The big news for AutoCAD 2019 is that we now have one AutoCAD including specialized toolsets. Previously we had "vanilla" AutoCAD and a "set of flavors" tailored to the industries they served. Customers purchased the AutoCAD or AutoCADs that suited their needs.
Back in the day (1993), new to Autodesk from Autodesk's acquisition of Ithaca Software, I thought allowing multiple versions of the same program on the same computer was unusual. I was working on AutoCAD R14 only to learn that when users upgraded from R13, they could keep R13 on their computer for working with partners who had not yet upgraded. Also to my surprise was in cases users had AutoCAD plus one or more flavors, e.g., AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Civil 3D, the last program that the user worked with would have the association with the DWG file extension. In other words, when a user double-clicked on a DWG file, the last flavor of AutoCAD would be invoked. Multiple AutoCAD EXEs were fighting over who owned the DWG files.
Today's blog post comes to us from the Autodesk Brand Strategy & Design team. Much like reconciliation over fighting for ownership of the DWG file extension by having only one AutoCAD.exe, the team had to come up with one image that captures all of what AutoCAD has to offer. It's a fascinating look under the hood at some of what goes on at Autodesk.
Our imagery creates a visual language that helps differentiate us in the marketplace and unifies our brand. But perhaps more importantly, it expresses who we are and what we do. Over the years, our company has evolved from a 2D CAD company to a 3D design and make company, and it's important that we reflect those changes in our product and brand imagery. The following is a detailed look at how the Brand Strategy & Design group developed a new body of work that's beautiful, uniquely ours, and captures the core of what we believe in at Autodesk — that when equipped with the right tools, you can literally make anything.
Used by a multitude of industries and by professionals and hobbyists alike, AutoCAD is a versatile design and documentation tool that helps turn ideas into reality. When we went through the initial rebranding of AutoCAD in 2014, we wanted to capture that essence abstractly, so we began to brainstorm around the idea of basic building blocks.
We found inspiration in DNA and based our imagery on a helix of different elements interacting and coming together to form something grand. The transparencies show details that reference the functionality of AutoCAD and the layered nature of our customers' work in architecture, assemblies, products, and components. We were purposeful in our abstract approach, as to not define the image by industry or discipline. Instead, they're meant to showcase the possibilities of our software and inspire.
Check out the work from early to final:
Once we had the main artwork, we created variations to represent the different products within the AutoCAD family. For each image, we emphasized the visual elements that help describe the functionality of the product. For example, the top left image illustrates a playful take on ductwork and piping to represent AutoCAD MEP.
With the release of AutoCAD including specialized toolsets, we needed to create new imagery that represented the entire AutoCAD family as a single model. So, we reimagined how the different elements of AutoCAD might interact in this new version. We began sketching some ideas to investigate what the image might look like if it were a building.
From those sketches, we modeled in AutoCAD and 3ds Max, bringing together the different elements and aspects of AutoCAD—architecture, engineering, product scale, and more — into a unified form.
We also designed the model to be engaging in plan, elevation, and section to represent the functionality of AutoCAD LT.
To remain authentic to our brand, it was important to incorporate the "make" aspect into our creative processes and brand imagery, so we decided to fabricate a physical model of the 3D model.
We designed a version we could build at our San Francisco Technology Center using our tools. Most parts were 3D printed, but sintering was also used to generate the metal components. The pieces were then painted and finished before being assembled into the final structure.
Once built, we then photographed the model, camera matched it, and added digital overlays that relate to the original 3D digital design files to create a final image that fully encompasses the design to make process.
Thanks to Autodesk Brand Project Manager, Sabrina Humphreys, who shared this story with me.
Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you've ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, chances are you've experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with our software. Autodesk gives you the power to make anything. Autodesk has always been an automation company, and today more than ever that means helping people make more things, better things, with less; more and better in terms of increasing efficiency, performance, quality, and innovation; less in terms of time, resources, and negative impacts (e.g., social, environmental). Our new imagery for AutoCAD reflects that.
Imagery is alive in the lab.