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Colin Smith
December 18, 2018
Even with today’s incredible accessibility to 3D creation and visualization tools, the benefits of the sketching continue to be an essential part of the design process.

3D underlays is one way to combine 2D and 3D. It is an effective way to knock out perspective compositions, but this technique also go a long way helping to communicate where a project actually is in the process – Above, Autodesk Fusion 360 snapshot in SketchBook.

Beyond the traditional heavy lifting that sketching provides with generation ideas and executing hand rendered illustration, it also performs the crucial duty of establishing contextual clues.  The right fidelity at the right time can make a huge difference in how a client, manager, or peer responds to a design.

Combining 2D with 3D allows designers to inject emotion, control areas of attention, and express an iterative quality to invite open feedback.

Combining both 3D modelling and 2D drawing is a tried and true mixed media approach that provides designers with the power to control a viewer’s perception.  There are many situations where going straight into 3D made sense, particularly for exploring objects with many functional components or those that include articulating parts, however, 3D imagery (whether it is expressed in wireframe, shaded, NPR, or fully rendered) tend to register to a viewer as more ‘finished’ than what the stage actually dictates  This perception can steer feedback in a way that negatively impacts  dialog, which is usually the most important objective of communicating in early design stages.

This pocket knife was fully modelled and rendered, but a sketch-over can instantly dial it back for a design conversation. This technique is particularly powerful for variation studies and product face lifts.

There is something wonderful about a sketchy appearance that is particularly inviting for conversation.  In addition to faithfully communicating design intent, the ability to leverage sketching as a means of engaging stakeholders is a powerful technique to exploit.

All images courtesy Jeff Smith, Autodesk.

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook Pro and Create VR and is based in Toronto, Canada.