploring accessible color contrast, show a range of choices to help a team select a color that passes the test.Exploring neutral and interactive colors by showing multiple choices across a range
#15. Solve the Reverse Light on Dark and Dark on Light
When creating a system, it’s up to the systems designer to be mindful of and solve for the entire range of choices on offer. It’s not enough to just test for accessibility problems as they arise. Instead, a color palette should be thoroughly reviewed prior to publishing a system for reuse.
This is especially true for reverse color treatments. It’s very common for a system to default to dark text on a light background. However, most find themselves reversing color treatments, whether a black and white on light and dark neutrals or tints of another primary or secondary color.
Takeaway:Solve for and recommend reversed pairings to adopt or avoid.A table of calculated contrast (using a SASS function) between neutral backgrounds and interactive blue alternatives
#16. Use Color to Provoke Broader Accessibility Awareness
Color is fundamental to a system, and accessible color contrast is fundamental to color. This injects accessibility smack dab into the middle of a system’s formation. People that matter are paying attention: brand managers, design leads, developers, and execs. What a wonderful opportunity to use color to open a door to the broader array of accessibility considerations.
Takeaway: Seize the opportunity to advocate for accessibility. Always be probing a collaborator’s knowledge of accessibility (or lack thereof) and educate and advocate all you can.
Stoughton web designers
Next, we can select the type of ad.
We want to make an expandable, so we select Expandable on the left.
Next, we can set again ad’s dimensions.
We are building a 320 by 50that expands to 480 by 250.
So I will make those changes.
We then assign the Stoughton creative a name.
I will leave my Save ToLocation as the default, and leave the talk about set to Quick.
Once I’m happy with my settings, I click OK.
Google Web Designer creates the initial pages of the ad for me with the dimensions I defined.
The collapsed page already contains a Tap Area event to expand the ad and an expanded pageStoughton with a close tap area to collapse back down.
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OWEN CORSO: Hello and welcometo this Google Web Designer video tutorial.
I'm Owen Corso from Google.
And today, we're goingto build a rich media expandable creative with video.
Let's start by selectingFile, New File.
This opens a dialog boxwhere we will set up our ad.
First, let's chooseour environment.
We have four options-- The default is Display & Video 360so we will leave that as is.
Next, we can selectthe type of ad.
We want to make anexpandable, so we select Expandable on the left.
Next, we can set upour ad's dimensions.
We are building a 320 by 50that expands to 480 by 250.
So I will make those changes.
We then assign thecreative a name.
I will leave my Save ToLocation as the default, and leave the animationmode set to Quick.
Once I'm happy with mysettings, I click OK.
Google Web Designer creates theinitial pages of the ad for me with the dimensions I defined.
The collapsed page alreadycontains a Tap Area event to expand the ad and an expandedpage with a close tap area to collapse back down.
It also has added all theinitial code needed for the ad to talk to the ad server andcollect tracking metrics.
Those metrics are builtinto the components, and we can assign uniqueidentifiers to each component as we go.
So now I can start adding thegraphic elements I've already prepared.
I drag a backgroundimage or initial ad state and drop it onto the stage,then align it to the stage, and layer it behind the taparea by sending to back.
Now, let's switch toour expanded page.
Let's add a background imageby dragging my image file to the stage.
I can also add abutton to the stage by dragging theTap Area component.
Let's make a backgroundexit tap area.
I will size, align it, and thenI will give it a unique name.
To add functionalityto the button, I will add an event using theplus button in the event's toolbar.
This brings me tomy Actions panel, where we assignall of the metrics to our ad instead ofcoding them manually.
I'm going to selectthe tap area I just named BackgroundExit from the list.
Choose Tap Area, Touch/Click as the event.
Google Ad, Exit ad.
On the Receiver panel,I select gwd-ad.
Lastly, I give it an exitidentifier and a destination URL.
For more in-depth detailson the event model, check out the Eventsand Metrics video.
Next, let's add avideo component.
You drag it to the stage,then give it a name and size it properly.
Tell it how to behave.
I want it to autoplay and start muted.
And you target thevideo file here.
This component has allof the metrics built in, so you can avoid handcoding them in the ad.
Let's preview our ad.
On page load, we seeour collapsed state.
When we click, the adexpands to our expanded page.
Our video behavesas we told it to, and clicking on the backgroundexits to our landing page.
Once the ad is built andfunctioning as you want, it is ready to publish.
Go to File, Publish.
And you're presentedwith a few options-- Publish Locally,to Google Drive, and, finally, toStudio.
Let's choose Publish Locally.
This is where you cancontrol how the ad is output.
For instance, youcan add polite load to the ad, which delays thead load until after the page content loads.
You can also set itto minify the code and add browserprefixes automatically.
We'll leave all thesesettings as to the default.
Click Publish, and Web Designerwill wrap up all of your files in a nice little zipfor uploading to Studio.
Now, let's testit out in Studio.
Let's make a newcreative of expanding type.
Drag the zip file to uploadour creative to Studio.
Now, let's preview our creative.
As you can see, I can expandthe unit, play the video, and trigger thebackground exit we added.
You can see these eventslogging to the output console.
And that's an overviewof Studio integration features in Google Web Designer.
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Sketch was made for screen-based design.
Websites, app interfaces, icons… these objects of design exist within a world of pixel measurements, RGB colors, and presentation on digital screens. Unlike many of the Adobe creative tools which include 10,000 features and the kitchen sink, Sketch is laser-focused in its purpose—and consequently works far better (and more efficiently) for what it does do.
Sketch was not made for print-based design.
Business cards, brochures, posters… these exist within a physical world of inch/centimeter/point/pica measurements, CMYK or Pantone colors, and presentation on a variety of papers and materials. Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are two of the most popular tools in this arena.
And when a print design project rolls around, you might find yourself yearning to continue using the same tool you’ve become so adept at using for web/UI design. I want you to know that it’s possible. Here’s how I do it:
(full disclosure: Adobe Illustrator is required)
The Magic Number 72
Dating back to the craft of setting lead type for a printing press, the primary units of measurement were points (72 per inch) and picas (12 per inch). Lead type (pictured here) is measured in points, and is produced in pica or half-pica increments such as 12, 18, 24, 36, and 72 points. Those numbers should sound familiar to you, as they became standard digital font sizes with the Macintosh. The first Macs used screens where every inch contained 72 pixels, resulting in 12pt text that looked practically the same size onscreen as in print. The evolution of pixels per inch (PPI) is too extensive for this article (especially since the advent of retina displays), although it’s important to know a bit about the origins of this 72:1 ratio.
This article will mostly use inch measurements, as used for print design in the US. If you are familiar with a centimeter workflow, I’d love to hear from you!
Sketch measures everything in pixel units, so we need a way to convert our design to the physical world of inches. By now you may have guessed where this is going: 72 pixels in Sketch converts to 1 inch in an exported PDF.
- An 8.5" × 11" piece of paper (US Letter) converts to a 612px × 792px artboard.
- A typical 3.5" × 2" business card converts to a 252px × 144px artboard.
- When adding a new artboard, Sketch 3 gives you a few “Paper Sizes” presets. Speed things up by adding your own custom artboard presets!
The pixel dimensions of a 72 PPI layout may be far smaller than you are used to when working on websites or user interfaces. Remember that the clarity of your print project is dictated by the print method you use—Sketch’s “Show Pixels” function is of no use here!
Tips for Designing Your Layout
- For elements in your design, try to use measurements that make sense in inches. 1px = 1pt for lines and font-sizes. I’ll often use 1/8 inch (9px) or 1/16 inch (4.5px) increments for layout elements.
- You can use Sketch’s Grid feature to make these inch-appropriate positions or measurements easier. I suggest a grid with a 9px (1/8 inch) block size and thick lines every 8 blocks (1 inch). Show/hide the grid with ⌃G on your keyboard.
- You can turn off “Pixel Fitting” in Preferences. There’s no need to be a stickler for pixel alignment as you would be for screen-based design.
Margins & Bleeds
Professional print shops often require your artwork to have extra space on all sides, extending any parts of your design that “bleed” out to the edge (see example below). This compensates for the slight, yet inevitable, variance in where the edges are cut on your final print. My printer asks for a 1/8 inch bleed, and I often add this to my Sketch layout (9px extra on all sides). If your design has elements that bleed, I suggest you do the same—if not, you can easily add these extra margins later when saving a PDF from Illustrator. Printers will also recommend that any text is at least 1/8 inch inside the trim lines (a “safe zone” or “critical print area”), as in the business card below.The “Trim Lines” indicate what the final card will look like. Because trimming is rarely 100% accurate, any parts of the design that extend to the very edge should continue out to a “Bleed”. Shown here, the bleed extends to 1/8 inch outside the artwork.
Preparing the File for Print
99% of print shops are strict about the specifications of your “artwork” files. The following process will help you give printers the files they want! If your layout relies heavily on images, gradients, or shadows, skip to the next section!
When you have finished your design in Sketch, export it as a PDF at 1x scale. Many programs, such as Preview or Adobe Illustrator will automatically interpret the file at 72 PPI. You can view the PDF’s dimensions in inches in Preview (Tools > Show Inspector, ⌘I), or in pixels using Finder’s Get Info window (under “More Info”). If you save your PDF through Illustrator, pixel and inch dimensions will be automatically included in the file.
There are 2 other things we need to change about Sketch’s exported PDF:
- Text needs to be “Converted to Outlines”.
- The colors need to be CMYK values instead of RGB.
- Any images in the design need to be embeded as CMYK images.
Converting Text to Outlines
To ensure that your design is printed exactly how you see it on your computer, it is important to convert the text objects in the PDF to actual vector shapes, or “outlines”. This makes the text look exactly the same on any program on any computer, regardless of the fonts you’ve used in the design, and regardless of whether or not those fonts are installed on the printer’s computer.
You can convert text to outlines in Sketch (more about that here), although if your design has more than a few lines of text, Sketch will slow down dramatically. If you want a guaranteed way to crash Sketch, try selecting a dozen text objects and converting them to outlines all at once! Fortunately, Adobe Illustrator excels in this department, so we’ll use that instead.
- Open the PDF in Illustrator and navigate to Select > All (⌘A), from the menu bar.
- Also in the menu bar, navigate to Type > Convert Text to Outlines (⌘⇧O). Easy as that!
Converting to CMYK Colors
After opening your PDF in Illustrator, navigate to File > Document Color Mode > CMYK Color. This converts the entire document to a CMYK colorspace from RGB. That’s the easy step. Now we have to change the colors in our design to actual CMYK values.
If you’re used to screen-based design and appreciate great colors, I feel obligated to tell you that CMYK may disappoint you. Due to the nature of combining those 4 colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) in ink, many bright and saturated colors are difficult or impossible to recreate. Without diving into color theory or the pros/cons of various print methods, I will simply suggest that for any color that is important to your design you see a sample of that exact color value from a similar printer on a similar material. To do this I recommend choosing a close match on a Pantone swatchbook (a bit pricey, but a great investment), or ask your printer for a printed sample of a variety of colors printed on the paper you’ll use (they probably already have these, and can give you each color’s CMYK value).
Once you’ve chosen great CMYK values for all your colors, it’s time to replace the color value for each of the elements in your design. This sounds tedious—and to a certain extent it is—but I’ve discovered a few shortcuts to help you!
- First off, you will need to select the elements whose colors you want to change. If you aren’t familiar with Illustrator, know that a layer is only selected when you click the small circle to the right of it. Simply clicking on the layer’s name will not do anything!
- If your design has many elements with the same color (say, all green text), they can be selected all at once by first selecting one instance of the element then clicking the “Select Similar Objects” button on the right of the toolbar. If this toolbar or button isn’t available, try navigating to Select > Same in the menu bar.
- When your elements are selected, hold down the Shift key when you click on the fill color in the toolbar (fill color to the left, stroke/border color to the right). Even elements that are pure black need to be converted to CMYK black, for which there is a little swatch below the color sliders.
When all of your text has been converted to outlines and all of your colors are CMYK, it’s time to save a separate PDF (I add “-print” as a suffix to the new filename). By using File > Save As, you get a trillion options for the PDF. The single option I ever use is to add a bleed margin (my printer likes 1/8 inch) on all sides of the artwork. To do this, go to the “Marks and Bleeds” section on the left and uncheck “Use Document Bleed Settings”, as shown below.
You’re all done! Trust me, next time this process will take you half as long!
Is Your Design Image-Heavy?
If your Sketch design includes bitmap images (non-vector images), they will be automatically converted from RGB to CMYK when you change the Document Color Mode. Upon importing the PDF to Illustrator, any shadows in your design will be converted to bitmap images and any gradients will become un-editable “Non-Native Art”. Because of this, if images, shadows, or gradients are important to your design, I strongly suggest you instead save the entire Sketch layout as a PNG and convert it to a CMYK file in Photoshop using the following steps.
- Export the Sketch artboard as a PNG at 4.166x scale, which gives you the amount of pixels you’ll need for a 300 PPI print-ready file. Printers rarely accept bitmap images less than this resolution. Make sure your artboard includes the necessary bleed margins (described above) before export.
- Open the PNG in Photoshop and navigate to Image > Image Size, in the menu bar. Uncheck the “Resample” checkbox and type in either the artwork’s dimensions in inches or the “Pixels/Inch” you used when exporting from Sketch (again, this is often 300 PPI). Click “OK”.
- In the menu bar, navigate to Image > Mode > CMYK Color. This will alert you that Photoshop is converting the file to a default CMYK color profile. This step may visibly change the colors of your design. Rest assured that your computer screen is not an accurate representation of colors in print, although you should also not expect the same bright or saturated colors capable with RGB (as described above).
- Adjust the colors slightly if you desire, then Save As a .psd or .tif file. Be sure to tell the printer what bleed margins you included in the artwork!
Of course you can use this process in conjunction with the PDF + Illustrator workflow above, by embedding the Photoshopped images into your Illustrator document. But most of the time I stick to one process or the other.
Is This Workflow Right for You?
If you’re fast at designing in Sketch, feel more at ease or more creative using it, or aren’t very familiar with Illustrator/InDesign, this may be good for you. This may also be a useful workflow if you have existing designs from Sketch (an interface, icon, logo) that you want to prepare for professional printing. I can’t read the future, but with Bohemian Coding’s small team and success focusing on screen-based design, I don’t advise you to hold your breath for print features. It’s a huge can of worms!Examples of projects made with this workflow. From packaging, to letterpressed business cards, to laser-engraved signage. This work for Juice Shop recently won the Type Directors Club’s prestigious annual design competition.
I’ve written this article to share my workflow for print design projects, but also to learn of ways that I might improve this workflow in the future. If you have any suggestions, especially related to Illustrator or the print process, feel free to share them!
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I just released Sketch Master — online training courses for professionals learning Sketch. You’ll learn tons of tricks and practical workflows, by designing real-world UI/UX and app icon projects.
Sketch Master is a collection of video training courses for professionals learning Sketch—the popular design tool. sketchmaster.com
I am a product designer at Google, and I joined the company through Sparrow, a French startup that got acquired on July 20, 2012. Since then, I worked with the Gmail team to build from scratch a flagship product that became Inbox by Gmail. It shipped on October 22, 2014.
I designed productive applications for a few years, and I felt like I reached a tipping point. I wanted to expand my skill set, learn new things every day and get better at something I’ve never touched. I needed new challenges to reboot myself by leaving my comfort zone.
I got interested in virtual reality around the Oculus Kickstarter period because of the immersiveness and endless possibilities that came with it. There is nothing more exciting than building for a new medium and exploring an uncharted territory.
I joined the Google Cardboard and Virtual Reality team on April 17, 2015. Thanks to Clay Bavor and Jon Wiley for this great opportunity.
My first weeks in the team were as scary as it can get. People used words I had no idea of and asked me questions I didn’t know how to answer.
I am not going to lie, ramping up on the jargon was not easy but I was expecting that. Virtual reality is a deep field (pun intended) grouping together a variety of job titles each requiring a very specialized skill set. The first weeks were intense and day after day I had a better vision of the big picture. Slowly, the pieces came together. I found out which roles would be the best fit, what I wanted to do and what was required to get there. Regardless of the mission, I knew I would have to learn a lot, but I was prepared for this challenge. My feelings varied from one day to another. From super excited to create and learn something new, to super scared because of the colossal knowledge I still had to learn. Working with smart and knowledgeable people around me reinforced these mixed feelings.
Everything is going to be alright
I told myself and firmly believed that the dots would connect eventually. I am a passionate person, and I knew that I didn’t mind spending hours learning and experimenting.
During my product designer career, I got better at understanding, identifying and resolving user problems. Making things easy to use and delight users is not that different, no matter the medium.
The core of the mission is the same, but to get you from point A to B there are some interesting things to know.
- Sketching, is, again, at the core of everything. During any brain dump or design phase, sketching is as fast as it can get. I’ve sketched more in the time I’ve joined this team than I have in my entire career.
- Any design skills as diverse as they are will be a huge benefit.
- Photography knowledge will help you because you will interact with concepts such as field of view, depth of field, caustics, exposure and so on. Being able to use light to your advantage has been much valuable to me already.
- The more you know 3D and tools, the less you will have to learn. It’s pretty obvious but be aware that at some point, you might do architecture, character, props modeling, rigging, UV mapping, texturing, dynamics, particles and so on.
- Motion design is important. As designers, we know how to work with devices with physical boundaries. VR has none, so it’s a different way of thinking. “How does this element appear and disappear?” will be a redundant question.
- Python, C#, C++ or any previous coding skills will help you ramp up faster. Prototyping has a big place because of the fundamental need of iterating. This area is so new that you might be one of the first to design a unique kind of interaction. Any recent game engine such as Unity or Unreal engine largely integrates code. There is a large active community in game and VR development with a huge amount of training and resources already.
- Be prepared to be scared and get ready to embrace the unknown. It’s a new world that evolves every day. Even the biggest industry-leading companies are still trying to figure things out. That’s how it is.
Design teams will evolve because this new medium opens a lot of possibilities for creation. Think about the video game or the film industry for instance.
I think there will be two big design buckets.
The first one will be about the core user experience, interface, and interaction design. This is very close to how product design team are structured today (Visual, UI, UX, motion designers, researchers, and prototypers).
Each role will have to adapt to the rules of this new medium and keep a tight relationship with engineers. The goal will always remain the same; create a fast iteration cycle to explore a wide range of interactive designs.
On the other hand, content teams will replicate indie and game design studio structure to create everything from unique experiences to AAA games. The entertainment industry as we know it in other mediums will likely be very similar in VR.
Ultimately, both will have a close relationship to create a premium end to end experience. Both industries have a great opportunity to learn from each other.
To wrap up on my personal experience, I think being a product designer in VR is not that different but requires a lot of dedication to understand and learn a vast field of knowledge.
First step and fundamentals of VR design
In this second part of the article, I will try to cover the basics you need to know regarding this medium. It’s meant to be designer oriented and simplified as much as possible.
Let’s get (a little bit) technical
The new dimension and immersiveness is a game changer. There is a set of intrinsic rules you need to know to be able to respect physiologically and treat your users carefully. We regrouped some of these principles in an app so you can learn through this great immersive experience.
Download Cardboard Design Lab
You can watch Alex’s presentation at I/O this year which goes more in-depth. The following is a small summary.
If you have to remember just two rules:
- Do not drop frames.
- Maintain head tracking.
People instinctively react to external events you might not be aware of, and you should be designing accordingly.
Physiological comfort. It regroups notions like motion sickness. Be careful when using acceleration and deceleration. Maintain a stable horizon line to avoid the “sea sickness” effect.
Environment comfort. People can experience various discomforts in certain situation like heights, small spaces (claustrophobia), big spaces (agoraphobia) and so on. Be careful with the scale and colliding objects. For example, if someone throws an object at you, you will instinctively try to grab it, dodge or protect yourself. Use it to your advantage and not to user’s disadvantage.
You can also use user senses to help you create more immersive products and cues. You can find inspiration in the game industry. They use all sorts of tricks to guide users during their journey. Here’s a couple:
- Audio for spatial positioning.
- Light to show a path and help the player.
Do not hurt or over-fatigue your users. It’s a classic mistake when you start to design for this medium. As cool as it looks, Hollywood sci-fi movies fed us with interactions that goes against simple ergonomic rules and can create major discomfort over time. Minority Report gestures are not suitable for a long period of activity.
I made a very simplified illustration of XY head movement safe zones. Green is good, yellow is ok and avoid red. There are a some user studies made public (links at the bottom of the page) that will give you more in-depth information about that topic.A simplified illustration of XY head movement safe zones.
Bad design can lead to more serious conditions.
As an example, have you heard about Text Neck? A study, published in Neuro and Spine Surgery measured varying pressures in our neck as our head moves to different positions. Moving from a neutral head position looking straight ahead to looking down increase the pressure by 440%. The muscles and ligaments get tired and sore; the nerves are stretched, and discs get compressed. All of this misbehavior can lead to serious long-term issues such as permanent nerves damages.
TLDR; Avoid extended look down interactions.
Degrees of freedom
The body has six different ways of moving in space. It can rotate and translate in XYZ.
3 Degrees of freedom (Orientation tracking)
Phone based head mounted device such as Cardboard, Gear VR are tracking the orientation via an embedded gyroscope (3DOF). Rotations on all three axes are tracked.
6 Degrees of freedom (Orientation + Position tracking)
To achieve six degrees of freedom, the sensor(s) will track positions in space (+X, -X, +Y, -Y, +Z, -Z). High-end devices like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift are 6DOF.
Making 6DOF possible frequently involves optical tracking of infrared emitters by one or more sensors. In Oculus’s case, the tracking sensor is on a stationary camera, while in Vive’s case the tracking sensors are on the actual HMD.
Depending on the system you are designing for, the input method will vary and affect your decisions. For example Google Cardboard has a single button, that’s why the interaction model is a simple gaze and tap. HTC Vive uses two, six degrees of freedom controllers and Oculus will ship with an Xbox One controller but will eventually use a 6DOF dual controller “Oculus Touch”. All of them allow you to use more advanced and immersive interaction patterns.The good old Xbox OneOculus Touch
There are also other kinds of inputs such as hand tracking. The most famous being Leap Motion. You can mount it to your Head Mounted Display (HMD).Leap Motion on top of a DK2
This area constantly evolves as technology catches up but as of today, hand tracking is not reliable enough to be used as the main input. The principal issues are related to hands and fingers, collisions, and subtle movements tracking.
Even though it’s very familiar, using a game controller is a disappointing experience. It physically removes some of the freedom VR is creating. In FPS, strafing and moving might usually cause some discomfort because of the accelerations.
On the other hand, the HTC Vive controllers reinforce the VR experience thanks to the 6 degrees of freedom, and Tilt Brush is a really good example. As I am writing theses lines, I haven't tried the Oculus touch but every demo I have seen looks very promising. Check out Oculus Toybox demo.
While designing user interfaces and interactions, inputs are the keystone that will drive some decisions differently depending on which method you are using. You should be familiar with all of them and aware of their limitations.
This is a big piece and might require a more in-depth article. I will focus on the most popular tools used in this industry.
Pen and paper
You just can’t beat them. It’s the first tool we use because it’s always around and does not require too many skills. It’s a proven way to express your ideas and iterate at a fast and cheap pace. Theses factors are important because, in VR, the cost of moving from wireframes to hi-fi is higher than 2D.
I still use it every day. Because of its ease of use, it’s the perfect tool that allows me to create a lot of explorations before moving to a VR prototype. It’s also handy for its export tools and plugins that are a huge time saver. If you are not familiar with that program, I wrote articles here and there.
I don’t see C4D as a competitor of Maya. Both are great tools, and each excels in its own way. When you don’t have a 3D background, the learning curve can be very steep. I like C4D because the interface, the parametric and non-destructive approach make sense for me. It helps me create more iterations quickly. I love the MoGraph modules, and a lot of great plugins are available. The community is very active, and you can find a lot of high-quality learning materials.Cinema 4D motion explorations
Maya is colossal in a good and a bad way. It does anything and everything a 3D artist needs. Most of the games and movies are designed with it. It’s a robust piece of software which can handle massive simulations and very heavy scenes with ease. From rendering, modeling, animation, rigging, it’s simply the best tool out there. Maya is highly customizable, and that is one reason why it’s the industry standard. Studios need to create their own set of tools, and Maya is the perfect candidate to integrate any pipeline.
On the other hand, learning all the tools will require your full and unconditional dedication for quite some time. I mean weeks of explorations, months of learning and years of practice on a daily basis.
It’s most certainly THE prototyping tool where everything will happen. You can easily create and move things around with a direct VR preview of your project. It’s a powerful game engine with a great community and a ton of resources available in their store (the asset author determines the pricing). In the assets library, you can find simple 3D models, complete projects, audio, analytics tools, shaders, scripts, materials, textures and so on.
Their documentation and learning platform are stellar. They have a wide range of high-quality tutorials.
It support all major HMD and is the best to build for cross-platform: Windows PC, Mac OS X, Linux, Web Player, WebGL, VR(including Hololens), SteamOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Tizen, Android TV and Samsung SMART TV, as well as Xbox One & 360, PS4, Playstation Vita, and Wii U
It supports all major 3D formats and has the best in 2D game creation. The in-app 3D editor is weak, but people have built great plugins to correct that. The software is licensed based, but you can also use the free version to a certain extent. You can check the details on their pricing page. It’s the most popular game engine out there with ~47% of market share.
The direct competitor of Unity3D. Unreal also has great documentation and videos tutorials. Their store is smaller because it’s much newer.
One of the big advantages over the competition are the graphic capabilities; Unreal is one step ahead in nearly every area: terrain, particles, post processing effects, shadows & lighting, and shaders. Everything looks amazing.
Unreal Engine 4 uses C++ and comes with Blueprint, a visual script editor.
I haven’t worked with it too much yet, so I can’t elaborate more.
Less cross-platform compatibility: Windows PC, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, VR, Linux, SteamOS, HTML5, Xbox One, and PS4.
Virtual reality is a very young medium. As pioneers, we still have a lot to learn and discover. That’s why I am very excited about it and why I joined this team. We have the opportunity to explore and we should, as much as we can. Understand, identify, build and iterate. Over and over.
And over again…
- Immersive design Facebook group
- Google I/O 2015 — Designing for Virtual Reality
- Oculus Connect keynotes
- VR Design: Transitioning from a 2D to 3D Design Paradigm
- VR Interface Design Pre-Visualisation Methods
- 2014 Oculus Connect — Introduction to Audio in VR
- Cinema 4D tutorials
- Unity 3D tutorials
- Maya and 3D tools tutorials
- LeapMotion — VR Best Practices Guidelines
- The fundamentals of user experience in virtual reality
- Ready for UX in 3D?
Thanks everyone who helped me with the rereading and improvements 💖