In this three-part series, we’ll find out how visualization plays a crucial part in making your favorite Zazzle products and learn more about some of the mystery members of the Viz Team.
Every day on our site, people are zooming in on their one-of-a-kind iPhone case to get their initials just right, they’re designing the perfect slogan on a fitted t-shirt for their favorite pooch and they’re transforming their gorgeous wedding photos into a wrapped canvas work of art.
There’s much more that goes into making it all happen than meets the eye. The technology we use is completely novel — to make that bright red “Keep Calm and Om Nom Nom” mug you’ve been pining for, it needs to be rendered virtually, as though the mug were already sitting on top of your kitchen table. While your mug doesn’t exist (yet), you’re able to see just how it would look, as if it’s already been manufactured. Without our technology, you wouldn’t be able to make your perfect product — exactly to your personal specifications, just how you want it.
You have Zazzle’s Visualization Team (or the “Viz Team,” as we affectionately like to call them at Zazzle) to thank. Though they tend to hang out in a dark room, questions about who they are and what they exactly do became so numerous (and so pressing) that we decided it was time to shed some light on this team.
We cornered some members (they don’t put up much of a fight) and got the download on visualization (or as much as they could tell us without giving away all their secrets).
Visualization at Zazzle can best be summed up as the perfect blend of engineering and art. The team uses proprietary technology and computational photography to make it easy for anyone to upload an image, make design tweaks, and see a product as though it’s already made. Users and sellers don’t have to know anything about 3D modeling — that’s why we have the Viz Team around. The Viz Team is responsible for making it look all too easy.
A lot of the magic happens when they gather information about each and every product before it launches on our site. Products and samples are examined to see what areas can be customized and where designs can be printed. When they talk to product manufacturers, the Viz Team gets manufacturers to help specify design areas (which later become your design areas on our site).
After they nail down that info, they prep the product samples for a photoshoot — much like for real-life human models or starlets, except the products don’t demand bottled water or take calls from their publicist.
Once the Viz Team figures out what one can actually design or make on the specified areas, they take a photograph with “special cameras.” This process is meant to help you: it gives consumers and designers a way to look at the product and see exactly where the design could go once the product is on our site. For more complex products, the team will actually go the distance and build 3D models.
On Site, Ready to Customize
Through “special image processing,” the team locates the design area for the product and then the product goes on our site for your customization.
Once it’s on our site, the product is ready for your designs (using our nifty design tool.) A lot of people don’t hit “the plus button” (shows the high art view of the product), which gives you the precise field of the area that you can design. This makes the Viz Team sad.
More fun facts: the red dotted line is called the “safe area,” or the area where the image is guaranteed to be printed, the “black area” shows the actual size of the design area, and the “the bleed area,” or red solid line, allows for extra jostling when the product is actually made, so you won’t get uneven spaces of white on your product.
Next up, meet some of the members of our Viz Team.