Around the world, technologies in the extended reality landscape have gained increasing attention from virtually every industry. In the last few years, we’ve seen virtual reality transform from a novel concept connected to the gaming and entertainment space to a crucial corporate tool.
Today’s businesses are leveraging VR for everything from training and education to collaboration, product development, and even customer service. With the dawn of the metaverse growing ever closer, reliance on extended reality experiences is set to increase even further.
Not only does this generate new opportunities for hardware creators and software developers, but it also paves the way for a new age of design talent. Increasingly, companies will search for designers versed in metaverse and virtual reality technologies to help them construct their own immersive worlds. But what does it take to become a virtual reality designer?
The Rising Demand for Virtual Reality Designers
In the past, the role of “VR designer” may have seemed like a relatively niche position for someone with creative skills. Now, not only are companies looking for professionals to help them create their own virtual reality experiences, but they’re also providing other professionals with VR design training too. Many product development and design teams in the automotive, engineering, and construction industries are all beginning to experiment with VR design using the latest software and tools.
In the US alone, the average salary for a “VR designer” is somewhere in the region of $60,000 to $90,000 per year, depending on experience and skills. What’s more, new programs, learning institutions, and courses are constantly emerging to help professionals refine their skills.
In 2021, Red Bull even announced their commitment to helping develop Swiss Mixed Reality talent, so they could begin their adventure into the impending metaverse. As VR solutions continue to evolve, the demand for specialist designers will only increase.
The Skills Required for a VR Designer
When starting any new career path, developing the right skills and knowledge is crucial. Fortunately, an increasing number of courses and educational resources are emerging focused explicitly on this area. Most VR designers are likely to develop talents similar to that of a game designer or software developer; however, they’ll need to be prepared to build entire, immersive worlds.
Some of the key skills a VR designer may need to develop include the following:
- Programming skills: While some VR designers won’t be responsible for developing the backend technology for virtual reality systems, they will need a basic knowledge of how these ecosystems work. Gaining an understanding of how certain solutions like Unity and Unreal Engine are used to produce VR experiences will be essential.
- Graphic design skills: VR designers are responsible for creating unique virtual experiences with a combination of audio, visuals, and even haptic elements. This means basic knowledge of graphic design will be crucial. Professionals will need to know how to work with different graphic design software solutions to build animations and images.
- Basic VR knowledge: It’s impossible to become an expert in the field of VR without first understanding how the technology works. People hoping to start a career in VR design will need to spend some time actually exploring virtual landscapes and getting a feel for how headsets and systems display content.
- UX design skills: An excellent VR experience isn’t reliant on great visuals alone. It also needs to be easy to navigate and convenient for users to access. With this in mind, an understanding of UX/UI design is likely to be a must-have for a VR designer. Professionals should know how to build comprehensive spaces that users can navigate easily.
How to Become a VR Designer?
Since the role of VR designer is still a relatively new one in today’s evolving marketplace, there’s no one-size-fits-all path to success. Some VR designers will branch into the arena with pre-existing experience in graphic design, web development, or software creation. Others will start their journey from scratch, focusing exclusively on the VR space.
In almost all instances, professionals will need to:
- Seek out the right education: VR designers should have a clear understanding of the VR landscape, how it works, and the design elements associated with virtual reality. There are already various courses available on eLearning platforms which teach the basics of graphic design in virtual reality, and universities are also beginning to add VR topics to their syllabus lists. Some courses even come with advanced certifications.
- Become familiar with commonly used tools: Like most designers, VR designers will need to be familiar with graphic design, audio editing, and similar tools. However, a knowledge of solutions like Photoshop and Illustrator may not be enough. Rather, these professionals will need to become familiar with the development tools built specifically for VR, such as Unity and Unreal Engine.
- Develop experience in the field: The more experience a designer has in the VR field, the more likely they’ll be to access lucrative employment. A good strategy for any professional is to start working on building a professional portfolio. Experimenting with different designs intended to work with common VR headsets and tools is a good strategy. Professionals can even start building their own VR software for tools like the Meta Oculus.
- Network and expand their knowledge: As the VR landscape continues to grow, VR designers will need to be committed to constantly expanding their knowledge and exploring new technologies. Networking with other professionals is a great way to open new doors to employment and access some useful insights into the marketplace. At the same time, keeping up-to-date with the latest evolutions in the VR hardware and software markets will be crucial too, particularly as the metaverse develops.
Becoming a VR designer may require significant work and commitment from a creative professional, but it could open the door to a number of lucrative opportunities as we reach the age of the metaverse. Anyone considering a career in this industry should start building their knowledge as early as possible.