In 2016, Adobe commissioned a group of graphic designers and creative studios to experiment with the earliest version of Project Felix — a rich, new, 3D-compositing tool. Their goal was to intensify their prerelease program by working with a short list of users for which the beta product was being built.
Thanks to its rich, leading-edge history, one New York City firm stood above the rest: Selman Design.
Formed four years ago by Johnny Selman, Selman Design works with a diverse group of clients ranging from The New York Times to the Disposable Film Festival and Google. The agency’s work has been recognized for excellence in visual communication, illustration, and typography.
Our Project Felix Q&A Session
After spending several months in Project Felix’s prerelease program (and now its public beta), Johnny and his creative team — including several members with differing backgrounds who could offer varying perspectives — sat down with us to share their thoughts.
1. Tell us about your process when creating this image with Project Felix.
Albert Chang (graphic designer with limited 3D experience): We found the most interesting things in Felix to be (1) the textures of the skin that you could put on objects and (2) the ways in which it reflects or refracts light. When Anne was looking through the 3D render library for ideas on what to create, the goldfish — with all its scales and fins — stood out.
2. Anne, from your point of view, how does Project Felix fit into the design process for graphic designers?
Anne Di Lillo (designer and animator versed in 3D software): Project Felix just puts an easy-to-use and easy-to-learn 3D compositing tool in the hands of 2D designers. In the past, to do any 3D work, you used to have to find an expert who would then use these huge, powerhouse programs — like Maya or Zbrush — to create that one goldfish. It often wasn’t worth it, so you would just do the project differently. Project Felix fits in perfectly for any graphic designer who wants to have some 3D assets in their arsenal.
3. How intuitive was Project Felix?
Albert: Obviously, there is a learning curve, but being part of the Adobe family, it was really intuitive to move from Photoshop and Illustrator to Felix. I was able to do effects that I’d imaged in Photoshop — like light simulation, which had been difficult to do before — and it was just really simple to do with Project Felix.
4. When your team creates editorial illustrations, you’re often on tight deadlines. Does Project Felix open up new opportunities for creating on deadline?
Anne: Definitely, especially in terms of having a simple object like a cardboard teacup with an unusual texture. Project Felix has a cardboard texture that you can apply to teacups and boom — cardboard teacup. Without Project Felix, I can still build this cardboard teacup; I just have to cut everything out and figure out what options I have. If I have a couple of days, I will gladly make the cardboard teacup. But, normally, we don’t have that kind of time. In Project Felix, though, I can do it in two hours.
One of Selman Design’s projects that really caught our eye was “Peace Post.” It’s a beautiful collection of stamps featuring individuals from all over the world who stand against injustice and advocate for peace. What application do you see for Project Felix in a series like Peace Post?
Christopher Schroeder (oversees many of Selman’s major design projects): With Peace Post, we’re usually trying to do things with different textures, pulling references from the artistic traditions of different countries. Sometimes, that leads us to build things by hand or to carve things. Recently, we tried to simulate a bit of marble on a carving, and it proved to be too intensive to do with Photoshop, but in the future, Project Felix would make it easy to switch a model to marble and work with other effects to make it look real.
6. What has it been like to be a part of Project Felix’s beta group?
Christopher: Testing a new product and looking for ways it could benefit us has been a really good learning experience — a unique one most of us have never been able to have before. As with any new product, there were some bumps along the way, but it was cool on our end to work through the issues and then see how quickly it all came together through the testing. It definitely has a really nice flow now.
Johnny: We use Adobe products every day at work, and it is nice to be able to be a part of this one from the ground up. Project Felix is the new shortcut for how we get an idea from paper onto the screen. The goal is always to make it seem as tangible and real as possible. Project Felix is a lovely shorthand to accomplish that goal.
Want to get your hands on Project Felix? Download the beta app and stay tuned for more stories from other designers who are discovering the graphic- design possibilities that exist in 3D.