Keep the Passion Going: Becoming an AR Product Designer with Danilo Parise
March 16 2022
Have you ever had a passion for something but didn’t have the time to explore it? Well, what would you do if that passion became the next profitable thing on the market? Perhaps this is the time you pursue your passions. Upskill, even, and add it to your skillset to impress your next boss.
Danilo Parise: The Man Behind the Adidas Lens Project
Meet Danilo. A creative at heart, Danilo Parise has been experimenting with all things related to design and digital products. He is a Creative Director for a Fortune 500 company, and he specializes in user-centric design. However, Danilo has a passion for 3D design and has always wanted to explore the discipline.
After all, 3D design was a constant in Danilo’s life. It helped him find his place in the creative industry.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, the interest in AR/VR technology saw a spike of nearly $1.9 billion in venture capital. Facebook’s rebrand to Meta raised the people’s curiosity and increased metaverse investments, while major brand acquisitions of Microsoft and Unity are set to trailblaze gaming and 3D creative design.
Danilo felt compelled to do something about his creative capacities. With the market moving beyond onscreen experiences, only time could tell when AR/VR becomes the mainstream.
In November 2021, Dan finally embarked on his journey to upskill in spatial interaction. There’s no better time to pursue a profitable passion such as 3D design right now, don’t you think? So Dan enrolled in Circuit Stream’s Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR online course. For 10 weeks of live online classes and private 1:1 mentoring sessions, Dan got to explore 3D design and even developed a personal AR project.
Danilo saw how AR is capable of providing an interactive experience. The general public has yet to accept it, but AR/VR technology proves it is here to stay and improve for the years to come. His passion for 3D design led him to upskill and gain expertise in interactive design.
Extended reality (XR) design experience is fairly new. Danilo is here to walk us through the process for his self-initiated AR/VR project. Creative minds and engineers interested in experiential design can follow Danilo’s journey of launching the Adidas Lens Project.
From Zero to Project Launching: Danilo’s Adidas Lens Project Walkthrough
Danilo didn’t just wake up one day and decide to simply launch his AR Project head-on. Rather, Danilo is just like any of us when it comes to passion projects: getting excited to start something new, losing focus along the way, until we end up with an unfinished project.
To keep him on track, Danilo set SMART goals to help him gauge his performance and accomplishments.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For Danilo, his goals were:
Danilo’s SMART Goals for the Adidas Lens Project
Danilo focused his project scope on an experiential design experience for the Adidas NMD shoes. Through spatial interactions, Danilo wanted users to determine product information and play around with the possible customizations. Danilo put AR to the test for its usability in eCommerce. Not to mention, he also challenged his capacity to build NFTs.
STEP 1. Identifying the Design’s Intended Solution
The belated introduction of AR technology to the market is stalling its development and user experience. Nonetheless, AR design software is available and continues to evolve as the discipline becomes more streamlined.
The Market, Challenges, and Opportunities
For his project, Danilo wanted to learn about the challenges and opportunities of using AR in eCommerce and how it can influence consumer behavior. He launched into extensive research, discovering significant data on the market and consumer’s perceptions for interactive technologies:
- $24.9B were spent on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in 2021. Users invest in the digital economy by purchasing virtual lands, art, videos, and images.
- 64% of the world’s leading consumer brands are investing in immersive technologies. They recognize that immersive technology can enhance a consumer’s buying experience.
- 47% of consumers are willing to pay more if they could personalize a product through immersive technologies. Trying on products leaves customers more satisfied with their purchases.
- 6M VR units were sold worldwide in 2021. This shows that while the general public remains resistant to the idea, the customer base for AR/VR technology is constantly growing. It is predicted that 14M units will be sold by 2024.
eCommerce opened doors of opportunity for brands to reach and engage with more consumers. However, its typical experience leaves consumers wanting to know more about the product before purchasing.
Danilo’s Solution: Interactive, Customizable User Experience
Danilo aims to address customization and real-time interaction in his project. With augmented reality, users can have a 360-degree view of the item and access information suspended in augmented visuals.
The main point of Danilo’s project? Customers have the opportunity to personalize the product however they wish. They can opt to place a physical order for the product or buy it as an NFT.
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of programming and design, Danilo designed a user persona that would require the solutions offered by his project. Ideally, user personas are established after rigorous target market research for streamlined functionality. As Adidas Lens is a passion project, Danilo built a user persona with the younger generations as his target market.
STEP 2: Strategizing the User Experience
An intuitive and manageable user journey on an app is always a high priority. Danilo addressed this by determining user journeys and a sitemap. These would help in identifying the right controls for the proper execution of tasks as requested by the user.
ADIDAS LENS Project Sitemap
Danilo proceeded with organizing a chart, detailing the step-by-step process for a user to accomplish their goals within the application. AR technology requires you to design within a live snapshot of the real world. Danilo worked with two digital layers, occupying the intimate and personal spaces of a user.
Closest to the human eye, the “controls” contain navigation commands. Danilo put up a designated “stage” as the second layer, where users can effectively see the product they are interacting with.
ADIDAS Lens Project User Flow
A wireframe is a blueprint that helps programmers and designers to lay out the structure of an application or software. For AR/VR, the application or software is meant to interact with the space around you. The depth of augmented objects and diegetic interface can make or break the experience. Dan worked to solidify the user experience and seamlessly integrate AR with the user’s immediate environment.
ADIDAS Lens Project Wireframes
A creative director through and through, Danilo established the feel and look that is as closely authentic as can be with the Adidas brand. Thorough research for typography and iconography helps in establishing a uniform and distinguishable brand.
Of course, even icons and text in AR must offer the same augmented experience to users. Experimenting around the appropriate depth and visual hierarchy can lead to a more enjoyable user experience.
STEP 3: Entering the Prototype Pipeline
AR design can test your grit for creativity and design. In upskilling for AR, Danilo discovered that it is more than just 3D design; AR welcomes you to a rabbit hole of skills and roles. A lot of discipline goes into designing for AR, but Danilo was intent on accomplishing his project to the end.
With the evolving nature of AR/VR technology, the available software does not specifically render designs optimized for AR. In Danilo’s case, he leveraged different designing programs to finish different tasks.
Danilo organized wireframes and user flows on Sketch. Sketch is ideal for setting the foundation of a heavily layered project such as AR design.
For 3D modelling and rendering of the product, navigation icons, and other AR elements, Danilo opted to work with a familiar 3D software, Cinema 4D by Maxon. Here, we can see how Danilo set up the visual elements for an augmented space with varying depth and distances from the user’s line of sight.
As an Apple and macOS user, Danilo found it challenging to work with Apple’s signature USDZ format for 3D assets. Dan had to do most of the polishing, texturing, and final rendering of his 3D assets on an online 3D authoring tool called Vectary. Light, easy to navigate, and free to use, Vectary can easily export USDZ files.
With each asset ready to go, Danilo launched another program to bring the AR experience altogether. Reality Composer works straight to the point in prototyping an AR experience. The software does not necessarily require its users to be adept with code. Reality Composer comes with predefined behavior to implement interactions and functions with barely writing a line of code.
The Adidas Lens Project does not just let users customize and interact with the Adidas NMD shoes in augmented reality. Rather, it provides the virtual experience of trying on the product. Basing off of Snapchat filters, Danilo designed the experience with Lens Studio and later on published it as a filter on the Snapchat Creators platform.
STEP 4. Launching the AR Experience in the Real World
Danilo goes back to Reality Composer, where every user journey is a live scene linked to and accessible at the main menu. Navigating across the AR space is possible by tapping on the icons shown on the screen. Finally, Danilo is ready to launch his project and see it interact with the immediate environment in real-time.
And interact it did. Adidas Lens Project is a success! Launched from an iPad, Danilo navigates his way around the application smoothly. The product is customizable, and the results immediately take effect on the “stage”. You can even try out the shoes in real-time. Talk about finding the right colors for your skin tone. AR technology did that!
STEP 5. VR Test Runs and Final Thoughts
Danilo originally conceptualized the Adidas Lens to be an application accessed via head-mounted displays (HMD) like the HoloLens. Without these devices, Dan wasn’t able to fully test the project’s AR usability. Accessing Adidas Lens through a traditional screen limits the spatial interactions and depth perception of the AR objects.
However, Dan took this as an opportunity to virtually recreate the HMD experience. For this exercise, Dan used ShapesXR to optimize environments and elements for a VR experience.
Running an AR application with the right technology enhances the overall experience. Traditional screens limit users from interacting with AR elements as they wish. Because AR integrates with the real world, the user’s mobility is an important factor.
Ideally, the process would go on
The last step in experiential design is user testing. Danilo intends to conduct a qualitative survey with direct users, handing out a 12-question questionnaire for them to flesh out their feedback. Danilo also plans to introduce the Adidas Lens project to business stakeholders and have their feedback and suggestions for seamlessly implementing Adidas Lens as a marketing strategy.
Pursuing 3D design and, in turn, the Adidas Lens project broadened Danilo’s understanding and appreciation for AR/VR. In his learning journey, Danilo realized the value of AR technology in enriching the eCommerce experience. Eventually, physical products may have their NFT counterparts.
While AR/VR is barely available to the majority of the world’s population, Danilo discovered that AR testing is possible in a mock virtual environment. With how few programs are dedicated to designing and rendering AR elements, a little bit of resourcefulness (and grit!) can get you to places.