Designing the Metaverse: Here's why design students need to upskill to meet this new challenge
Designing the metaverse however will require a unique mix of skills, many of which are only just beginning to emergd
The ‘Metaverse’ also called visual computing by Apple, is a complex, mixed reality space where users can interact with other users in computer-generated environments.
As Metaverse-related technologies push the boundaries of what's possible over the next five years, one needs to learn new skills and methodologies to adapt to this new construct. Designing the metaverse however will require a unique mix of skills, many of which are only just beginning to emerge.
Here are a few ways design students can upskill themselves to meet these new challenges:
Understanding of 3D Design and Animation
Traditional design work is typically 2D. Designing for the metaverse, however, requires a strong understanding of 3D design principles and knowledge of software such as Blender, Maya, or 3D Studio Max, and a strong understanding of animation techniques for characters, props, and environments.
Experience with Game Engines
Much of the development of the metaverse is being done in game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine. These tools are used to create the immersive, interactive 3D environments that make up the metaverse. Knowing how to use these tools, even at a basic level, can be a big advantage. So learning how to use and design applications with Game Engines will be a critical skill.
Proficiency in AR/VR Design
Since the metaverse is a mix of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), designers will need to learn how to create user interfaces and experiences for visual computing. This could involve understanding the unique challenges of designing for headsets, including issues around user experience, motion sickness and eye strain.
Understanding Spatial Design
Designing in 3D space is different from designing for a flat screen. Designers will need to understand how to guide users through a 3D space, how to make use of different levels and depths, and how to create an engaging environment that encourages exploration. Devices like Apple Vision Pro will require understanding spatial design with new OS, platforms, frameworks and tools.
Familiarity with AI and Machine Learning
AI is going to play a very significant role in the metaverse, from creating non-player characters (NPCs) that can interact with users, to using machine learning algorithms to personalize user experiences. Designers should have a basic understanding of these technologies and how they can be utilized in a metaverse context.
Awareness of Ethical Design Principles
As with any technology, there are numerous ethical considerations when designing for the metaverse. These could include issues around data privacy, accessibility, and the potential for addiction. A good designer will be aware of these issues and incorporate solutions into their designs.
Design students can position themselves at the forefront of this exciting new field of spatial computing and the Metaverse by upskilling themselves in the above areas using numerous short courses that will let them gain these specific skills as a complement to their existing design education.
As technology is developing rapidly and best practices are likely to change and evolve, the design student needs to be aware that continuous learning and adaptability will be key to success in the coming decade.
(Author C.B. Arun Kumar is Dean (Communication Design-Film-Gaming), Pearl Academy. Views expressed here are personal.)