3. Computer Aided design

I have experimented with CAD via “computer arts” modular software like Puredata, GEM & Processing to create 2d and 3d geometry - however very sporadically and infrequently.

I enjoyed the creative process a lot, however being at the backend pipeline of an outsourced animation industry wasn’t always cutting creative corners for me. However it did introduce me to the intense work processes for CGI and VFX industry- and the softwares that went along with it.

In the last couple of years I had been familiarizing myself very much with UNITY & UNREAL environments for use in exploring archives and media content within Virtual Reality - also extending their use in role playing and improvisational theatre.

Also the choice of softwares would matter for my final project: I would like to choose a software that would give me the correct level of detail, overview & ease of use for both prototyping and fine detailed work?


During Neil’s lecture, we went through a great number of softwares. It seems that Fusion 360 (for which we thankfully received a license) and Blender would be a a good place to start - even though FreeCad would give the kind of reliability and future proofing only a good old Open Source software could afford.

As a result, I started out with Blender. I had used it earlier only to download some FBX files, before exporting to STL format - for importing into Unreal. Since I am extremely used to using the MacBook TouchPad - and being mouse illiterate for several years, I faced the first big challenge in getting re-acquainted with my mouse.

In addition to Blender I also got feet wet with SolveSpace and OpenScad - while quickly overviewing some other new alternatives such as OnShape (which is also on my serious trial list for its cloud abilities).

2D softwares

I have used a no. of 2d softwares in the past - my favourite was Macromedia Flash back in early 2000s for making various Animations and so forth.

For this assignment I decided to use Adobe Illustrator - It is something I am familiar with and thought I could try to design a fictional “event badge” for the Fab Academy graduation day.

Adobe Illustrator

For the Adobe Illustrator exercise, I imagined designing a fictional badge for the Fab Academy grad ceremony in Montréal 2020 (I assume sometime in July).

In the two snapshots below, I show how the software was used. First I went through a range of templates to get an idea of the overall feel of what I want.

I wanted the Typeface to be somewhat malleable and a bit transformed to represent the somewhat flexible and modern feel of a FabLab. I chose the font “Bebas Neue Regular” to modify it.

The typeface was converted into “outlines” using the “Create Outlines” command from the Type window section.

The Outlines bottom sections were then selected with the Direct Selection tool (the shortcut is ‘A’). They were suitably modified to create my own Fab Academy typeface.

Once this main part of the information was designed - I moved onto using the formerly modified font “Bebas Neue Regular” to type information about event, such as date & place.

Next step was to import icons for a 3D printer - merged with a heart icon - using the “align tool”. The colour palette was chosen to complement the poster background.

What was a plain poster was further modified using a few dashed lines that were adjusted for lower opacity.

The plain feeling of the poster was resolved by sending those lines through a “rounded rectangle” effect with a yellow border and a pink fill to add vibrance to the design.

The Final Badge design was thus ready after the above steps.

3D softwares

Fusion 360 - a basic tutorial for absolute beginners in creating a rubber stamp tool

  1. The UI looks quite different than typical interfaces. The save function actually starts the project title and destination.
  2. similar to blender it seems to have a UI component that helps us jump between various flat and isometric views.
  3. creating a 2d plane - interesting ways to combine TAB, save etc. tacit UI instincts with newer shortcuts and prompts. Quite a fluid feel.
  4. the undo command are terrible to use - this is now easily one of the most unintuitive interface I have ever used.

Fusion 360


Blender is a free and open-source (though initially it started as a startup) 3D computer graphics software toolset - it supports modeling, riggins, compositing and motion tracking.

Blender is a tool that is heavily reliant on shortcuts.

As with almost any professional software, it is good to memorise shortcuts. Blender is extremely shortcut friendly with help of the ‘G’ key (grab), and allows one to use additional keys to move them along the three axis with “X,Y,Z keys”.

Most of the commands were accessible via hot keys. Blender also included many sections and sub sections enabling rapid switching between menus, shortcuts, GUIs, screens.

This Shortcutguide is useful if one is considering to use Blender as a serious tool.

In essence I would love to try to use this for character modelling as well as animation. For this exercise I was just exploring the UI interface and very simple manipulations.

One could also move the object along the multiple axes, using further shortcuts.

The mesh based interface is really easily accessible as well.

The creation and moving around of objects were quite easy on Blender. The combination of short keys and dedicated panels made it easy to create objects, orient them and move them around.

The UI had good affordance to be able to choose the objects and get some effects working on top.At this point I did not explore the details of modeling and rigging.

Another cool feature of blender is the ability to animate the model from the blender window.


Chose to focus on Part design, workbench, sketcher, spreadsheet.

intro to UI - helper functions in the top view panel to navigate through 3d space. -


OpenSCAD is a free, script only-based 3D modeling suite designed to help engineers create solid 3D CAD objects. It is a reliable software for the budget-conscious engineers who are looking for a cost-effective solution with advanced CAD tools. Unlike other free 3D modelers, OpenSCAD is built with engineers in mind and not the artists; it focuses on the CAD aspects and not the facets of 3D modeling. It presents two modeling techniques; constructive solid geometry (CSG) and extrusion of 2D outlines.

The solution exhibits no characteristic of an interactive modeler. It is more of a 3D compiler designed to read in script files describing the object and render 3D models from the script file. source

interface & usability

OpenScad felt very “tangible” and functional from prototype to printer ready - and with the level of simplicity that I hope for.

The only catch is that it is coding and not interface driven - however each change can be mentally tracked as they are all displayed in parallel on the left side on the code window.

Since “F5” key is used for the compilation, I had to conjure up the “virtual” keyboard to press F5 manually on it - this was a bit unintuitive operation.

I was able to merge a number of shapes, cubes, spheres easily.

A few functions I explored were translating the coordinates across the axis, also rotating and using loops for distributing a range of parameters across a field of depth & repetition.

After exporting the experiment, as an .stl file - I was wanting to open it in a new software. Blender would not accept STL files - so I installed Ultimaker CURA which is a visualization and custom software for various 3d Printers.

I was able to open the STL on CURA on the Ultimaker setting.


SolveSpace is a very compact & light software (about 3 MB!) that does not require installation and runs from launch. I really like the feel of the interface - that has a minimal and futuristic at the same time, old terminal graphics feel to it.

My intention for this first session was to experiment and compare two or if possible three softwares in terms if Usability, Complexity & Ease of Use.

interface & usability

The interface was fairly basic - however the terminologies used are “engineer-friendly” & a quick refreshment on basic parametric terms would have been good before starting out.

Very easy on the eyes - great for hours of work.

The menu is also compact and I was still getting used to the mental model of having to adapt to “DOF” or Degrees of Freedom mental model that seems to follow & change depending on the various tools.

The Pop Up window again lists a range of quite detailed parametric effects the tool could affect. And also if the selection does not fulfill the intended purpose, one gets a technical overview - rather than a more high level suggestion. Once all the parameters are internalized I am sure it this checklist will be more clear.

I enjoyed the ease of use and the feel until I had to convert my square into a “3D shape” - the lack of the mouse right-click unfortunately could not be replaced with the keyboard shortcuts.