Lesson Planning Guide for Mobile AR Design

In this article:

If you are an educator, trainer, or presenter interested in developing everything from short presentations to multi-session lesson plans that teach the basics of 3D design and, in particular, mobile AR, this article will help you determine the content. The audience for such training is designers, design students, or anyone with a basic understanding of traditional 2D mobile app design concepts, tools, and workflows. No 3D experience or knowledge is required.

Establishing Your Goals

The recommended goals for your training include the following:

  • Impart the message that digital product and UX designers already possess most of the skills they need to prototype in 3D.
  • Familiarize designers with the concepts underpinning 3D design by linking them to 2D design concepts they already know. Attendees of your training should leave with a clear understanding of 3D-specific design considerations.
  • Get a 2D designer comfortable working in 3D as soon as possible to demystify the medium. Training and lessons should involve some hands-on or practical components. Torch AR is available for free on most iOS (Apple) devices.

Assuming Designers’ Prior Knowledge

As mentioned previously, getting started in 3D design requires a basic understanding of traditional 2D design concepts. We recommend you state the following assumptions about your course to ensure they already have the essential knowledge needed to succeed:

  • Design tools: You students should have some familiarity with the Sketch digital design app an/or with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite.
  • Prototyping tools: You students will need at least a basic familiarity with the role and function of prototyping tools like InVision, Figma, Marvel, and others.
  • Digital Design Fundamentals: In addition to the tools themselves, understanding the fundamentals of app design is essential:
    • UI Basics: Best practices for designing the user interface for applications, especially mobile apps
    • UX Basics: A basic understanding of user experience design as well as the role of prototyping and gathering user feedback
  • Composition: Your students also need to have a good grasp on the key elements of design composition, including:
    • Color theory: The color wheel, color values and schemes, and general use of color in design
    • Typography: Understanding of the basics of working with typefaces and fonts, font styles, weights, etc.
    • Layout: Layout grids, positioning, balance, proportion, hierarchy, and other basic concepts

Developing Basic Skills

Skills are best developed through hands-on experience. Before getting started, encourage your students to download Torch AR or other 3D prototyping tools, create accounts, and to begin experimenting.

Note: Torch AR currently runs on ARKit-capable iOS devices only.

Tip: Torch sponsors formal classes, training sessions, and meetups in many ways, including providing iPads for students. Contact Torch Support if you are interested in learning more about these programs.

Key AR Design Concepts

Your course or presentation should convey the importance of the following fundamentals of designing for AR:

  1. Augmented reality means designing in the camera:
    • Establish the importance of the camera image as a first-order part or "layer" in the design (along with the "screen-locked" and spatially placed layers):
      • Keep UI elements off the screen as much as possible to keep camera view clear.
      • The camera view becomes another integral layer in the design.

    Tip: Our blog post, Computing in the Camera, provides a more conceptual discussion, but gives presenter some grounding.

  2. A 3D Primer for Screen Designers:
    • There are three major conceptual themes to stress for designers new to 3D:
      • The Z-axis and the implications of the introduction of a third value to coordinate space for designers who are used to only working in the X and Y axis
        • Occlusion
        • Parallax
        • Translation
      • 3D assets, their characteristics, and the current lack of standards
        • 3D models, types, and sources (e.g. Google Poly, Sketchfab, TurboSquid, etc.)
        • Mesh
        • Materials (or textures)
        • Lighting
      • 2D assets have an important place

      Tip: Refer to our blog post, 3D Primer for Screen Designers, for more detail on these concepts.

  3. Google AR Design Guidelines
    • The top messages to stress in this white paper include the following:
      • Encouraging movement and exploration
      • Making allowances for differently abled users
      • Keeping user safety in mind (be sure to stress environmental awareness)

      Tip: Highlights from the Google white paper can be found in our blog post, Google’s AR Design Guidelines: What Designers Need to Know.

Hands-On Skills

For an initial training, you should encourage students to experiment in 3D––this is the fastest way to demystify the medium. The following are basic hands-on skills (all of which can be practiced using the Torch AR app).

  1. Placing 3D objects in 3D
    • Using freeform gestures to manipulate objects:
      • Modifying an object's properties (size, position, color, etc.)
    • Creating and using a Sketchfab account:
      • Using Creative Commons-licensed models
        • CC licensing has different levels
        • Request for attribution is common
        • Respect artists by giving attribution
      • Importing your own assets (3D assets from Sketchfab and/or 2D assets via your own device’s camera roll or cloud)
  2. Placing 2D objects in 3D
    • Using freeform manipulation to modify a 2D object's position, rotation, and size
    • Modify a property/behavior
      • Face Camera
  3. Using Interactions to create engaging designs
    • Add a simple behavior
      • Tap the object to make it spin
      • Tap the object to make it change colors
  4. Experimenting with parallax
    • Make a 3D object extremely big and put it 30 meters away using object properties
    • Try to walk around it

Developing Advanced Skills with Hands-On Projects

Any of these projects can be started as part of an advanced skills curriculum. Each project focuses on using Interactions to demonstrate a common augmented reality use case. (Suitable for 45 minute or longer session.)

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