Stevens publishes book on designing for extended reality

Renée Stevens and the book cover
Assistant professor of visual communications Renée Stevens and the cover of “Designing Immersive 3D Experiences.”

Renée Stevens, associate chair and assistant professor of visual communications, is an award-winning motion and augmented-reality (AR) designer, educator and public speaker whose creative research explores how AR can help overcome learning disabilities. Her new textbook, “Designing Immersive 3D Experiences,” was published by Peachpit Press in July. We sat down with Stevens to ask a few questions about her new book.

What inspired you to write this book?

This book was created out of a need in the design industry. I was looking for a book I could recommend to designers getting into the extended reality (XR), but there wasn’t one. There are books for developers and for people who wanted to know more about the technology, but none created from the design perspective. For mass adoption of XR to occur, designers need to be working with programmers to create immersive interactions that focus on the user experience. This book was written in that space.

How is designing for 3D and extended reality different from other kinds of design work?

The foundation and theories of design remain the same as they apply to everything you design. However, when you add a third dimension to your space, you have new problems and relationships to solve. Within augmented reality (AR) there are parts of the experience you can’t control. The background and the lighting are just two examples that will be dynamic since they are controlled by each individual user. You have to learn to design for the uncontrollable and allow the user to personalize their experience to best suit their needs. On the other end of that, one of the biggest benefits of creating an experience in XR is the multiple modalities that you can engage. Instead of just seeing information a user can touch it, move it, hear it, and in some cases even smell it.

What is your best advice for young designers interested in learning about 3D and extended reality designing?

Try it. The best way to really learn about it is to use the technology and see first hand what some of the challenges are, and what the experience is like for you as a new user. Try some applications and experiences that exist currently. Then take notes on what you liked and what you didn’t like. From there you can begin to work out ways to design experiences that continue to get better and better. The second piece of advice I have is to start to think in 3D by creating for real physical objects. Design packaging for a product and make a paper prototype with your design wrapped around it that you can hold in your hands. This way you can start to experience and evaluate designing every plane.

Designing Immersive 3D Experiences” is available now from Peachpit Press.