Interviews with XR Designers: Cornel Hillmann

September 17 2021

career adviceinterviewxr design

Name: Cornel Hillmann

Working At: studio.cgartist.com, Singapore

Prior XR Designer Role: CG Artist, VR Instructor at Limkokwing University, Entrepreneur

Cornel Hillmann released a first XR design book: UX for XR

You are the author of the book “UX for XR” (Apress). What was your motivation to write the book?

My motivation was to explore the challenges and opportunities of designing for XR using the UX design process that has been so successful for mobile and web applications. The idea was to look at XR design from a product design perspective and not just from a UI/UX standpoint.

How was your transition from traditional to XR design?

I started my career way back in the ’90s as an art director in L.A. for print magazines after doing album cover art for a psychedelic indie record label. During that time I became interested in animation and gaming, which brought me to 3D visualization and interaction design. After my L.A. time, I did a lot of corporate 3D animation with my production partner Pixel Film GmbH in Hamburg, for the Panasonic Group, among other international clients.

Very often for trade shows, where interactive product presentations were needed. I have been running my own businesses for the last 25 years, including an e-Learning label and a gaming startup, and in 2014 I finally transitioned from game design to VR development.

As I come from 3D visualization, my typical XR jobs are B2B previz jobs, where I often do everything, including the technical side using visual scripting, to art and asset design. In the early days of the current VR wave which emerged in 2013, I was positioned as a developer, but I am now emphasizing the designer role, as that is where my original background and passion is.

What was the hardest part and how did you overcome it?

The challenges of UX design for digital XR products are actually covered in my book. In it I discuss in detail how to approach the XR design process from my experience. The book covers the typical problems that XR designers are facing and offers various solutions, methods and an overview of tools and techniques. I have identified prototyping as the main challenge, and that designers have to face the fact that 3D and visual scripting skills are necessary.

akeytsu unreal animation by cornel hillmann

Using Nukeygara Akeytsu in the Unreal animation pipeline

Your Favorite XR Tools and Suggestions

I use the Unreal engine, Blender, Marmoset toolbag and Nukegara Akeytsu as my core toolset. Occasionally, I use Gravity Sketch, ShapeLab and Tvori ShapesXR as immersive design tools and Figma for menu prototyping. I think it is important to know when to use which XR framework. My preferred framework is the advanced framework for Unreal from humancodeable.org.

XR Zen

cornel hillman twinmotion

Blender Archipack Pro and Twinmotion for prototyping in the Unreal VR Previz pipeline

If you gave one piece of advice to up and coming XR designers, what would it be?

It is good to have an understanding of the wide landscape of tools and what problems they can solve, including visual scripting, 3D design, animation, and XR UI design, such as the MRTK toolkit, etc., but it is also important to have one area in which you excel. Like being an XR generalist whose speciality is to do amazing 3D motion graphics, for example.

I think it is an exciting time to join the XR revolution, as we are on the brink of a new era. The next decade will be dominated by innovation in the spatial computing field and the job market will be on fire, once the mass market is triggered. My book UX for XR covers the opportunities and features a detailed case study. I’ve received a lot of positive responses regarding the book and expect an ongoing discussion, which I will update on my website.

While my latest book is more focused on the XR design process, my first book, Unreal for Mobile and Standalone VR, is more technical and hands-on when it comes to visual scripting and the VR art pipeline.

It includes two tutorial projects, an interactive VR product presentation and a VR puzzle game. Both tutorial projects are built from scratch in a step-by-step process without any templates or frameworks. I believe that this is the best way to learn the basics.

Where Can People Find You?

My books are available on Amazon:

Best way to get in touch is via my website (studio.cgartist.com) or on LinkedIn.

I’m also happy to connect on Oculus (username: Cornel), where you’ll find me in Dead & Buried II, Population-1, Larcenauts, Hyper Dash and Eleven Table Tennis.

Did you like the interview? Who should we appear next in the XR Designer Interview series? Let me know.

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INTERVIEWED BY

Dejan Gajsek

Head of Marketing

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