Whats in a business card? Everything your business represents.
When tasked to design your own card, as a designer, there is no room for templates, preconceived designs, and “out of a can” graphics. You must truly represent your craft in every aspect.
The 2014 design of the E.G.D.F. Labs business card was no exception. More than just a representation of the skill and craft that goes into each design, it was an opportunity to show off a little.
Upon first glance, the back side of the card looks like an elegant layered image constructed in your average photo editing software, using different brushes and various lighting effects. Upon closer examination, seasoned graphic designers may notice evidence that the image is not accomplished with simple photo editing. In fact, it hasn’t even been retouched. What you are actually seeing is more akin to a photograph, after 3 dimensional objects and texts were carefully placed in a scene, and lighting was applied.
From Design to the 3rd Dimension
In a matter of a few minutes, most people (even those new to 3D software) would be able to create a box, and probably even re-size it. However, getting a complex logo set up is a much different story.
In this particular case, measures were taken far in advance to provide a graceful transition from graphics editor to 3D editor.
Many times clients are provided with logos in a format that is not conducive to the process. Problems arise immediately in these cases, as the images are not suitable for the format they will ultimately become. These problems include, but are not limited to:
- Image too small
- Image has opaque background, with no transparency
- Image contains too many gradients
- Image is “Rasterized” (is made up of tiny little squares called pixels)
Any attempt to use these images in 3D software will produce one result. A big flat colorless square. That is, if the image is able to be imported at all.
Luckily for E.G.D.F. Labs, we have one solution for each of these problems, should any client ever have the need. Make it a vector graphic. This can be done through a variety of ways which will be detailed in a later post.
Once the vector graphic is ready, with the proper scalability (up to infinity” x infinity” with no quality loss), proper transparency (no borders, no background), and format, it takes the stage.
Staging a design in 3D takes not just vision, but many visions, all at once. The only thing you can be sure of to begin with is the size of the image. With the knowledge that this particular design would be a 3.5″ by 2″ standard business card size, the camera size was set to the proper width and height to produce a printable image with no border, which also included whats known in the industry as a “bleed” area. The addition of “bleed” areas, and other print specific topics of interest will be covered in a later post.
Once the size of the camera frame was successfully determined and applied, it was moved to the top center (x: 0, y: 0, z: 10) of the work area. Keeping this position makes objects easier to frame, with slightly less concern to making or moving objects too far in unwanted directions. Many hours, and many headaches are avoided using this method for print design in a 3D editor.
Once everything is moved into place, a rendering of the 3D scene at this point would produce a very grey image, with a small amount of shading. Even after positioning the lights to a better position, there is much work to be done.
Coloring and Material
After the staging, materials are meticulously calculated. Each and every object in the frame is given color, reflectiveness, transparency, and other variable adjustments to fit the overall feel of the scene.
Riding the Wave (Particle Generation and Animation)
With the stage set, and materials all worked out after countless test renders, it was time to add a little flare. Something that would display depth, motion, and an overall fluid dynamic, while still remaining tightly wrapped within the design without appearing too chaotic.
A few concepts were developed to achieve this. Many ideas passed through the 3D world that was constructed. From boxes collapsing and shattering, boxes exploding outwards, to objects simply spinning in place, everything was tested and explored.
The artist’s final decision was to produce a very subtle, fluid stream with likeness to a quick brush stroke across a canvas.
As construction of this portion began, it quickly became apparent that developing a fluid dynamic stream is no easy task in 3D software. It required both patience, and a knack for thinking outside the box in order to achieve the goal.
Enter the particle generator.
The tiny purple dots shown above may seem harmless and uninteresting, but make no mistake, these 3D “particles” as they are known pack a real punch, and are very hard to control.
A somewhat “simple” path was laid out for the particle generating object to follow, and over the course of 140 frames, 5495 random particles exploded from it, and proceeded to travel using Boids physics. The variables of these physics were painstakingly adjusted over the course of some days. After every small adjustment to the weight, air speeds, land speeds, jump speeds, collision properties, banking, pitch, height, and a large host of properties, the animation was run, each time resulting in a new final shape and form of the stream. If even a single frame was dropped during the animation preview, a gap was visible in the fluid stream being sought, destroying the concept all together. (example scrapped renders below)
After some fine tuning, and a bit of sheer luck, the wave finally rode into what looked to be a solid stream. By the time the object generating the stream had reached its final resting place, the particles were already off on their next adventure, making for a somewhat comical view that was anything but perfect.
Never judge a particle.
As nothing, even in nature, is perfect when subjectified to opinion, it was felt strongly that this ugly little collection of moving particles fit the criteria. All that mattered now, was that the original concept had been achieved, and everything needed was within the frame. A quick save, and after a couple hours, a full anti-aliased, ray-traced, full sample photo was rendered.
The project containing the 3D construction has not yet moved from its last frame. It remains like a priceless antique balancing on the tip of a pencil, never to be touched.
With rendering and export now complete, the design was moved to the final proof stage, to undergo preflight and prepress review, in which any spelling errors and other discrepancies could be found and corrected. Colors were compared to print samples, and the final format was selected. (3.5″x2″, full bleed, rounded corner, 4/4 double sided business cards with UV coated high gloss).
With every little particle safely in place, they were sent off to print, and are now in circulation.