As a design director, you know the potential of virtual reality – and you can’t wait to bring your team into a VR process to experience higher success. In this article you’ll find a guide to implementing VR design and getting your team in the mood to embrace the benefits.
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What is VR design?
Virtual reality design is the application of an immersive technology to design settings. The combination of software programs and VR equipment (like headsets) enables design teams to get a realistic and highly precise view of a concept right from the start. Through 360-degree representations that can be explored as if they were real objects, VR design allows you to conceptualize form and function in real size and in real-world settings.
This technology has been embraced by designers working in retail, consumer products, and automotive. In automotive design, VR has multiple applications throughout the design process:
- It helps materialize ideas into viable models.
- It renders concepts in full size without actually building them.
- It allows designers to work directly on an idea, instead of switching back and forth between 2D and 3D representations of it.
- It brings all design specialists together and facilitates co-creation through shared understandings.
In short, VR design supports product development and makes the key tasks of the process smoother: from creation to curation, communication, validation, and decision making.
Why should you implement VR design on your team?
VR design is the natural complement to design thinking. First, an idea appears in designer’s head. Then, they take that visualization a step further and communicate it in full detail. To do that, designers need a tool that simply didn’t exist before VR.
Some of the key advantages of VR design include:
With VR design, you can validate ideas and models quickly and effectively – no more looking at approximations! Instead, you can evaluate a model in depth and assess its looks, function, form, and even the “feel” it generates.
Using this technology, you can inspect details and complex aspects of a model, including volume, lighting, space, and perspective. It’s also possible to contextualize a model by simulating the environment in which it will be used. Because VR enables such an incredibly detailed perspective, design teams can communicate from mind to mind through visual input.
Design is an “evolutionary process”, as it moves from concept to object through multiple iterations. With VR tools, design becomes revolutionary. By improving communication, VR design reduces the amount of iterations needed to only those that are truly necessary. That means no clay models, static renderings, or sketches.
VR design also eliminates barriers to productive iteration. In some cases, teams limit the number of variants they create due to time and cost considerations. But with VR tools, you can create variations that don’t interfere with budgets or iteration cycles.
VR enables collaborative and remote design
Collaboration is crucial in automotive design, since the design process is very complex and requires getting different specialists to speak the same language. However, collaborative design often stays at the motto level because teams lack practical tools to make it happen.
Moreover, design teams now face added complexity due to the implementation of remote work. This can interfere with goals like accuracy and the seamless communication of ideas, creating further barriers to collaboration. VR design solves this problem because it brings together every stakeholder and lets them create and curate a concept together in real time.
VR design generates important savings in materials, by not needing full-size clay models or prototypes. What’s more, it can save many man hours and help achieve a faster time to market since the process flows towards completion.
How to implement VR design and get the team in the mood for it
As it happens with other corporate change processes, it’s best to implement VR design one step at a time.
1. Explain the need for change
This doesn’t just mean at company or department level: it needs to be very clear what the benefits would be to each team member. Communicate exactly how VR design will make their job easier, how much time they’ll save, and how this ties into better functioning at department and company level. The idea is that your team should get both the small and big picture on how VR design will optimize processes and workflows.
2. Get the team involved
Here, involvement means seeking feedback and ensuring the team has an active role during the change process. This could mean appointing key people in relevant departments to oversee or coordinate VR design implementation. In addition, feedback requests should be made throughout the change process. Invite your team to discuss what’s creating the biggest frustrations, where are the obstacles, and what areas could be more productive.
3. Understand where resistance may come from
Resistance to change is common in corporate environments. To overcome, it’s important that those in charge of the change process understand where resistance comes from. This can include:
- Employees not seeing the benefits.
- Overestimating how hard it’ll be to adapt.
- Fear of failure.
- Teams being already under pressure dealing with other changes (e.g. remote work).
4. Adapt training according to employee needs
Lastly, communicate the action plan and timeline for implementing VR design. Along with this, you should provide a guide that details the impact of VR design in different departments or roles and how to make the transition process easier.
The guide should be complemented by training, whether it’s formal, via workshops, or seminars. You could also explore other options like mentoring or peer support. Either way, training should be tailored to:
- Highlight the benefits for everyone involved.
- Keep motivation high through the learning process.
- Let staff know they’ll have all the support during change implementation.
Which management approach is helpful to implement VR design successfully?
Top-down management is a traditional approach where management sets a direction and allocates tasks to complete it. Ideas and decision making flow from top to bottom of the corporate hierarchy. On the other hand, bottom up management seeks the contribution of individuals, teams or departments, who are seen as co-creators of the change process. Their input is used as a starting point for discussion and strategy generation.
It’s a common mistake to think that change management is an “either or” approach. In fact, top down and bottom up approaches are not mutually exclusive. Most organizations will lean towards a specific approach, but the best at managing change know that flexibility is needed to incorporate elements of both approaches.
At the end of the day, which approach to use when implementing VR design will depend on organizational and situational considerations like:
- The number of staff, since the larger the organization is, the more complicated it is to use bottom-up management.
- How many departments are planning to adopt VR design.
- The current skill set of your key design team members.
- How has change been handled in the past and what lessons can be learned.
In short, both top down and bottom up management can be used effectively if they’re born out of a commitment to clear communication, transparency, and collaboration.
How do I start designing in VR?
That’s the easiest part! To get started designing in VR with flyingshapes, all you have to do is:
- Ensure your system and Internet connection meet the minimum requirements, which are specified here. Most modern computers used in design are suitable, since they have a fast graphics card.
- Request the software.
- Ensure the computer/s where you’ll use the software are connected to a VR headset.
- Get a pair of VR controllers. These will give you control over a six axis that covers all aspects of orientation and position.
- Familiarize yourself with common VR input gestures and those specific to flyingshapes.
flyingshapes is designed to make learning process intuitive. However, if you or your team need additional support, you can schedule a personal appointment at your convenience.
Implementing VR design can improve communication and collaboration, make iteration seamless, reduce expenses, and create a new gold standard in your company’s design experience. VR design tools like flyingshapes have the ability to seal all communicative gaps between sketches, prototypes and reality. And making them work is possible whether you use a top down or a bottom up management approach, or a mix of both.