How sketching will help UMake the world a better place.

Nyko de Peyer
Jul 3, 2015 · 7 min read

There’s a new app in town and it’s about to change the world of design. No, this is not an exaggeration, but my belief based on almost two weeks of beta testing an app that is quite literally a dream come true for designers around the world.

What if you could sketch in a program, and then begin to manipulate lines directily in three dimensional space? What if you could easily edit the lines you just drew and then start putting surfaces between these lines? And what if this whole process could literally be done at the tip of your finger? On an iPad no less!

Sketching, 3D Modeling, rapid ideation, and presentation is about to change, all because of one extremely powerful, well designed and intuitive app.

Welcome to UMake:

When I first saw the video of UMake in action over on CarBodyDesign I could barely beleive my eyes. The core idea of the app is relatively simple, and very powerful, but until now, nobody had made the idea a reality. In addition to this, creating UMake for the iPad all of a sudden made the iPad the designers best friend. Spontaneous design with data that can be used in a multitude of ways can now happen literally anywhere in ways never before possible.

Designers sketch a lot. It is our primary tool for ideating, and one of the most effective ways to communicate. While the pen and paper have stood the test of time, and are still amazing, over the years technology has tried to help designers with sketching. Tools like Wacom pen tablets and displays, and even iPads do a good job, and together with applications like Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk SketchBook Pro, Mischief, Paper, and ZBrush designers can translate the pen and paper experience into the digital realm. Except there is one small problem: For the most part, digital sketching is still only two dimensional.

The epitome of the sketching experience would be to be able to sketch in three dimensional space. Until now, that has proven difficult. For one, sketching software, 2D design software and 3D modeling software are often separate, forcing designers to move between programs. This leads to the typical process of translating a sketch or idea into a 3D application, which is generally long and tedious. It involves either morphing polygons or tracing curves by creating control ponts and then creating surfaces between these curves. It is about as far away as you can get from the organic nature of a sketch.

UMake’s comparison video of the traditional CAD process versus UMake. Notice how fast UMake is.

I’ve been Beta Testing UMake ever since the day I read about it and can easily say that it is a dream come true. As a multi-media industrial designer I have used or tried out a plethora of 3D and sketching applications, and have never used an application that is as intuitive, well thought out, and useful as UMake. To have the ability to sketch out an idea, maniuplate the curves in 3D space, and moments later begin creating surfaces is pure magic.

What makes UMake so great is that it fuses sketching — a skill that almost everyone has basic understanding of, with 3D modeling — a skill that the majority of us don’t have — in an extremely elegant and easy to understand manner. The user interface is clean and elegant, intuitive and out of the way. It lets the user focus on the design, is simple to understand, present when you need it, and out of the way when you don’t. The creators of UMake had a huge task of transposing the sketching experience into a 3D space, and then doing this on an iPad… and they nailed it!

“Sketch Model”

The IGES Data in Rhino from the UMake Sketch Model.

UMake will change the world because it changes how we sketch in digital space. Instead of just sketching, designers can now “sketch model” and in a matter of just a few minutes show an idea in all dimensions. Designers are no longer constrained by a 2D plane when sketching. UMake will allow designers to rapidly iterate an idea, and understand the design extremely quickly in all dimensions. It will save time while allowing designers the ability to focus on the product they are designing. Until now designers would have to draw several different views of their design, or spend a fair amount of time doing a rough 3D model, but UMake allows designers to “sketch model” once, and then present the design from any angle.

This Sketch Model took about 20 minutes to put together, and the surfaces look great in Rhino.

In addition to increased freedom in the ideation phase, UMake will free designers of their workstations and desks. Most 3D modeling programs require a computer of some sort, and while mobile computing has advanced a lot, the fact that UMake runs on an iPad means that designers can leave their desk and “sketch model” anywhere, the same way they would with their sketchbook. One huge advantage is that the the data created in UMake can then be exported into an IGES, OBJ or PNG file for further refinment on the computing system. Designers can now actively design during a meeting on location, and then use the data from UMake to further refine the design on their computer.

The Experience:

Using UMake is as intuitive as making a sketch. But it’s only the beginning.(Photo Credit: Nils Hofmann)

When you start UMake for the first time, you are prompted to create an account with UMake. This allows your designs to be synced between devices, which is really handy. Users are then prompted to go through a set of great tutorials on how to use UMake, and what the basic concepts are of the App. These are required before one starts using UMake, and while it might seem like a barrier, it is well worth it and only takes a few minutes to complete. These tutorials are always just a tap away in case you need a refresher, which is more than likely. While UMake is easy and intuitive to use, it has many advanced features and is very capable. The tutorials highlight many of the capabilities of the app that may not seem apparent on first glance. Once the tutorials are complete, you can create a new design or work with one of the demo models. If you start from scratch, you are presented with a 3D space, and you can begin sketching your first lines right away. From there, the rest of the process just flows naturally and intuitively.

So far in using the Beta, I have expereienced very few issues. The app is stable, powerful, and the developers are doing weekly updates incorporating feedback from Beta Users along with adding new planned features. Mirroring and multiple control point selection is coming to UMake in the latest update — two features that will drastically enhance the current toolset. As I have beta tested other software and websites, I will say that even in Beta, UMake is very stable and really polished. It does not feel like a beta product in any way.

Game Changing:

The Beginnings of a 1971 Jaguar E-Type sketch.

“But beyond the professional realm, it allows anyone with a great idea to design, and that in and of itself is game changing.”

As an employee of Local Motors, the company that brought the world the first community derived and co-created vehicle in the Rally Fighter, the first community derived Military relevant vehicle in the XC2V, and the worlds first community designed and developed fully functional 3D Printed car, it is easy to see the multitudes of ways UMake will make an impact in realm of design. In just the past few years, the Desktop 3D printer has replaced the desktop computer, and designers are finally able to print small models and prototypes of their designs at a fraction of what it used to cost in time and money. While the tools for 3D printing have drastically improved, so have tools for collaborative design. Because of this, the design process can move faster and designers and teams can move from sketch to part at record speed. While everything around the design process was speeding up, the sketching and 3D modeling process pretty much stayed the same and that is why UMake and the “sketch modeling” it enables has such potential to literally transform how we design and prototype. Transportation, product, fashion, and industrial designers will be able to transform their ideas into reality in hours rather than days. UMake empowers designers to ideate, showcase, develop and prototype at record speed. But beyond the professional realm, it allows anyone with a great idea to design, and that in and of itself is game changing.

Learn more:

To learn more about UMake and sign up for the beta:

Follow UMake on Facebook

Follow UMake on LinkedIN

Stay tuned to DesignDriven on Medium as I will be posting weekly updates about my experience with UMake, along with videos and samples.


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Nyko de Peyer

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Designer. Photographer. Travler. Experimenter. Life Coach. Lego Maniac.