Autodesk University 2010: Visual sell, functional use

Posted on 2 Dec 2010 by The Manufacturer

Autodesk University is to the design engineering fraternity (at least those that use Autodesk) what flowers are to insects (at least those that like flowers).

I have completed three days at the Autodesk University event and I can honestly say, even though I don’t use these products in my day to day life, I can understand why they are so popular. They save time, they save money, they improve performance, they reduce mistakes and, they’re full of pretty colours and shapes. “Wait a second there son,” I hear you say (at least those of you that use Autodesk or any other CAD vendor for that matter), “aesthetics has nothing to do with it. These programmes provide functional detail and systematic technical data analysis blah blah de blah.” And to that I would completely agree but there is another side which is aesthetically driven and even Autodesk themselves want you to utilise its functionality.

Consider the fine establishment in which this event is being held, the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Inside, just like in all casinos, it’s full of flashing lights and pretty colours that will lure you like a butterfly to flower. I’d call it the butterfly effect if that phrase didn’t already have another definition. Casinos are one of the most successful businesses on earth and have based their whole strategy around the psychology of attraction and the suspension of reality.

So what has all this got to do with CAD and Autodesk? Well its simple, the fact is that no matter how good a design is in principle, you still need to be able to attract people to it and last time I checked, the schematic diagram of an automobile, electronic, building product or any manufactured product is pretty hard to decipher for the average person. If your client can’t see what you’re offering, you might have a hard time convincing them they should buy it. According to figures touted at the conference, almost 90% of Autodesk users say that providing a realistic visualisation of their product helps them to win contracts or gain community support.

Many manufacturers are undoubtedly already undertaking to produce 3D models of their designs for use in marketing and client communication, let alone enjoying the functional aspect it provides ensuring a design team have a common understanding of the concept. However, for those that are not already utilising this function, Autodesk has developed a new cost effective package called Design Suite. The new offering combines a range of Autodesk products such as AutoCAD with sketching and visualisation tools and in the Premium version, Autodesk 3DS Max, which can be used to create premiere 3D animations.

But of course making everything pretty and wonderful on screen isn’t really the end game. Those visualisations need to be turned in to tangible physical products and to do that, the nitty gritty of design and modelling needs to be completed. I caught up with Brian Frank, Industry Manager for Autodesk to discuss, amongst other things, the improvements the company has made to the usability of its design products. See the video below.