Cloud9 cheating?

“Is a designer  ‘cheating’ if they use 3D modelling packages that are incredibly ‘easy to learn and use’ ?” 

A CAD user remarked that a designer is ‘cheating’ by using easy to learn haptic 3D modelling package (specifically Anarkik3D’s haptic Cloud9) for her design work. My supposition about what is meant here by cheating is that CAD users have invested heavily, money as well as a lot of their time, to get to the professional level their work requires and that using less complex packages such as Sketchup, Sculptris, K3D etc (which are also free) or ‘easy to use’ Cloud9 is a major cop-out.

I have countered a similar putdown from CAD users when I have demonstrated Cloud9 by reiterating that Cloud9 has been developed specifically for the needs of non CAD users who are professional designer makers and applied artists who want to access digital technologies such as 3D printing and machining. It is also an ideal tool for product designers for ‘quick and dirty’ modelling and early concept generation, as it complements the more prescriptive aspects of CAD. Adoption is not underhand in any way, just a different but more straight forward way of interacting and modelling in 3D that actually suits a lot of us.

There are reasons and times when ‘cheating’, as it were, and exploiting easier to learn and use 3D modelling software is appropriate!

  • many do not need CAD’s high level functionality and complexity: therefore avoid the effort, pain, time and money that CAD requires of its users. Those who need CAD’s functionality can justify the commitment.
  • only a small percentage of time might be spent designing: one-person bands have to do other things to make a living: make, market, sell, , etc.. With CAD complexity and incoherent interfaces it can be difficult to retain know how about functions when there has been a time gap.
  • achieving a balance between CAD proficiency and hands-on time in the workshop which has to be sufficient to gain and maintain skills, knowledge about materials, properties and the processes to successfully make artefacts. This knowledge and know-how is crucial for designing, whether on paper or on the computer.

Steep learning curves negate this balance. CAD originates in engineering and is designed and developed to specifically deal with the complexity and prescriptiveness essential for engineering industries, product manufacturing, architecture and construction. So it possess an inbuilt way of doing and thinking that is different to the way many designer makers, etc. think and do, making the curve steeper.

  • a great many of us must be ‘wired’ differently to CAD users:  to adapt and switch to conventional CAD practices is difficult, even more time consuming and enough of a soul-destroying thankless task to deter us from either starting on this path or reaching any reasonably competent level.
  • CAD blocks creativity. CAD is not designed and developed as a creative tool, per se. Of necessity it is a prescriptive system and its complexity is reflected in and dominates its interface. Cognitive flow is central for all creative work BUT the merest digression such as frustration finding where in the menus a specific function can be accessed severely disrupts flow. That brilliant idea immediately dissipates possibly forever.

For a huge group of us CAD is basically a lousy tool for designing in both 2D and 3D. This is bad news when we need digital data to be able to access digitally controlled manufacturing systems such as laser and water-jet cutting, 3D printing and machining:  CAD is a major barrier. We do want systems more adapted to how we work, design and practice with the applied arts and making, that ARE easy and non-complex to learn and use, that are highly usable. This is not about ‘cheating’ any system, it is about including.

I have a request regarding the many designer makers and other very creative people who are not CAD literate, who want to access both the amazing digital functionality and the valuable risk free environment that computers do provide, and the cutting, printing and machining that can offer a route to a more sustainable business.

It is to the gatekeepers of these technologies who are mostly extremely CAD literate and totally at ease with it, to please recognise that many of us are not at all at ease with it, to not be patronising, to encourage and support. Please be more inclusive. The following thoughts might help:

  • Include ‘easy to learn and use’ 3D modelling software in your courses in schools, colleges, where-ever. Who knows, these made make CAD easier to comprehend and get into
  • female only classes: some of us cope well with CAD and with machinery and mechanical devices, a huge number don’t and guys can be very intimidating. We need to go with our own methods and at our own pace, and some guys might also appreciate this approach
  • introductory events, demonstrations, videos, better manuals and tutorial materials, all in  straightforward  language without jargon, specifically targeted at non CAD users

It would be great, both interesting and useful, to get a frank and full dialogue going. Does what I say make sense? I hope it does as this is distilled from my knowledge and experience gained from my practice, research, teaching, software development, CAD use for designing for laser cutting and 3D printing.

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2 thoughts on “Cloud9 cheating?

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