What’s working in Concept Modelling like

Vruttant Phatak, Luca Polcari, and Prateek Kumar | Hands & Minds

Adding another dimension (literally) to 2D sketches, KISKA’s Concept Modelling team gives concepts the realism and feasibility needed to go to market.

VRUTTANT: As a Digital Modeller, my job is adding a third dimension – and a whole lotta masala – to sketches. The team and I find solutions for designers’ ideas and make them feasible for 3D printing and clay milling. All while retaining the initial emotion of the concept.

Once this “serious” work is done, we apply textures to products and create environments for them. Then we explore it all in VR. Or gawk at final concepts on the Powerwall. Or admire a fully painted model while enjoying a well-deserved cup of coffee.

I feel like a “mad scientist” sometimes. Especially when hyper-performance vehicles like the KTM X-BOW and the SUPERDUKE come to life. It’s because I’m making it happen. All with a wacky smile on my face.

LUCA: I love bringing vehicles to life, and though I’m a Digital Modeller for Transportation Design, I’ve always had a deep interest in design. It gives me the sensibility needed to bring out the underlying intention of a sketch in 3D. 

One of the interesting things I’m doing right now is exploring a new area of Blender that lets me diverge from technical surfaces. I’m building more organic subjects and characters. Eventually I see myself working with sculpting.

PRATEEK: If Vru can call himself a “mad scientist”, then I’m a wizard. I give realism and feasibility to sketches, all while retaining their original charm. I think my magic comes from being fond of illustration as a kid. The fast pace of sketching multiple iterations wasn’t my cup of coffee, refining it in 3D on the other hand feels very much like illustration.

Describe your day-to-day work.

PRATEEK: There’s good reason why I said “cup of coffee” instead of cup of tea in my previous answer. All days start with coffee. It’s the fuel for my “wizard magic”. The charge that keeps me going throughout the day. My reason for getting up in the morning…you get it.

Seriously though, my tasks range from small interactions with designers for mock-ups or printing, to reversing models in 3D. I usually work on a project for a set amount of time. From a single day for a small part to a couple weeks for a full model.

LUCA: Funnelling input from design, engineering and hard modelling into 3D digital models means each of us is usually busy on a single project. Though Concept Modelling is a more accelerated way do 3D modelling, it still takes time. Like any other phase of design development.

By working as we do, we strengthen the relationships between a project’s main players. There are individual challenges, but mostly you’re in the same boat.

VRUTTANT: To do our work, we use Blender and ALIAS to do the modelling, while VR and collaborative design software like Gravity Sketch let designers point out areas for enhancement or updates.

On a typical day you would find us wearing VR headsets…

PRATEEK: …I’m often wandering around with one on to review a vehicle, or mess around in Gravity Sketch. And no, I haven’t walked into anything yet.

VRUTTANT: It’s true. He hasn’t.

You’ll also find us going through a million doodles on our desks and looking up benchmark products and clay models. Often, we’re the pivot point between designers, engineers and clay modellers in meetings. We’re also modelling all variations needed to develop a final concept.

How would you describe your team dynamic, and how you work with KISKA clients?

VRUTTANT: It’s an absolute joy to see my teammates’ minds work and a privilege to see such inspiring proactivity in action. From future mobility to footwear, interpreting an idea to bring it to 3D requires a completely open-minded approach. We’re always hungry to learn and explore ways to streamline processes and solutions.  

PRATEEK: Each of us have our own interests and hobbies. How we approach our work is very different, but it’s magic how the work seamlessly transfers. Especially when we collaborate.

LUCA: Most of the time the number of projects exceed the number of people, so we don’t always work together on the same thing. It’s here that the speed of Blender proves itself.

PRATEEK: When one of us learns something new, there’s always a tap on the shoulder and a “Come seeeeee!”

Blender also speeds up our process, which is helpful for showing clients a concept. To get an idea across, you can make a change quickly or even on-the-spot. It’s a great way to get feedback and reach our goals quickly.

VRUTTANT: I think how we work for clients helps us as a team. There’s an unwritten rule that we support and complement each other to find solutions under strict deadlines, so every interaction with the client helps us streamline and strengthen.

What’s the best thing about your job? And, the most challenging?

LUCA: I’m learning to welcome the fact that every detail of a concept won’t be totally solved when it reaches me. In fact, if it were all solved, my job would be pretty boring. Instead, I use my expertise to actively progress concepts to their next phase. It’s this challenge that makes my job so stimulating, and reaching the end goal becomes the best part. When that happens, you realise all the effort has paid off.

VRUTTANT: Like Luca said, the best thing is the most challenging. In fact, it’s right there in my job description: “Be the first checkpoint pivot between Designers, Engineers, and Clay Modellers”. I take input from all three departments and find the best possible solution to retain the maximum possible design intent. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle while walking a tightrope.  

PRATEEK: Vru’s right. You’re taking in a million things from a million places and making sure that each achieves the maximum value possible. I like to think of it as trying to roll a pair of dice and hoping it lands on the both the King of Spades and the Queen of Hearts. Sounds impossible, right? It does to us too sometimes. It’s also what makes the challenge worth it.

VRUTTANT: Fortunately, we all have the passion to create, which drives us to try different approaches, new variations and surprise ourselves.

PRATEEK: It’s also an absolute treat to be able to see things that haven’t hit the market. Never mind the countless iterations leading up to it. 

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