Autodesk 123D Design is an application that is widely used to create 3D models. “123D Design is a free, powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool which supports many new 3D printers.” I have had the pleasure of using it previously during a previous internship, but it had been three years since I used it last and I was looking forward to any modifications that they made to the program. 123D Design comes with a considerable learning curve. Simply being able to navigate the application (as in panning, changing angles, etc) efficiently takes time. Once you get over the initial learning curve of the program, it is easy to make your first 3D model. I was able to create a spiral staircase in after about 10 minutes of re-familiarizing myself with the tools (http://www.123dapp.com/123D_Design/Stairs/6607602). I think that the key to 123D Design’s success is the simplicity of the layout and the tools. But even with these simple tools, you can still create detailed models. Compared to Autodesk Autocad, 123D Design’s interface is much less complicated and less crowded. Granted, Autocad can do far more, but for what it is made for, 123D Design is the perfect place for beginner 3D creators to start. Over the past three years, the application has not changed that much except for the addition of a few additional tools. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality holds true here.
Autodesk 123D has also developed many other applications with the common theme of simplicity. With 123D Make, you can convert 3D models made with 123D Design into 2D cross-sections, so that if a 3D printer is not available, you can still make a 3D model by gluing together cross sections made from cardboard or wood. 123D Creature is a kid-friendly phone/tablet app that helps create monster-like models on a simple portable device. This level of support from Autodesk is great because it introduces the world of 3D modeling to so many different applications and it encourages and facilitates new designers to try 3D computer modeling without the financial investment.
The incredible thing about 123D Design is that Autodesk has simultaneously developed a community with this application. The website, 123dapp.com, provides a blog and an open project browser where anyone can download and publish designs. Autodesk makes it very simple to share designs by providing “share” links via different social media platforms. There are forums that offer a lot of support for the community and there are plenty of YouTube tutorials as well. Though I do not do a lot of 3D modeling these days, I still that that this community that Autodesk has developed is incredible because it facilitates the sharing of creativity, knowledge, and ideas. This is an incredible digital humanities project because it provides a public platform for human expression.