Designing Digital Asset Library for 3D Artists
3D digitalization has been widely used in the field of film, game and mixed reality. The high-precision PBR (physically-based rendering) 3D models and textures play a crucial role in accelerating the process of CG production.
As a creative lead at EcoPlants Tech, I was responsible for leading the design of the PBR digital asset library for 3D artists across various industries. The product was first launched and promoted to the markets in US.
Year | 2021
UX, user research, project management, product strategy;
led and coordinated all aspects of design process;
Digital assets are a fundamental and essential part for the 5G era.
Photorealistic 3D assets are required to improve the production quality for many industries including film/TV, art/design, architecture/construction, gaming and AR/VR.
A large amount of high-quality virtual models and textures are used in many AAA games and films with special effects.
Consumers have higher expectations for the 3D quality of the films, TVs and games.
With the rapid development of GPUs, there has been a growing demand for high-resolution 3D models and physically-based rendering (PBR) materials.
Over $1.5 Billion Per Year
The Avengers: Endgame, 10% of the total cost($356 million) was used for 3D assets.
Disney invests over 300 million on special-effect movies annually.
Over $3 Billion Per Year
There are more than 1,000 companies making AAA games globally. UBISOFT invested more than $150 million on 3D assets for its game series Red Dead.
Over $150 Million Per Year
Over $7.5 Billion in 3-5 Years
There are more than 2 million students in mid or high level design schools. The per capita cost for the marketing of digital assets is $50-$70.
With the development of 5G, AR/VR will be widely applied to our daily life. VR shopping, virtual museums and virtual education will be more popular.
Most of the VFX and gaming companies have to hire many modelers and texture artists to build complicated 3D models and materials. It is a time-consuming and costly process. If there are sufficient high-quality 3D assets for artists, it will greatly improve productivity and help artists focus on creation. However, currently there are only 20,000 high-quality 3D assets available worldwide, which is insufficient to meet the artists' creative demands.
Why do we want to provide a 3D digital asset platform?
Not enough high-quality models exist in the current market (in China and worldwide).
No consistent quality in the models they usually find online.
No compatible formats - They use different 3D platforms. Many model formats are not compatible with their tools.
Comparison of Cost by Traditional Modeling vs. PBR Models(3D scan)
Take the virtual Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (Nanjing, China, UNESCO World Heritage) project as an example:
Traditional Modeling (i.e. handmade)
Required 3D Assets
Trees, grass, stone bricks, stone statues, etc.
# of People
Half-year to a year
Trees, grass, stone bricks, stone statues, etc.
￥2 million ($300,000)
￥80,000 - ￥100,000
($12,000 - $15,000)
There are two main competitors in the market: Megascan by Quixel and Substance by Adobe. In order to differentiate us from others and take advantage of our own asset library, we provide more Chinese and oriental-styled 3D models while providing common types of models and materials for universal use.
We classified our target users into 3 types according to their backgrounds and needs.
Students majoring in art/design
User Pain Points
In order to understand users' workflows and pain points, we held internal 1 on 1 interviews with 25 CG professionals from diverse design backgrounds, and had group sessions with around 30 students and professors in digital design, communication media and film production departments from three universities. We also interviewed 4 people with no or limited design experiences.
Their major and common pain points are:
Hard to find 3D models that they need.
Need for creative inspirations, especially for students and people with limited design experiences.
Convoluted Interaction Process from browsing to downloading
With the understanding of the major pain points and needs, I categorized our insights into 3 categories:
How to inspire users and help them uncover their creative potentials?
How to provide smart and convenient search features for users to find assets tailored to specific design intentions ?
How to meet different creative needs while providing a smooth and simply user experience?
There are three questions we focus on to design the user flow.
Search: How to help users browse assets and find what they need efficiently?
Customize: How to satisfy different users' needs?
Manage: How can the users download and manage their assets easily?
The visual system was defined to echo the company brand image and ensure the users have a cohesive experience. Some icons were designed to convey a sense of friendliness, liveliness and intelligence.
In order to inspire the users, the home page exhibits a few CG images developed by the 3D assets from the digital library. These images, created by our partner artists, are full of creative sparks and are constantly updated.
The search bar prompts some recommended 3D assets if the users don't have specific search, so the users can randomly browse the assets that interest them. It also provides the search history for the returning users.
The 3D assets are showed in masonry-grid layout. The search bar with more filter options remains on the top for users to look for specific items easily.
The users can view the property details of each asset by clicking on the preview image. Various options such as view mode, reference scale, formats and download preset are provided.
The users can manage their downloads, account information and receive notifications in the 'Personal Center' by clicking on the profile icon on the top right.
For future business growth, this web app is designed to go beyond a traditional asset library. Starting from the basic 3D-scanned asset platform, the company aims to build a worldwide creative community. Its intelligent and easy-to-use workflow has received many positive feedback from our early users and business clients. This product also provides a desktop version with more features.