Just wondering if it is a standard or common practice to design 2D graphics (e.g. logo) in 3D first and output as a 2D image? I have been working on some design projects where I feel like this is the best way to cater for the different types of permutations that will come out of design changes, and it felt like a sensible way of managing the creative process.

However, this was met with criticism as the people involved in the project thought it would incur too much time and cost penalty and that it is better to work on 2D projects by sticking to 2D conventions only.

Reading through the article about how the Rio 2016 Olympics logo was created, I felt vindicated in some ways because there are many practical applications of designing things in 2D by doing 3D first.

My question is, is this idea of doing a 3D design first becoming a standard or common practice in studios and amongst individual artists? And if not, what is the practical or otherwise business/logical reason for not doing so?

1 Answer 1


There is nothing wrong with doing it 3D first. You could do it, but consider following points:

  • You just dont often see it because there is a disconnect between the technology of 3D and the vector formats of 2D. In other words there is a disconnect between technology of printing and 3D.

    Because of this you often have a training gap between graphics designers and 3D users. As a result you have a lack of talent, which makes it hard to replicate the workflow. While this is not so much a problem in logo design per see; It does restrict the kind of applications you can use. Its not commonly done translates to suboptimal tools. Nothing prevents you from having a illustration program in 3D, in fact making Illustrator do this would not be many hundred lines of code.

  • On a related note, 3D apps tend to subtly, and unconciously, restrict you. You end up doing shapes that are easy for the tool to make instead of what you really would do otherwise. To offset this one often does a more sketchy medium first, such as polymer clay or paper and pencil.

  • Many designers would consider the 3D design as a sketch, reference or suppport medium. Because of the unforseen lack of suitable software. Much like nothing prevents you to use a photographic image made in a raster editor as a logo. Most designers would dismiss this for several reasons.

In the end nothig stops you from having a excotic workflow. Most clients just do not need this. So putting time and effort may not be worth it for most of the current bulk jobs and expectations.

On the other hand consider the upsides of 3D:

  • There are lot more options available in 3D. There are so many different modeling paradigms in 3D that it allows you to choose from a much wider toolset. 3D apps usually have much more tools, and many are designed ground up for user extendability in a way that makes standard graphic design tools look like jokes. Mind you this is also a downside you can spend a fortune in time to learn all the corners.

  • 3D apps usually come with a much better animation toolset. So if your client needs this then you can add much more value to your project. Not many will need this though. Outside of certain media intense firms such as game studios and other media companies, who most likely can manage on ther own. Also animating a 2D design is not really much harder for these so its not much of a benefit for a client who wants to buy design as the need arises. But some clients might see benefit in a integrated design.


Nothing really stops you from doing this. If you feel it works for you go ahead. It is your workflow, atleast untill you need more helpers to manage your workload, if ever.

  • +1 a really good explanation and lots of things for me to think about. My special interest is actually designing 2d logos that look 3d, which is why I asked this question in the first place. Also, I find it easier to apply effects such as shadow with the more sophisticated 3d programs that achieve a much more realistic look, the downside being the processing time required for the renders. Happy to give you a tick if there are no other takers for this question :) Apr 4, 2016 at 6:26

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