Creating for 360 Degrees: Designing UX and Environments for Virtual Reality
“Brands need to stop telling stories and allow their audiences to explore them for themselves,” says Abi Mandelbaum, CEO and co-founder of YouVisit. Designing for virtual reality (VR) is about finding ways to let users take the lead in digital experiences. YouVisit is a technology platform that lets brands create and publish their own virtual reality experiences. Their in-house agency, YouVisit Studios, is one of the world’s largest virtual reality production teams.
Lessons from Creating 1,000 Virtual Reality Experiences
YouVisit Studios’ teamhas created more than 1,000 VR experiences for client brands like Harvard, the U.S. Army, and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia. “Essentially, virtual reality is a means of storytelling. Any effective VR experience must do just that — using the power of immersion, the best experiences convey a specific message, story or idea to the viewer, making them understand a brand and allowing them to interact with it.”
YouVisit has learned the importance of interactive features in their designs. “One of the key aspects we put above all in our experiences is that notion of interactivity. What makes VR stand apart from other means of communication is the opportunity to explore and control how you interact with an experience and enables VR to be a personalized and tailored experience for each visitor,” says Mandelbaum.
Guiding Clients Through the VR Frontier
Virtual reality is new territory for brands, and part of YouVisit’s job is guiding them through the process. Understanding a client’s goals helps the YouVisit team take the experience to the next level. “Before we begin working with a specific company, we want to know their goals with VR. From here it is all about tapping into those moments that normally can’t be seen in a photo or video.”
One of the biggest challenges brands face is seeing how VR fits into their marketing strategy. “Right now, virtual reality is at a really delicate spot in its lifecycle, as it has not yet reached mass adoption, but it’s no longer solely for the niche group of ‘early adopters.’ Think of it as the smartphone 10 years ago — although the vast majority of people don’t own the hardware, we can all see where it’s going and how big it will become. Some brands have a hard time seeing the use in incorporating VR into their strategy right away. The way we see it, VR will soon become as important as having a Twitter or Facebook account.”
Launching a Creative Career in VR Design
Life at a fast-growing virtual reality company means that every day is different and requires a willingness to experiment. “A huge part of our day is spent experimenting and refining our process at every level of production, from the script treatment all the way through post-production. We’ve successfully shot hundreds of virtual reality experiences, but we are always looking for ways to create more immersive stories by trying out new concepts and new equipment in the field. Our post production team is constantly problem solving and coming up with creative solutions throughout the stitching and editing process to help make the viewer’s VR experience unforgettable.”
For designers ready to break into VR, the timing is right. “With Oculus and HTC getting ready to ship their consumer headsets, and new reports daily about Google and Apple’s ventures into the space, it’s clear that the industry has finally taken off,” says Mandelbaum.
“My advice for someone looking to get into VR is the same for someone who wants to work in the movies. Get onto a film set and learn from experience. Or, find an internship in a production office or a post-production house. I think the big difference between breaking into the movie business and the VR industry right now is that the VR industry is actually more accessible. Since all of the rules of VR are still being written, the playing field is more leveled. People who want to break into VR shouldn’t be intimidated by the general lack of training and resources out there. This is what makes VR so exciting.”