3-D User Interfaces: Where are we and where are we heading?

Session Title

3-D User Interfaces: Where are we and where are we heading?


Rob Girling, Artefact Group

Session Type: Presentation

Over the last year, Artefact has noticed a visual trend towards more use of 3D graphics techniques in all forms of digital design. The consumer electronics industry and motion picture industry are really pushing 3D technologies hard. As a company focused on building next generation user experiences, Artefact has consciously and deliberately been exploring the use of 3D graphics techniques in the design of new platform user experiences and rich internet applications. Many of the projects Artefact has worked on have explored 3D UX and visual aesthetics as part of the proposed final product experience.

Hollywood continues to fantasize and provoke us UX designers to imagine more dimensional user experiences. Perhaps for the first time however we are witnessing a bit of a critical mass for real working 3D UI’s. There are a number of factors influencing this trend from the change of perception of console gaming as a popular consumer activity vs. niche hardcore activity.

Rob Girling, Principal at Artefact believes 3D is here, but there’s still a lot to learn before creating something really compelling.

Rob has will prepare a demo on the visual appeal of 3-D graphics, the styles possible and the new techniques a visual designer must become familiar with, as well as some simple truths about what seems to work, what doesn’t work and why, and what seems to put people off.

Furthermore, he will delve into the following questions:
* How technology, industry and UX trends are pushing us ‘naturally’ towards more 3-D in UX design?
* Why has the design community been reluctant to embrace 3-D, and why should they now?
* The aesthetics of 3-D, what new levers do we have to master to make delightful user experiences?
* How do you build 3-D UI’s, what technologies and tools are out there?
* What new opportunities (augmented reality) are on the horizon that will change the way we think about interaction design?

Rob will demonstrate that there is something Ôviscerally’ compelling about 3-D movement and 3-D visual style, which he believes is commercially undeniably successful. When designers take the time to understand and master the new visual levers at their disposal (depth, lighting, animation, cameras, physics and materials) really exciting and delightful experiences can be created that give user experience designers new ways to engage and delight users as they interact with digital products of all kinds. In addition he’ll argue that various technologies are going to bring 3D UX to the mainstream in the very near future so we’d better start some kind of discourse about them.


Rob is the co-founder and principal designer at Artefact, a Seattle-based creative consultancy where we synthesize the disciplines of research and design to deliver breakthrough user experiences that people love.

Rob Girling has a Masters degree in Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art in London and has worked in the field of user experience design for 16 years. In his ten years at Microsoft, Rob was the Design Manager for the user interface, brand, and user experience of Windows XP. He also made significant contributions to Windows Vista, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Games.

Since leaving Microsoft in 2002, Rob has worked as a Senior Interaction Designer for IDEO whose clients included Motorola, Google, Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, Windows Mobile, and MSN. Prior to starting Artefact, Rob worked for Sony Computer Entertainment of America as the Lead Game Designer for Sony’s forthcoming ‘MAG’, 3d action game.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    i’m there, dude. the potential seems to be there, but it also seems like we’re not applying it well thus far–in ways that are useful to everyday software.

    i’m surprised no one else has commented on this. pretty cool/cutting edge stuff from my perspective.