Formula Gravity: An insight to the immersive automotive design process.
About: Matteo Gentile is an Italian automotive designer, and has previously worked for companies such as SEAT, Bugatti, and Lamborghini.
What made you become an automotive designer?
I have been always interested and passionate by cars from a young age, I also loved drawing. I discovered early that automotive design was a natural fit for these childhood interests. I studied automotive design in Barcelona, and have been working for companies such as SEAT, Bugatti, and Lamborghini ever since.
What are you announcing today?
Today I’m announcing the fantastic Formula Gravity in collaboration with Gravity Sketch. I first met Oluwaseyi Sosanya (CEO of Gravity Sketch) about a year ago in Italy during a workshop session of Gravity Sketch. My first thoughts were — “Very cool! That’s the future”. I was very excited to start working with the tool and explore ways it would fit into my design workflow. I thought of a challenging project to fully prove the use of the tool in current automotive workflow and the Formula Gravity came about.
I came up with this concept based on the design opportunities we see with electric vehicles. When it comes to car racing Formula E is now a new reality, and with this comes a wave of new technology. New technologies create design and engineering challenges what actually give a lot of new opportunities for design, this is very exciting for me as a designer. To draw a race car is always a good exercise for designers because you can get very creative with curves and form at the conceptual stage. I uses this brief to push the use of Gravity Sketch in a serious automotive design workflow.
What was your initial draw to Gravity Sketch?
One thing I have always wanted as a designer is a good first impression and feeling for the 3D design at the sketch phase. I was able to get this with 3D sketching in VR but more so I was able to achieve an understanding of the proportions and volume from any angle, at 1:1 scale. Seeing things on a computer screen or paper isn’t comparable to viewing in 3D through an immersive headset.
For the first proportion sketch, Gravity Sketch is better than pen and paper. You can use your hands like Michelangelo. I think that the future is 3D sketching in VR/AR unified with other 3D modelling software. You can ideate fast in Gravity Sketch and take your wireframe sketch to Alias seamlessly for further work. This alone is already a really powerful workflow evolution.
What were your steps in the design process using Gravity Sketch?
- I first sketched a few loose thumbnail sketches, then built out the conceptual spline sketch in 3D.
- I then exported the sketch as an IGES file and imported it into Alias. I used the curves I sketched by hand in 3D to construct surfaces in Alias, then continued to work through the formal surfacing and finalisation.
- Then I rendered and visualised the model in Keyshot.
Using Gravity Sketch is a catalyst as instead of working in 2D you go direct to 3D. Thanks to this process the execution of the 3D model in Alias was very easy; I was able to jump many early steps. There are many software packages for 3D conceptualisation and even Alias has different packages for speed modelling. However, for me Gravity Sketch is one of the key packages for the designer. Designers first should start with 3D VR sketching to understand scale and proportion. I believe leveraging these tools together will lead to lots of fantastic designs and workflows.
How was the process of sketching in 3D with Gravity Sketch?
The sketching experience itself felt very natural. I was able to focus on the design the whole time instead of the software interfaces. I started solving many problems though the 3D sketch which I would have never been able to identify through the classic 2D ideation tools. This is because when you sketch on paper, you are converting your 3D imagination into a 2D projection. The problem with this is that in your mind the design is always in 3D and you see the full 3D view. With 2D you need to focus on one view at a time which it quite challenging because 3D objects have infinite views.
I feel like this tool has given me a direct bridge to this — 3D thoughts to 3D reality. There is a learning curve to get the human brain used to working this way or unlearning what we have already learned to do with 2D tools. The user needs training to convert their mind to this new way of sketching. However, it’s like riding a bicycle — once you learn the magic happens and you will never forget; it is actually much more natural to work this way because it is the way your brain works. Other than that, the software looks great. The user interface is easy to learn. The user experience makes it feel like everything, all my ideas, can flow free. I think in 1–2 years time everyone will move this way with their design pipeline.
How has 3D sketching influenced your design workflow?
Today, the 3D modeller needs to make an interpretation of the 2D sketch made by designers, which brings a loss of data, information, and emotion. The 3D modeller usually has a different interpretation of lines and surfaces because the 2D sketches leave out details of the 3D object we are thinking of. Normally, if you do a 2D sketch and give it to 3D modeller, you lose 50% of your idea and this is very frustrating.
Imagine the design studio in the future where the designer ideates and designs with Gravity Sketch, and gives a 3D file to the 3D modeller who only needs to adjust it and refine the model, this way preserving the designer’s true intent. No need for the modeller to ask the designer “what have you done with the corners?”. No need for the designer to ask the modeller “move this line up, this is too bulky”, etc. With this tool, the designer can give the modeller the 3D blueprint of how to build the car to the correct design specifications; this will save a lot of time.
Currently, not all designers model in 3D — I’m a bit of an exception. But I think it’s something designers should learn, and designers should be more self sufficient and independent. The standard 3D modelling tools today are challenging to use because they are not organised the same way as a designer thinks, and this makes it challenging to learn. Also, many designers do not have the opportunity to spend months learning the software. Gravity Sketch makes this transition to 3D possible for all designers.
How do you think designers will use VR in the future?
I think in the future we will see designers using VR as an integrated process at the early stage of the design process. The first step is the initial creation and ideation phase which today, this is done by pen and paper sketches put into Photoshop. Tomorrow, a lot of this will be done directly in 3D through VR sketching.
Moving on from VR! What is the most exciting thing happening in the auto world right now?
Electric and Autonomous Vehicles are penetrating the industry very fast and with this comes the new technologies not only for the car but for design and engineering. This rise of the EV drive train has lead to new car architectures and as a consequence, new car designs. This is a really exciting period of transition from the traditional car that everybody knows to something else. It’s our responsibility as designers to challenge what this means for the industry and give something that reflects this electric revolution.
In the future, luxury brands will continue their ventures in the exotic car segment, and all the rest will produces autonomous and shared vehicles (Uber, Apple, Google etc + the brands everybody already knows about).