Interviews with XR Designers: Manuel Sainsily
April 04 2022
Name: Manuel Sainsily
Working At: 3D Artist & UX/XR Design Manager Digital Twins at Unity Technologies
Prior XR Designer Role: XR Design Department Lead @ IBM iX Canada
Manuel "Manu" Sainsily is a senior designer, researcher and teacher on the topics of User eXperience (UX), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and eXtended Reality (XR). Manu has always been extremely passionate about human-centered design to create products, services, and experiences that improve the lives of millions of people.
His passion, work, and determination brought him from Guadeloupe to Montreal where he spend his last 12 years as a design professional at companies like Immersion, IBM and PaySafe. He currently works as an UX/XR Design Manager Digital Twins at Unity Technologies. Beside visual design he also dabbles in haptics! As he says himself - "It's good time to be a Haptician!"
How was your transition from traditional to XR design?
I have always been passionate about AR,VR and 3D in general! As a freelance 3D Artist and multi-platform Designer, it was only normal to transition from 2D to 3D and make XR my specialty to continue to explore and design immersive experiences.
How did you start learning about XR?
I started self-learning about XR through courses and certifications such as Unity and Circuit Stream courses. Typically in traditional design roles, you’re expected to present a portfolio and your case studies. When I was a consultant at IBM and started a department, I literally spent ~400 of personal hours in learning and paid certifications in UX for XR via Interaction Design Foundation (IDF).
What was your first professional role in XR and how did you land it?
During those courses I've built a case study and sold the idea to my upper management team. They trusted me and allowed me to invest into myself, ultimately creating the Design department for XR at IBM Canada. Through this department I worked on a curriculum (both internal and external, even though it never launched) to help designers transition from traditional UX to UX/XR.
How does your XR Design work look right now?
I work as a Design Manager for a team that builds Digital Twin platforms and products at Unity. I'm working with AR and VR as well as Real-Time 3D on my day to day. On top of that my team collaborates with the specialized XR Design team for more specific XR implementations.
I also participate and lead communities inside and outside of Unity (10k members in 4 months on the XR Family Clubhouse created in January 2021, Haptics Club podcast reaching 1 year of episodes in April 2022 focused on XR and Haptics + a growing discord community and a book published to help finance the HIF efforts with Open XR, etc.
What was the hardest part and how did you overcome it?
The hardest part was the lack of 3D Art understanding and lack of practice with tools and real use cases for clients to understand and trust the XR return on investment.
From a team perspective we also noticed that when selling a XR implementation to a client and starting a discovery vision, we find out that the XR wasn’t the solution, but what attracted the client and the project. But when actually ideating solutions, we realized that the client needed simply to move to Web 2.0 first. We ended up finalizing the project, but never implemented anything XR-wise. So it’s important to always listen to the user’s pain and not assume or deliver features biased by our own desires.
XR design follows the same process as "traditional" UX design plus a lot more. It’s the exact same process with a layer of spatial computing understanding. It’s broader and doesn’t rely only on visual stimulus but also on sound, haptics, and more. It's important to. take inspirations from plays in theaters and backgrounds such as anthropology, neuroscience or even art & entertainment.
What are some of your favorite XR Tools?
- ShapesXR - VR creation and collaboration platform for remote teams
- Figma - popular web based vector graphics editor and prototyping tool.
- MRTK - Mixed Reality Toolkit is a Microsoft-driven project that provides a set of components and features, used to accelerate cross-platform MR app development
- Unity - game engine software used for development of real-time 3D including AR and VR applications
- Blender - free and open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D-printed models, motion graphics, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, and, formerly, video games
- Procreate - intuitive digital illustration app for iPads
- Keynote - presentation software application for Apple OS
If you gave one piece of advice to up-and-coming XR designers, what would it be?
Don’t wait for the market to believe in a piece of technology to start exploring it.
Become an early adopter of your dreams.
Dare to dream without limit.
Ask for forgiveness, not for permission.
Invest in yourself and your skills, and never stop learning.
Invest in your hobbies and creative activities outside of work.
Try to find ways to ingest what you learn within your practice and grow the amount of strings in your bow, of tools in your toolkit, etc.
Where Can People Find You?
LinkedIn: Manuel Sainsily