Augmented reality (AR) is already used in some advertising, movie theaters and mobile video games. It seems to be one of the top buzzwords of 2019, so it isn’t surprising that all industries are seeing more of an uptick in requests for AR integration.
By 2022, researchers predict around 121 million AR headset sales annually. In addition, smartphone virtual reality (VR) will expand the number of people using VR and AR around the globe. As the screen capabilities of mobile devices improve and AR headsets become more commonplace, the technology will have a more significant impact on graphic design.
Improve the overall experience of your users through AR. Technology impacts nearly every element of design — here is how AR impacts the graphic design industry.
1. Apps Become Interactive
No longer is shopping a static experience. Buyers can get a three-dimensional look at how a piece of furniture works in their home or how a dress fits on their frame. It’s similar to visiting a physical store, but with interactive features.
Augmented reality apps pull users into the shopping experience and make at-home shopping more like visiting a physical store. The popularity of “Pokemon Go” took people by surprise as users found the character while dining, walking down the street and even visiting museums.
Other brands jumped into the trend by offering the ability to drop a piece of furniture into your living room through an app or place a piece of jewelry on your ring finger. Expect more brands to jump into this AR experience and show the use of their products in your daily life.
2. Create Fun Social Media Campaigns
Snapchat is the leader in using augmented reality to create fun campaigns. The concept is relatively simple. Take a photo of you and your friends and add rabbit ears, a hat or a dog nose to your features. The picture is still of you and your friends, but is augmented with something new and cartoon-like.
Currently, Snapchat has about 186 million active monthly users, so the addition of AR seems to work for it. Brands have even jumped into the fray by adding their own unique, limited-time Snapchat filters, such as the one Taco Bell offered a few years ago for Cinco de Mayo.
As a designer, you don’t have to limit your social media campaigns to Snapchat. Look for ways to augment user reality on all the social media platforms you use. Can you offer a frame on Facebook, for example?
3. Engage Users
An immersive experience engages users from the minute they walk into a store or land on a webpage. In today’s fast-paced marketing landscape, consumers expect entertainment. They don’t just want to come into a store and make a purchase, because they’re looking for an adventure.
Utilize AR in real life and capture people from the first moment they interact with your brand. In a store, you might use an app that sends a push notification and invites shoppers to browse your store through the eyes of a smartphone that highlights new items. At a trade show, use an AR code to engage users as they look at a banner or browse marketing material that suddenly comes to life.
4. Go Mobile
By 2020, the number of smartphone users worldwide will hit 2.87 billion, with about 61 percent of people using their phones to go online. Mobile apps that augment reality — such as Hotjar, Snapchat and LeoAppAR — are quite popular. When your day is dull and boring, there is nothing quite as much fun as adding a dancing gorilla to the computer keyboard on your desk.
Designers have an opportunity for using AR apps to reach customers on a new level. Of course, the app needs to tie into what the brand does in some way, but it should also be fun and entertaining, so people want to use it daily.
5. Fill the Space
Although AR is growing in mobile usage, don’t overlook its use via headsets as well. UX designers can use AR to fill the space not only on the screen but also surrounding the user. The future looks like a plain room that suddenly transforms into dining in the middle of a rainforest with the help of VR headsets.
Already, Disney World features rides in a big room with a screen that suddenly comes to life and throws you into the world of Pandora, as though you’re riding a creature, or immerses you into a hotel elevator about to crash to the ground. It’s hard to say where the technology will take design in the future, but one thing is sure: It will impact nearly every aspect of our lives.
6. Instructions Become Richer
No matter what type of business you’re in, you likely provide instructions on how to assemble, use or access your product. AR brings to life the possibility of a richer experience.
Imagine a world where the consumer opens a box and instructions appear that not only tell but show how to assemble their new side table. Instead of trying to guess what the image means, the user can now walk around the display and see it from 360 degrees, so it’s clear which part goes where and the order of assembly.
7. Designing in a Different World
In the past, designers created elements on a flat screen and inside a set parameter. With AR, the design space becomes more fluid and three-dimensional. When designers first experiment with AR design, there’s a learning curve. They don’t typically have a lot of space to work in, so it takes time to learn the expanded capabilities of AR design.
The future might include tracking eye movements rather than users needing to hover over a button with a cursor and click on a mouse. UX designers have an opportunity to create a highly usable and adaptive environment for those visiting a website or the layout of a new store.
Imagine you’re a designer creating a hip layout for a new shop. Instead of merely sketching a few ideas on paper, you can head to the area where the store is opening and use VR to add displays and move them around. This allows you to use the location in the best and most exciting ways.
8. Becoming More Adept With Devices
Tomorrow’s designers will need a richer understanding of different device types and how each responds to AR. A smartphone isn’t quite as immersive as virtual reality headwear.
To fully understand how each device responds to design changes, you must use each one frequently on a personal level. Get to know what each item can and can’t do. You might be able to add a code to a display for a new product that pops up a video on someone’s phone, but with headwear, you can completely immerse the user in the image and create an entirely new world.
9. Decisions Between Real-World Rules and VR Rules
Designers must make decisions on the way the AR world works. Is it still within the same constraints of the real world or are there special rules?
For example, if placing a chair, can the user put it on top of another element already in that spot or should it be removed first? Before you begin the design process, decide what real-world rules apply to your virtual one. Keep in mind that you don’t want to startle your users in most cases. If they fear a chair will topple over on them, even if it’s digital, then that may not be the best course of action. Set a rule that the chairs can’t stack on top of other items.
10. More 360-Degree Videos
You’ve probably already noticed the influx of 360-degree videos. There is a real advantage to shopping this way. For example, if you’re on the hunt for an engagement ring, a video highlights the ring from every angle, even placing it on a mock hand and showing how the stones glitter as the light hits them.
You’ll either need to invest in a 360-degree camera or use a series of cameras, such as GoPro in a 3D rig. You could also hire a photographer who already owns the equipment and let them create your video. Consider how many videos you might make in the future and if the investment in equipment is worth the cost.
Keep in mind that YouTube, one of the most significant social media sites out there, is only compatible with a few cameras, such as Ricoh Theta, Kodak SP360, Giroptic 360cam and IC Real Teach Allie.
11. Print and AR Merge
In the near future, print and AR will merge until elements of your ad leap off the page when the user holds a smartphone over it with the AR app activated. No longer does someone have to use their imagination to picture the latest vehicle driving out of an ad. Instead, the app allows the car to lift off the page and drive onto the user’s phone.
An excellent example of traditional mediums and AR merging is the Noovie app. While waiting for a movie to start, the user activates the app on their phone and points it at the static image on the theater screen. It comes to life so the user can play a game, engaging with the screen in real time and getting a score they can post to social media. They can also interact with other game players.
12. Demand for Sharper Images
In the early days of design, images were highly pixelated. However, AR requires more realistic, higher-resolution images, changing the way designers create content. Images must be sharp and load quickly, meaning the format matters and should quickly adapt to different screen sizes.
Technology Impacts Design
Emerging technology has always impacted the design industry. The rising popularity of AR and VR may be the next revolution in the way we view the internet, print ads and videos. Designers who embrace AR are more desirable to clients looking for the next trend in reaching customers. However, you must still keep solid design principles in mind, as doing so allows you to create something unique that makes sense in the natural world.
Lexie Lu is a UX content strategist and graphic designer.
She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web design,
social media and branding. In her spare time, she loves walking her dog,
watching HGTV and baking.
Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast,
or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.