Design visualization: how Foundry is leading the visual-first revolution

In the 11 years I’ve been at Foundry, I’ve seen amazing changes in VFX. Now, I’m seeing how the same tools used to create the stunning CG in Star Wars are being used to transform product design. Companies from Mercedes Benz to Adidas are harnessing the power of VFX tools to create more realistic, compelling design visualizations than ever before. 

That puts Foundry in a very exciting position - as the market-leaders in VFX technology, we can play a key role in the design revolution.  Our tools are used to make almost every movie you see in the cinema or on Netflix, shows on TV,  or ads on YouTube.  We’re who you go to when you need to  create premium-quality content. 

Looking back at traditional product design, it took many rounds of iteration before creators could say they’d reached the final version. Sketches, re-designs and physical prototypes were the norm in the 60s. 

It might surprise you, if you’re not a designer yourself, that until recently things haven’t changed a great deal. Sure, there have been 3D tools for designing on computers, but many people still start with paper and pen—and go through lengthy rounds of amendments and prototyping.

But big changes are afoot. We’re in the midst of a visual-first revolution, and Foundry is leading the charge. 

Design visualisation person sketching

An end to prototyping?

The quality of digital renders has got to a point where they are pretty much photoreal—we can create virtual versions of a product that are absolutely true to life, even down to the way light reflects off certain surfaces. And that means design visualisation is quickly going digital-first. 

Typically, a manufacturer will do four rounds of prototyping before getting to a final product—I’ve seen situations where eight rounds of sampling prior to production is considered normal. Digital designs, however, can be almost instantly edited and re-shared with entire teams, removing the pain – and not to mention the wasted time – of round after round of prototyping and re-designs. They can transform the product visualisation experience and even be used for customer-facing e-commerce platforms.

Take NIKEiD, for example, which lets customers mix and match colours and detail to create their perfect shoe. No prototyping. No back and forth. Instant design changes at the touch of a button.

Of course, in the creation of new products for mass manufacture, physical prototypes are likely to remain a necessity for some time to come. There is still the need to hold an actual product in your hand. But the number of rounds can be dramatically reduced, and processes can be sped up and made more efficient.

Woman on computer visualizes design

The perfect storm

One of the drivers of the revolution is a generational shift in the design industry. As digital-native demographics progress to more senior roles, they bring with them new skills and expectations.

And we are seeing people with more technical backgrounds – especially those who cut their teeth at post-production studios and in the media and entertainment industries – moving into new positions within the design world, as part of visualisation departments for example.

There’s a perfect storm occurring. A younger, digital-savvy workforce is arriving just as the software for design visualisation has reached the point where it can genuinely transform workflows.

At Foundry, we’re well aware of this shift, and we’re perfectly placed to play a part.  It's now possible to do a week-long 3D bootcamp at Pensole Footwear Academy in Portland taught by a leading Modo expert. Foundry is training the 3D army of the future, a new type of artist who can easily cross dimensions to deliver that same premium visualisation we see in the latest action films.

Over the coming months Foundry Trends will explore this burgeoning design revolution, including the companies leading the way and the positive environmental impact we could see as a result.