From Concept to Context

Joshua Distler, the US designer behind the LiveSurface image template library is today launching Context, a new application that offers designers the chance to see their latest projects rendered on objects in real time, as they work

A mock-up publication produced in Context, complete with foiling

Joshua Distler, the US designer behind the LiveSurface image template library is today launching Context, a new application that offers designers the chance to see their latest projects rendered on objects in real time, as they work…

When Distler launched LiveSurface in 2006, with a series of just 25 images, it was in response to an emerging demand from designers who wanted to show new concepts in as realistic a light as possible.

Aside from shooting actual objects and placing artwork onto them, or scouring photo libraries for pictures of blank packaging, there was little out there to help accurately convey how a new design might look in the real world – and certainly with as little fuss as LiveSurface required.

The Context application has a ‘live view’ window which renders a designer’s work in real time

As I wrote last November, the success of LiveSurface over the following years even engendered a related debate about the role this kind of image-creation was playing in muddying the waters between designers’ ‘real’ and conceptual projects. (More about the article Shooting Blanks, here.)

Distler later mentioned that he was working on a new project that would change the way that designers worked yet again – and that’s where Context comes in.

Unlike LiveSurface, it is a program that links directly with Illustrator and enables designers to see just how concepts that they are working on will look like within a range of applications.

Banner signage mocked-up with LiveSurface’s Context application

The ‘ink effects lighting’ tool can adjust reflections

Instead of exporting a flat design and placing it onto a blank template (a billboard, poster or bag, for example), Context fits the design to the particular product while the design itself is being worked on.

And as there are more than 350 ‘surfaces’ available within the Context program, this should enable designers to get as close as possible to the look of a final product.

A mock-up publication

What’s really clever is that the multiple layers can control a whole range of external elements, such as shadows and reflections, or suggest processes like screenprinting and embossing. It can even convey the sense of depth unique to a particular foil stamp.

Designers can also share an ‘editable surface’ via email. Good news for clients, perhaps, who can tweak elements (see, that logo can go bigger), but certainly a collaborative element to the software that should help speed up the dialogue during any project.

Badge designs created in Context

Distler has released a promo film for Context, which can be viewed below, and from that it certainly looks like a slick, well-produced system for getting design work as near to a physical reality as possible.

Cutting the need for wasteful printed mock-ups is a great leap forward and Context looks like something that can only help convey designers’ concepts to clients, and indeed help shape a client’s feedback to designers.

More details on Context are here, while a trial version can be downloaded here.

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