12in12: The Third Dimension

The Side Project Project: September Recap

7 min readOct 2, 2018

September’s side project mixed things up, diving into not only a new tutorial series but a new dimension with 3D for Designers. Naturally, things don’t always go as planned but that’s all part of the process. Let’s break it down.

The Magic of 3D

The Project: 3D for Designers

What? Learning 3D principles and the basics of Cinema4D with Devon Ko’s amazing 3D for Designers course.

The Checklist:

  • 3D. Lots and lots of 3D. Including: Primitives (basic shapes), Splines (3D vectors), Typography and Letter, animation, and the basics of rendering, scene manipulation, and more.
  • Dabbled in After Effects and GIF making, two longtime items on the ‘to-learn’ list.
  • Practiced sharing process and became much more consistent on twitter again (Instagram… well I still need to work on my instagram)

The Undone:

  • Sadly I didn’t make it to the final two units: Light + Colour & Texture. My timeline was scarily accurate in that I finished every lesson in the intended weeks but alas started a week late so had too little month left at the end.

I got started late on this one, spending the first week cleaning up last month’s project and then setting up for the new one. Laying out my usual timeline, the breakdown of lessons by week actually played out almost exactly as planned but that meant no time left for the lessons scheduled for week 4. Will I be completing them? No question! 3D is too much fun and the course is excellent. But after realising I was going to fall short I tried to rush a few lessons which made me question my motivation for this project in the first place. Not only was rushing through making the lessons into a chore, it also meant inferior learning because I wouldn’t take the time to practice the new skills and finish all the projects. So I decided to stick to the same pace and not speed through. In the end, falling short was the best thing to happen because it reminded me why I’m doing this. The Side Project Project isn’t just about pushing myself to try new things and learn new skills, it’s about having fun.

A Sampling of the Month’s Experiments

Highlights of the Month

Side Project:

  • Designing in 3D!! Geometric, low-poly 3D has always fascinated me and seeing it made so accessible is awesome.
  • Process shots. I don’t usually do these but render times coupled with my laziness made me start taking GIFs of me actually working in the software. Will have to keep this up in future.
  • Getting to do something completely different. It was nice to be able to come home from work and engage in a project that’s completely different. Buried in google docs all day analysing a click test? Come home and animate balls escaping a maze, then tackle that analysis fresh tomorrow.


  • Got the office involved in more hallway research! This time a card sort done via ballot.
  • Brought together lessons from several different research sessions to refactor navigation.
  • Dove into a crash course of all things Puppet and infrastructure management with the Puppet Fundamentals course.
  • Dusted off my animation chops for a research promotional video to recruit participants during Puppetize Live, produced from start to finish one Friday afternoon.

Lessons Learnt:

Mix it Up

Learning on the Side Project: I’ve never done 3D before. I don’t use 3D on a daily basis (or ever, really) but I just spent a month practicing the basics and have zero regrets.

Applying at Work: Mix it up, get off the computer, make a mess. You can get creative even with research, whether it’s spending an afternoon making a mess with paper and scissors for a ballot or bashing out an animated promotional video (in Keynote of all things), different is not only fun, it’s fun for participants too and improves your ‘normal’ work.

The sausage-pickle-skateboard

Share the Process

Learning at Work: We’ve all heard ‘share your work’ but so often this ends up meaning ‘share that super polished thing you just finished and nothing else’ (or at least I fall victim to that… minus the super polished bit). But at work, the UX team does this thing called SUX (screenshot UX). Everyday at 3pm, screenshot what you’re working on. It might be a google doc, a half-finished prototype, or that finished wireframe. Just share it. It’s great to get a feel what everyone is working on and has helped me gain confidence in sharing unfinished content.

Applying on the Side Project: Render times + my laziness helped motivate it but I made an effort to not only share final, shiny 3D images but also the unrefined, blobby, grey manipulation in the software behind the scenes to show it’s not actually inaccessible magic. Sometimes these were what got the best response and it was fun to act on ideas suggested by others based on WIP shots (the pickleboard!).

Seize the Initiative

Learning on the Side Project: Go out and do. Start that project, learn that thing. You might not need it now but there’s nothing wrong with another tool in your belt. Don’t wait to be told to go learn something. Better now than never.

Applying at Work: Don’t wait to be told when to start. At times you won’t know what to do and it’s easy to sit back and wait to be told what’s next, especially as an intern. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Keep track of what needs to be done. If you know something needs done, take a crack at it (even if no one told you to get started). In the case of the animated video, I wasn’t sure what to do and if the script was final or not but after finishing up my other tasks for the day I figured why not have a go. Worst that could happen is I got in some animation practice and helped show what not to do. Best case scenario, we use it and that’s another job done. Turned out to be the best case.

Keep Pushing, Even if it Means Flopping

Learning on the Side Project: Go wild. Dream Big. Aim high. Learn 3D in one month (make that three weeks) while working full time? Sure, why not! It doesn’t always work out perfectly. Time constraints come to bite you and even your most carefully laid timeline can be blown out of the water by a smoke alarm malfunction at your flat and other general disruptions that go with life. Maybe plan better for human factors but that doesn’t mean the thing you were planning for was a failure.

Applying at Work: As designers, it’s our job to think big and keep pushing in the right direction. Even if you know it’s slightly too far/off tone/etc, the only way to nudge things in the right direction is to start further out. It’s just like any negotiation. Engineers will bring you back down to Earth. Constraints are real but if you start with the status quo you might just end up sinking even lower.

It’s not what you think…

Next Time

Month 3 begins now! This time we’re going to stay on track (*gasp*) and start in the first week so I actually have the month to complete a month long side project. For October we’re diving deeper down the rabbit hole of questionable practicality indulging in some fantastical interface design. The daily kind. But not that daily kind. Something a bit more… speculative.