Ask DN: Should we learn to design for VR?

7 years ago from , Designer & Front-end Developer

As designers, should we make a transition into learning how to design for virtual reality?

Oculus, Vive, Daydream, Gear VR, Hololens, Meta and probably hundreds more are making virtual reality or augmented reality productsand the market is continuing to grow.

Should we learn Unity or Unreal Engine to design for VR in 3D?

Or learn neuroscience about how our brain process the information in order to avoid uncomfortable interactions or damaging scenarios?

Should we learn to understand the complexities of 3D space and attempt to establish some simple patterns and UI users flows?

There is so much that I don't know about VR that I am probably missing clear reasons to study VR or augmented reality design.

What are your thoughts DN community?


  • Nalena Santiago, 7 years ago

    As a current UX VR Designer at Samsung I say yes, you should definitely pursue learning how to design for Virtual Reality. Currently there are few designers in the field and there is a lot of room for impact. From the 7+ months I have been in the field here are some suggestions:

    1) Start testing out VR applications (note that the type of app you design for Gear VR is different from the Rift or Vive that have positional tracking). Some good GearVR apps: Jaunt, Oculus Apps (Video, Arcade, Social Trivia, Photos, etc.), Land's End, Samsung Internet, YouVisit VR (their old UI was better), Within (formerly Vrse) Good Vive Apps: Tilt Brush, Pool Nation VR, Job Simulator. For the Rift I recommend watching the demo reel to see the full capacity of the HMD.

    2) Learn Unity. Unity seems to be the standard for VR. You don't need to learn how to script, but know how to place objects, create UI elements, and deploy to your HMD. Unity has the roll-a-ball tutorial on their website which is a good start. You can also find some good classes on Udemy.

    3) Learn Maya. This is a more long term one. But to create a great VR experience you need to be able to build environments and objects.

    If you're interested in more the Oculus design team has some good videos on YouTube from Oculus Connect and so does the Google Daydream team from Google IO 2016.

    You can also consider going to the Oculus Connect conference in October which is targeted to designers and developers.

    13 points
    • Raffaello SanzioRaffaello Sanzio, 7 years ago

      Thanks for your answer, Nalena!

      2 points
    • Matthew Blode, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

      Thank you for the response! I have done a course in animation in Maya and I know the software fairly well. The other portion of the course was creating a simple game in unreal engine. Would it be beneficial to stick with using unreal engine or switch to learning unity as my primary engine? Thanks again

      1 point
      • John PJohn P, 7 years ago

        Unreal is generally better at higher end work (AAA style/photoreal), Unity for lower-mid but it can do higher too.

        1 point
    • Jon HargreavesJon Hargreaves, 7 years ago

      What are your thoughts on using Blender as an alternative to Maya for VR? I got my Bachelor's in Animation and I used Maya a lot when I was going to school, but I currently cannot afford to have it since I am no longer a student.

      0 points
  • Max GlenisterMax Glenister, 7 years ago

    If you intend to work in that area then totally.

    I've been putting together this list of resources for the UX of VR for a while now: http://www.uxofvr.com

    4 points
  • Corin EdwardsCorin Edwards, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

    It might be worth waiting for some signs of success or failure of VR before devoting too much time to something that the public don't own, use or buy yet.

    2 points
    • Ian GoodeIan Goode, 7 years ago

      The mass-market consumer version of VR & AR won't look like an Oculus or Hololens (these are like smartphones pre-iPhone), but a success will definitely happen eventually. Give it a few years for mobile technology to get to a better place. AR will be by far the bigger of the two, in my opinion.

      It's worth learning about experiential design anyway, you can see in many industries that the way people interact with technology is moving in all kinds of directions out from screen & pointer.

      1 point
    • Ethan BondEthan Bond, 7 years ago (edited 7 years ago )

      Agreed. VR has always been "a few years away." I don't think the technology is really the issue. Google Glass could cost $10 and no one would wear it. Oculus could be spot on perfect and it will still never leave gaming or niche applications.

      That said, I think those niche applications are highly compelling and VR/AR can solve problems within those fields (medicine comes to mind) that no other technology could. Of course, the chances of you working on those compelling applications – right now anyways – are slim compared to the chances of you working on a novelty/demoware application.

      0 points
  • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, 7 years ago

    If you want a career designing for VR/AR, I'd highly recommend doing as much research as you can into making VR and AR a great experience. The same way you do for all of your on-screen projects.... right? ;-)

    1 point
    • Matthew Blode, 7 years ago

      What courses would you persue in college/university to learn VR or AR design?

      1 point
      • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, 7 years ago

        If I were 17 today, I'd try to do part visual communication (for the thinking) and part 3D compositing/animation (for the doing).

        0 points
  • Terry OTerry O, 7 years ago

    I can just about handle CSS, I think I'll give this one a miss.

    0 points
  • Patrick SmithPatrick Smith, 7 years ago

    If you are passionate about it, then sure.

    If you are not, I think it is safe to be skeptical about it. I personally don’t believe in its current format that it will blow up into a giant mainstream industry.

    Also predictions that it will supersede our touch screen devices are far too premature — there is zero reason the two won’t coexist for quite a while.

    0 points