AI is Making 3D More Affordable, More Accessible and More Intuitive
Just as 3D evolved from being a movie theater novelty to ruling the cinema with CGI, there’s a similar explosion of 3D in graphic design that’s hard for creative professionals to miss. Illustrations, animations and even typography are evolving to include 3D elements as seen in isometric design, combinations of 2D+3D or mixed media like video with animated 3D illustrations.
“You can create your own reality,” says graphic design and visual artist Khyati Trehan. “That’s what’s really fascinating about 3D. And when people see that happening in front of them, it’s hard to not create a sense of wonder in them.”
The Challenges Of 3D For Graphic Designers
Despite its power, 3D has long been a complex task for graphic designers. Envisioning and recreating the reality of light on textures and shapes — which is central to designing in 3D — is an arduous process that traditionally requires significant training and mastery of complex tools.
“When I opened the tools, they were very, very intimidating,” Khyati says. “It definitely took a lot of self-discipline. I had to be almost religious about it.”
But now, artificial intelligence (AI), new procedural mechanisms and familiar workflows are changing the 3D landscape so it’s more accessible and more intuitive. This is a great advantage for graphic designers who believe 3D adds dimension and depth that results in a more immersive, enjoyable experience. “That, in turn, creates more buzz and excitement from the audience, and that’s exciting to us,” says Clarissa Donlevy, Elastic creative director. “3D allows us to take strong creative concepts and develop them beyond the limits of 2D into something fuller and more fleshed out that clients can connect with instantly.”
Her colleague Luke Colson, Elastic’s executive producer, agrees.
“With our design process, before going into animation, we’re building more in 3D first. That way, when we pitch ideas to our clients, they can see what the finished product is going to look like — as picture-perfect, beautiful, competitive frames that are nearly as complete as the final sequence that airs — before we’ve even started the process.”
Graphic designer and visual artist Khyati Trehan created this structure with Adobe Dimension. Khyati Trehan, Behance
AI Lowers The Boundaries For 3D Adoption
“When we’re out in the world, humans aren’t just interacting with color,” says Nathan Carr, research director at Adobe. “Objects shine. They reflect. Surfaces are glossy — they have different appearances. Using these [3D] solutions, designers can play with light and material in interactive and delightful ways.”
AI can make 3D more accessible and efficient. For example, AI can instantly match the lighting and perspective of a 3D scene to a 2D background image by automatically detecting the horizon in a photograph. This multi-step process would ordinarily take hours, but with AI it’s possible in seconds and with a single click — a feature already available in a tool like Adobe Dimension.
By adding AI as a creative sidekick to bridge the knowledge gap, graphic designers can quickly tackle otherwise complex 3D design projects.
Procedural Technology Complements AI For More Expressive Power
“There are really two technologies at work,” explains Tamy Boubekeur, director of research, 3D & Immersive at Adobe. “One is the procedural graphics technology that synthesizes everything. And the other one is AI — this is the learning piece. When you mix synthesizing and learning with state-of-the-art technology on both sides, you get an expressive power out of a single artifact or asset, which is huge.”
Procedural mechanisms in conjunction with AI also make 3D much quicker while ensuring designs are non-destructive — designers can adjust their work very precisely, all the way down the pipeline.
Familiar Workflows Make 3D Design Intuitive
Another reason 3D compositions are gaining popularity with graphic designers is that the workflows in new tools are being designed to be familiar to their experience. By creating workflows similar to those found in 2D design software, the 3D creative process becomes more intuitive and easier to learn.
Additionally, integrations with illustration and photography software make it a breeze to insert 2D graphic design elements directly into 3D workflows.
Join The Revolution
Whether your goal is to present a conceptual pitch to a client, create realistic animations or design more playful graphics, adding 3D work to your portfolio is quickly becoming standard practice within the graphic design community. And it’s being made possible with innovative technology, such as AI and machine learning, along with more familiar workflows.
Looking ahead, the graphic design implications are seemingly boundless. “I wonder if the next big thing is for designers to be able to easily scan physical objects around them and modify them in the computer to create a 3D model,” Khyati says.
Nathan agrees. “I think there will be continued advances in understanding the 3D shape and material of objects in a photograph.”
For now, though, AI is empowering graphic designers with 3D tools that are revolutionizing digital experiences with a bit more realism in an increasingly virtual world.