Jolyon Wardle is the founder of Blade Render, a UK based design firm specializing in visualization for companies around the world in the watch industry. Jolyon switched to using KeyShot exclusively for product design rendering, gaining the speed and capabilities to deliver visuals on time that exceeded customer expectations. We talk with him to find out more about how he got started and how KeyShot has exceeded his expectations as well.
What sparked your interest in industrial design and becoming a product designer?
A fascination with watches initially led me into industrial design. I always imagined having my own watch brand one day and the logical step towards that dream was to train in design for production.
What was the turning point in your career?
Any design graduate will tell you what a struggle it is to get your career moving after graduation, and it’s all true! My turning point came in the form of a paid product design internship for Swiss watch giant, Longines. They were incredible to work for. The Head of Design at the time taught me everything about designing watches for mass production. We are talking large volumes, so everything has to be just so. There really was NO room for errors. Together we designed pieces for the 2013/2014 collection–I just absorbed it all. These days, everything I do in watch design is based on that fundamental knowledge and I’m very grateful for that.
What does your design studio do?
Blade Render is a 3D design studio that specializes in the watch industry. It came about after I noticed the demand for high-quality 3D visuals within the industry, so I decided to cater to that demand. Many, if not most, of the watch companies I am aware of are use software like CATIA, SOLIDWORKS and Inventor during their engineering-for-production stage and those 3D models are just sitting around waiting to be rendered into images. Using KeyShot I create dream-like, photographic-quality images that can be used for posters or large billboards due to the ultra-high resolution. I also stay true to my roots and actually design the watches before rendering them for a number of clients. KeyShot makes the process between 3D design and 3D rendering very smooth and convenient.
What is unique about your approach to a project?
Probably the fact that I hardly sketch by hand at all in my design process. I use 3D software from beginning to end because I find it’s vastly superior to conventional techniques. Sure, I love the idea of getting the Copic ink markers out and making beautiful sketches, but the versatility, accuracy, and control you have in 3D is just the sensible option for a designer in the real world.
In the end, what matters is the product you get out of it all. My clients are treated to presentation techniques not possible without 3D: At concept level, I give them 3D PDF’s so they can actually move the design around, activate cross section views, zoom into details, turn off layers to see interior parts and it really allows for them to get a real feel for the design. When it comes to the final presentation, I aim for the most powerful shot possible. That image should contain all the drama and emotion. I can achieve that with lighting, colors, dramatic perspectives, extremely fine textures, all done through KeyShot.
Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
I use KeyShot whenever I want to present or sell something, so for product design projects it would come at the end of the process and for solely 3D rendering projects, KeyShot would be used throughout.
What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
Many reasons. KeyShot is unlike any other renderer I have used before. I now use it exclusively because I simply don’t need any other rendering software to do what I do. The materials you can create in KeyShot are absolutely amazing. You’re able to create color, specular, bump and opacity maps yourself and use the advanced material types and the Material Graph for even more possibilities.
There is no level of quality you cannot achieve. KeyShot also works beautifully with virtually every 3D model format there is, including NURBS and solids. Most other renderers primarily import poly mesh models which are just a nightmare in my opinion, but working with STEP and IGES formats (which you can export from all good 3D modeling programs) is bliss in comparison. Then there’s the speed. KeyShot is lightning fast in comparison to other big name renderers I have used before. I find KeyShot’s CPU-based rendering, that can use all cores and threads, faster than any unbiased GPU-based renderers. I can burn out a 7000 x 5000 pixel image with gigantic textures, depth of field and features such as Global Illumination and Caustics in a couple of hours using KeyShot. When you have a crazy deadline, that’s the key to being able to make it.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
The first thing to keep in mind is that earning a living from a creative discipline never comes without a struggle. In fact, nothing truly worth having ever comes easily! The ability to design and to create with skill and purpose is not an asset that can be bought or traded so once you have gone through the difficult bits, you have something priceless that nobody can take away from you.
For this reason, I would like to say to all those who are thinking about a career in design: Study even though it’s expensive, write to companies you love even though many will ignore you, participate in internships even though the pay is low, because, in the end, it will all be worth it when you spend your life creating things that are beautiful and that make people happy.