How working as a Product Designer is similar to VFX animation.


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Product Design is everything

Before being a product designer or a person who designs software, digital interfaces, tangible wearable products like a coffee machine or a pair of glasses that can transmit augmented reality in the real world space, I created animations for realistic scenes. This consisted of scenes for film and games and this process is normally called VFX animation.

Product design involves more stake in how a product is made. The animation is more linear and the goal is more practical. Product design can be a feasible goal but can end on a nutshell leaving teams guessing or strategizing. Nonetheless theoretically the same product that was used to create the high-end VFX animation was built by a team of product designers and developers. This product is software such as 3DS Max or Autodesk Maya. Both yield amazing rewards in the end. I can give two examples of these rewards. (1) You make a VFX animation it can be shown in the latest blockbuster film and be shown to billions of people depending on how big the film or game has got. An example of this can be the person who animated the flying space ship iron man and Nebula pulled up in on the Avengers Endgame. (2) You design a feature or an experience within a product like a checkout flow to buy something or pay a bill for your phone or credit card. Your experience or design will be shown to millions of consumers who will use the product depending on how big the company is. An example of this can be the person who designed the experience for when consumers pay their capital one credit card bill.

This isn’t how they are similar so don’t get your hopes up yet. I haven’t gotten to that point yet. Keep reading…

VFX with a touch of spice

Heavy animation used in real-world scenes requires more attention to detail. A study is required to really optimize how you view the digital space with real-world believability. For instance, if you want to have a lion for a 10-second scene for your movie and when the budget is tight. That and it’s a wild animal who may or may not attack you if he or she skipped lunch. You really need to study clips or go to the zoo, or even hire a trained professional who knows how to tame a lion. Animators can even study a house cats movement. This all leads to understanding the role of an animator and the objectives to build out your scene for the movie or game.

While animators get tasked to animate a specific item such as a humanoid, animal, teacup, etc, they have a few people to roll under. Being a lead animator, or a senior animator, and even a director. An animator will be tasked to animate something small or something big. What I mean by this is the timing of the scene. Sometimes animations can take days to weeks and the animation that will be played in front of an audience will be less than 5 seconds. Shocker right! This is due to the sheer fact that animations tools are vastly limited yet advanced. We don’t have the toolset to make custom animations made within a few days depending on the scenario. For instance, the scene calls for a bird to look left, look right, then fly away. This scene is merely 10 seconds long. Nonetheless, it’s fairly easy to make this scene especially believable with the study. Depending on the skill of the animator, this scene can anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks long. However, when it comes to VFX we have access to mocap animation. In other words motion capture. Motion capture speeds the animation workflow tenfold, yet it still requires the animator to have a robust knowledge of the animation toolset, key-framing etc. An example of mocap is when you see how realistic the animations look on the Na’vi aliens from Avatar. Essentially the actors put on a suit of dots that is translated to the computer. This technology can run at real-time and update the animation on the animation software.

Setting up an animation requires reviewing a storyboard or looking at images of how the scene is set up. This vastly reduces the amount of time to understand how you want the scene to look in 3D. Animators usually block out the scene with broken up animation to get a gist of how the animation will look. This is an opportunity to get feedback, ideas, and direction for the animation. Normally you can send the animation to your team to get feedback or have them critique the animation. Sometimes have you and your team work together to get a difficult animation done. Like working with a coworker to act the animation with video and editing. Teamwork is key in this situation and is highly recommended to get out of your comfort zone. Not just that but to be an actor in your own way. Yes! Animation requires acting.

Product design with a hint of salt

The User experience product designer role requires a lot of empathy, visual design skills, and an understanding of the product that needs to be built. Many products can be feature-driven and it’s up to the user experience designer to be able to build or design the product with less friction. In other words, a product that has lots of friction can make the end users angry and not want to use your product. That is bad for business.

Working as a user experience designer or product designer can be a daunting task but being an empathetic team player goes a long way. Being able to understand the product holistically at different levels requires studying, researching, design thinking, and asking a lot of questions. Also, don’t forget the teamwork there.

Normally the junior designer is under the senior designers in which you have to report to. Lead designers normally take the call on most projects. Director level status has most of the control in terms of the product design direction and goals. As a product designer, it is highly recommended to be involved in all facets of the product direction because you will always have a say. That being said you should be organizing and facilitating meetings, design stand-ups and working side-by-side with other teammates to construct different features of said product. Here is also an opportunity to be open about your design and what you made with your teammates. Product design involves lots of art, research, strategy, and psychology. More so art because the objective is to design a usable front end, back end or tangible product. That also works for both the business and the end consumers. Being an artist delves into the same field as an animator and requires lots of feedback. While creating interfaces, it is important to be open to critique from your team and also criticism.

Why did you…

Moreover, animation and product design are very similar in different ways. Being on a team to accomplish the main goal and being open to feedback. Always looking for a way to grow and better yourself is very important. Being open to

I however, saw an opportunity that was better with product design that animation didn’t offer. Nonetheless, I can still apply some facets of animation within the product design strategy.

Conclusion

Although my position is a user experience product designer, I will never stop being an animator. Animation was my passion and it still will be. In another article or video, I will explain why I stopped pursuing animation professionally. Stay tuned in the next episode of…

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