2D to 3D
Sometimes the right product is the simplest thing that works.
While the Vibe was successful from a marketing reach perspective, the initial spike in sales and engagements quickly dropped off after several weeks. We turned our attention to figuring out what type of creator would be useful for continually making a variety of things.
By chance, my product colleague Nancy Liang had made a quick hack that turned flat black and white images into 3D models, but simply “popping out” the contours with a measured thickness. A quick database query revealed that thousands of models on the site had been made using this tool, and it had generated a consistent number of orders every week for the last 6 months, even though we had made little effort to promote it.
Most significantly, we discovered that the designs people were making were fairly well thought out. People were making keychains, earrings, logo plates…the image uploads indicated the the users were designers who were capable in Photoshop/Illustrator, and who just needed a bit of help to translate a design to 3D.
Thus the most effective Creator app was not exactly a customizable product, but rather a tool that supported designers better versed in 2D design.
I cleaned up the UI on this, and it still lives on at shapeways.com with few changes over the last 4 years. https://www.shapeways.com/creator/2dto3d
From that idea, I mapped out and wireframed several apps that would allow people to create jewelry and device cases using a black and white image as a starting point. Although my roadmap was stalled while the company addressed operational hurdles, it has been interesting to see that they later built and shipped some of those ideas I had defined early on.