How 3d Printing Catalyzes Creativity and Enhances Design Skills

How we use 3D printing at Block Zero

In this article I’ll discuss how we at Block Zero use our 3D printer and how we feel it helps us to be better designers.

We use our printer for all sort of things

There’s a lot more to it than just being able to make 3D prints. Having a 3D printer in the office enables us to learn new skills, enhance our UI/UX design and create physical pucks to be used within our Presentation Engine™ ecosystem.

Evaluating a 3D design through a screen can be really tricky. Printing a prototype makes it much quicker and easier to see what aspects of a design are working and what are not. This encourages risk-taking and creativity within what and how we design.

That said, having a 3D printer in the office is wonderfully convenient for making all sorts of different objects, some for projects and others just because it seemed like fun to make. It’s also great for printing trophies for when we have paper plane competitions at the office.

Presentation Engine

Presentation Engine™  is our digital interactive storytelling platform. It utilizes touch screen tables with physical pucks (the round black disks in the photo below) to build immersion.

The pucks are 3D printed and are made specifically for each story.

One of the main use cases for getting our own 3D printer was to be able to up our puck game (that’s right, we have a puck game). Having full control over the materials, colors and print quality has helped to make better looking and feeling pucks.

In one of our most recent Presentation Engine™ projects we used a smaller screen than normal. Thus we needed to remake the pucks to fit the smaller screen. Being able to design and print an assortment of different sized pucks that were ready to be tested the very next day made it much easier to find the perfect size. This saved us ton of time and effort in what was already quite a tight deadline.

2 3d printed black disks with the text blockzero indented on the surface

3D printed websites

3D printing technology isn’t quite there yet, but being good at 3D printing can really help when using any sort of 3D within a website. Whether the intended purpose is web content or printing, the design process doesn’t change a great deal. We can actually use pretty much the same set software tools for both.

3D elements on a website are becoming increasingly common and can have a significant impact on the look and feel of the site. This trend just highlights the importance for us to be comfortable working in 3D.

The more we engage with 3D work the more confident we get in our skills. This makes it easier for us to visualise and incorporate 3D into our web-based designs. Being able to quickly and easily 3D print in the office is a fun way to practice these skills. Holding your design in your hand and feeling how the choices you made affect the overall look and feel can be an incredibly rewarding process.

The fox skull below was carefully hand modelled by Johanna, a senior UX/UI designer at Block Zero, as part of her personal development. It was really cool to be able to finish off the many hours of modelling by being able to actually make a print of it.

In Conclusion

As modern computers become more and more powerful, designers are able to include more and more 3D elements within a website’s design. We are already exploring what is possible when working with an extra dimension, and looking forward to what the future holds. Most importantly, our 3D printer will certainly be coming along for the ride.

BZ™ 2015-now

Independent consultancy specialized in Design and communication. Current and past clients include: