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001 - Using VR to Create a Logo

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Recording in Writing - The Possibilities of Expression with VR

Last year, I was a participant of Creative Lab Hawaii's Ideation Program for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). The weekend long workshop and subsequent panel opened my eyes to the possibilities of the VR space and the wild-west nature of it. Rather than contemplate if VR was a worthy investment or not, I decided to dive in, headset first, and see for myself.

One app that I explored this new frontier with was Gravity Sketch, a free to use app that is best conceptualized as a 2D Microsoft Paint tool, but in 3D Virtual Reality.

I've drawn before. I'm not a great drawer, but I'm not a bad one either. Whenever I take a pencil to paper, there is often a feeling that no matter what I do, the outcome doesn't quite match what's in my head. This is essentially what any creation process is. The ability to express completely and honestly one's imagination is a mountain top achievement that takes years of discipline, trial, and error to master.

I understand and respect this notion.

Despite this fact, my first session in Gravity Sketch felt like a shortcut to this experience, one that possibly unlocked some hidden artistic potential. What started off as merely an exploration driven by feelings of curiosity and play, unexpectedly allowed for the creation of something that I found truly representative of myself.

My Experience in Gravity Sketch

Where Microsoft Paint only gives you a mouse-controlled cursor (or at most, a stylus and touch pad), Gravity Sketch lets you use your full range of motion with your hands and arms. The best way to imagine it is if you were using a can of spray paint, but instead of needing a canvas, you could spray out 3D sculptures right in front of you. The whole process feels like uninhibited imagination.

Initially, I just let my mind wander while I was learning the controls.

The first shape I created was a geometric cube frame using black ink. I added a bit more complexity and added points and faces to that. It started looking like a medieval mace, so I gave it a little handle. This new iteration looked like an abstract dandelion, which then inspired me to draw a flower next to it.

When working on the flower, I wasn't attempting the recreation an actual flower, but instead I was just making physical motions that felt fun. No particular petals in mind, just wiggling. I used my hand and made an aggressive waving motion. Something similar to what you would see from a kid who just discovered a red crayon and a clean sheet of paper for the first time. After that, I added a swirly yellow stem because it reminded me of a hibiscus flower. Then, a green stem followed by a little patch of grass. I liked how all the colors looked together, but wanted more, so I finished it off with a small multi-blue colored moat to balance it all out.

See finished product below:

Uninhibited Expression, Unexpected Satisfaction

In this space, the objects that are created feel like balloon animals. You can rotate them, hold them up, and move them around. Unlike a balloon animal, you can expand and contract the sculpture as you would zooming in on a digital picture. This gives the piece an extra dimension of physicality that makes it feel more real. When I was done working on my sculpture, I rotated my finished piece and observed it from all angles.

I was surprised by the amount of satisfaction that I felt.

Somehow, the process that was originally just letting my mind wander and flow turned into something far more meaningful. The finished product accurately and powerfully captured what I believe are essential elements of my creative work, all unintentionally. One element I often try to create is the theme of juxtaposition between two very different, but somehow similar things. The real against the unreal, the natural against the unnatural.

The first geometric black shape is representative of order, reason, and objectivity. The singular color alludes to the absolute nature of it. The flower shape on the other hand, is representative of life, color, expression, and subjectivity. Where the geometric shape has one dimension of color (black), the flower has multiple dimensions (red, yellow, green). The land (grassy patch) contrasts against the sea (pond). The red and yellow of the flower feel almost like fire which also contrasts the water.

The whole scene presents many dimensions of balance, yin and yang.

Going from 3D to 2D

After finishing the sculpture, I knew that I was happy with it, but I didn't know what to do with the model. I knew that I wanted to share it with friends/cohorts/anyone who was interested. Gravity Sketch's platform has a feature that lets you view your 3D models in 2D.

For me, this is where things got really interesting.

Going from a 3D model and compressing it into a 2D picture did something and I can't quite put my finger on it. It's a feeling similar to when a street-art caricaturist paints a picture of you. The drawing that you have isn't photorealistic, but it contains your characteristically unique qualities in a quickly accessible way. One look and you immediately know that the image is of you. That's what this 2D representation of my 3D sculpture feels like. It's a lesser dimensional image, but the meaning and feeling behind it is still there.

Where a 3D abstract model might not be particularly useful, this 2D image has a lot of uses. One use is as a logo for this website. Logo design and any sort of graphic design is all about being able to capture the idea of a story, brand, or company and quickly conveying it in a condensed form. I'm not saying that the image should replace the work of a trained professional, but the fact that I can start with this image and continue to build on top of it is really cool.

The Possibilities

Building 3D models in a 3D space (VR) is a lot more intuitive than building 3D models in a 2D space (computer screen). For professionals in model design, architecture, and engineering, the possibilities here are probably already being explored. What might be new is where VR could be useful to artists and creative entrepreneurs. Apps like Gravity Sketch allow a unique medium and mode of expression. Artistic integrity and honest expression may seem innocuous and easy, but for many people, especially myself, these are hard places to access. Beyond the finished useable product, the creative exercise it allows is something worth exploring.

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