Designing For HoloLens: An Art Director's Perspective

The medium doesn't matter

My first few weeks designing for HoloLens have highlighted that this is really emerging technology. It's a new and exciting frontier that's full of the unexpected. I have days where I’m producing things I’m happy with, and days I’m getting valuable takeaways from designs I’m producing that make me cringe. That might be harsh, but failure is an important part of R&D. Ultimately I believe that good design—and the processes for getting to good design solutions—should transfer over regardless of the medium you are working in. 

Fast results with creative sprints

Our group has been utilizing small teams and creative sprints for these R&D projects. We have a developer component working in Unity and Visual Studio, and a design component working out of Photoshop with additional help from our team’s 3D designer. It’s really awesome to have someone to bounce ideas off of on a daily basis. 

Currently, it’s a lot of back and forth between working prototypes from Unity and the designs I’m pre-composing in Photoshop. My initial models don’t look awesome because Photoshop’s 3D isn’t as great as using Cinema 4D or an equivalent program, but it’s helpful in letting me work fast and that’s important at this stage when we need to quickly have things to evaluate. I think it will also be a good way to sketch up ideas past paper to share with 3D designers.

Ultimately I believe that good design, and the processes for getting to good design solutions, should transfer over regardless of the medium you are working in.

As I’m working, I ask myself a lot of questions: Does this look too web or screen like? How can I make the design respond to the environment better? Does it look progressive enough? And ultimately… would someone know how to use it without a guide?  Is it intuitive enough?

From the designer perspective we haven’t been provided a lot of structure to start our work in from HoloLens. To me this means that the creators of HoloLens don’t want us to make apps that align directly with the Windows brand design guidelines. When taking stock of all the available apps for HoloLens, it’s evident that they all look fairly unique. So we are tasked with creating new visual languages for the medium. I think the HoloLens team is doing the right thing by making us do our share of the legwork. To give us tools would be to give us a sandbox prison and stifle innovation.

How do we start? By starting, of course. Iterative creation and sharing are how we will learn and evolve our work. I find that I’m most inspired by video games at the moment, especially independent games. In a future blog post, I’ll share out some of my favorite video game interfaces that are pushing the UI and reality envelope in ways that we could apply to mediums like HoloLens. Until then, I send out daily good vibes to anyone working to innovate for HoloLens. Right now, it’s about putting the work in every day.

Kat McCluskey (@mccluskeykat) is a Senior Art Director for the Razorfish Emerging Experiences team, based out of our Atlanta office.