Thought Piece

Steps Towards Greening 3D Design

As the digital world around us evolves, complex and powerful tools continue to rise to the surface. This rapid digital transformation is enabling creatives to envision new concepts and products that once were simply not feasible. 

3D design is one of the tools that created a radical impact in the creative industries. From modelling in architectural design to augmented reality and gaming to digital fashion, the demand for diverse 3D shapes and forms has positioned it as a highly-demanded skill across the creative industry. Designing in 3D is truly a fascinating practice where the projection of human imagination in such vividness has never been more accessible. You may hear 3D creatives often referring to their practice as virtual, metaphoric, or, as director and designer Hugo Richel likes to say, “ I try to question the boundaries of reality using 3D tools to create cinematographic and narrative videos”.

Many creatives and industry experts agree that as 3D shapes ideas and approaches in various design practices, it further unlocks the potential for becoming a vehicle to drive forward sustainable agendas in creative processes. This conversation is widely discussed within the fashion and textile design where 3D has disrupted the ways designers work across styling and prototyping. 3D techniques have allowed designers to use online tools to experiment and test designs virtually before proceeding to use physical material. Thus, the technology has been praised for eliminating material waste and mobility costs since the items in testing phases can be prototyped virtually instead. 

The concept of digital sustainability in 3D design can be complicated. Often, the most pragmatic way to achieve a positive impact is through adopting small, incremental steps forward. For Joseph Töreki, a self-taught 3D artist based in Germany, sustainability manifests as a message in his designs. Moreover, it is mainly a practice of educating and taking responsibility for the clients you decide to work with on creative projects. The wider and more established your platform is as a designer, the bigger the responsibility becomes, and the greater your impact when it comes to raising awareness, Töreki highlights. 

There are various positive results of using advanced digital design technologies to promote sustainability and reduce carbon footprint in creative crafts. However, this perspective doesn’t address the implications of increased emissions caused by energy-heavy design and tech tools. Since turning physical materials into digital formats doesn’t address how sustainable are these 3D objects.

There are environmental challenges that creatives in 3D ponder, such as the fact that this practice requires high energy-consuming equipment. As mentioned by Benjamin Lemoine, the physical equipment needed for working in 3D is often sophisticated, energy-hungry, and not overly reusable. As a 3D animator, Lemoine often tries to resell his old animation equipment to new users, instead of sending it to landfills. 

The high energy cost of running machines is one of the core challenges facing green initiatives in 3D design. Although 3D is advancing in its sustainable practices across fashion and textiles by cutting down waste in physical materials, the sizeable carbon footprint caused by 3D due to energy requirements is often overlooked.

There is still plenty of room for sustainability improvement in 3D design. When we spoke with Hugo Richel, he reminded us that change in the digital industry is interconnected with change in society overall. To build toward substantial positive change, we need to first practice small steps toward climate consciousness and lead by example within our communities. 

Design sustainability is a mindset that includes the organisation as one entity but also relies on creatives, designers, developers, managers, and strategists - amongst others - to drive initiatives within their workplaces. We aim to create opportunities within the creative industry to conduct business while also taking responsibility for climate action. If you are with us on our mission to advance sustainability in the world of digital design, share your views, ask questions, or pass on your own learnings, then reach out to us at hello@sustainabledigitaldesign.com.

    Written by Hala Alsadi

    2 September 2022