By Jonathan Cohen, CEO and Founder, MetaNept
Once the stuff of sci-fi, the oncoming metaverse is now making heaps of real-world headlines. There’s no shortage of discussion over what the metaverse will look like, but who is actually designing this gigantic virtual world in the present? Any major virtual design undertaking is not without its challenges, especially when it requires true immersion like this one does. If we’re going to design truly immersive metaverses, we’ll need help from forward-thinking artists and designers who understand exactly what it takes to make something hyper-realistic but never uncanny.
Old tools, new solutions
The metaverse, simply put, needs curb appeal. It needs artists, designers and architects from outside the tech world to join forces with tech designers. Collaboration is key here, since the metaverse needs to resemble the real world but also have its own unique visual style and appeal.
Until now, metaverse aesthetics have been dominated by unpleasant graphics and cartoonish NFTs, most of which are visually uninteresting when they’re not downright ugly. What metaverse development has at its fingertips is the opportunity to experiment and create new digital art forms within a creator-led space.
What metaverse design needs is creatives who can make metaverses more appealing by focusing on how people navigate digital space intuitively. In other words, it needs creatives who understand how people operate and move in physical space first, and transfer those principles to the metaverse. Good design takes time and can easily slide down the priority list, especially since tech companies are famously leery of bringing in outside perspectives. But when it comes to the metaverse, that is the key to ensuring hyperrealistic immersion.
The game designer playbook
Video game designers were among the first to build engrossing online worlds that truly immersed the user, and tech companies should take several pages out of their playbooks when designing metaverse experiences. Game designers’ understanding of virtual experiences, particularly in the context of AR/VR, could prove invaluable here. Collaborating with the gaming industry and even 3D designers would eliminate tech design myopia. And let’s not forget about the creator economy, where creators of all kinds are testing the boundaries of what’s possible with digital art and interactive applications.
Immersion will be the make-or-break standard of user experience in the metaverse, and designing specifically for it is paramount. It’s time companies trusted creatives who understand real-world immersion to create it. This is a crucial way companies can avoid creating a metaverse that operates as a boring sales platform, and instead create one that fosters an economy of experience where events and activities are as appealing as the digital ownership it enables.
Designing for maximum metaverse impact
Creating this digital universe will be no easy task, as design ultimately determines how people interact with their environment. But it will offer companies the opportunity to create mutually beneficial relationships with a new generation of boundary-breaking artists, designers, gamers, architects and engineers.
It’s these kinds of creatives with a foot in the real world that best understand immersion. True immersion comes from sophisticated spaces and avatars with individualized characteristics, intuitive motion, natural visual depth, and accurate perspective. An ugly cartoon bobble head avatar on a boring grid won’t cut it, and certainly won’t encourage anyone to join.
How people perceive things they’re looking at, reading, or seeing will matter in the virtual world just as much as it does in the physical world. Convincing virtual environments require the same essential elements of design and visual strategies used every day in physical environments. We should aim for naturalistic metaverses where cities, objects and people are dimensionally accurate. Surfaces should reflect light and objects should cast shadows. Footsteps should sound like footsteps. And that’s just the baseline.
Broadening the digital horizon
Beyond aesthetic appeal, the fact that metaverses are extensions of human society should not be taken lightly. People must be able to communicate, connect, work, learn, and be entertained. Even more importantly, safety must be a priority made possible, in part, through ethical design. Truly artistic metaverses have the potential to cater to alternative narratives, cultures and art that have been omitted from the mainstream.
Just like in the physical world, creation in metaverses has been in the hands of a small minority. We have the opportunity to bring real-world artists and designers into the fold, and transform the quality, environment, feeling and look of an unprecedented digital space. To make the idea of the metaverse more appealing and promote adoption, we need to make it look, sound and feel like something people already intuitively understand and want to be a part of. Enticing people ultimately works the same way in the physical and digital worlds. Let’s treat it as such.
About the author:
Jonathan Cohen is the CEO of MetaNept and has worked in marketing and project development for the last ten years. He has been investing and trading in the crypto space since 2017. He is an expert on crypto, NFTs and DeFi.