900lbs 3D AR Holiday Card


Around mid-November 2021, a few of the creatives were asked by Steve Deitz to create an engaging, impactful digital holiday gift for our wonderful clients with a very short runway and fast turnaround! Typically, we have focused internal R&D and research initiatives driven by small strike teams and we weave this work in-between billable projects. Other times, we have to make magic happen! The challenge, due to work-from-home culture, was to create a gift that would be easily accessible, work across a large variety of devices, and still deliver an exciting, high-fidelity experience.
We ideated and brainstormed as a collective creative group and came up with so many hilarious, unique, fun, and uplifting ideas. Part of the 900lbs creative process is starting big and wide and unloading everything that inspires us. Judson, Billingslea, Nick, Emmar, Alison, and Rob all came up with individual and impactful ideas but we couldn’t do it all! The next step was for us to narrow down these great ideas into a few objectives: technology, feasibility, impact, and message.


Continuing down the road of the 900lbs process, we took all of the creative ideas and started to narrow down those ideas into what we can actually put into motion with clarity and cover our objectives.

We knew that QR codes made a massive combat in this Covid-era. We also knew we wanted to do something in AR and with the rise of WebAR as a platform, we thought it was a perfect time to flex our creative muscles in this area. Finally, how can we create an impactful virtual 3D model that will give our clients a personalized, unique, and inclusive winter holiday greeting? A snow globe? A normal greeting card? How about a pop-up book? A 900lbs gorilla dancing? We could have Steve Deitz dance (again)?!


At this point, we had more questions than answers so part of the design process at 900lbs is to work iteratively in low fidelity to create a full start to finish experience. Usually, things naturally eliminate themselves from the creative salad if they don’t fit thematically or in the story-flow. These lo-fi visuals can range from storyboards, to UI wireframes, blue sky elements, one-off wow ideas, to full spatial design layouts. We had enough information and input to do a first full round of concepts before tech feasibility.


The first full concept of the experience was done to cover all the asks and ideas, outlining the mechanics, message, assets, and story-flow. After the concept was completed, we walked through the concepts with Development to help keep Design and Creative working in “the possible” and work collaboratively to optimize the experience to fit our timeline, available resources, technology understanding, and the overarching message to our clients. The review and revision was efficient and we landed on a direction that we all were bought into!


A Rapid Prototype and Proof of Technology was built quickly by Development leveraging the agreed upon creative direction using AR, low-poly 3D models, simple UI, and QR codes.

We chose Zappar as our AR platform of choice due to its low barrier of entry and universal SDK that allowed us to work in a familiar toolset – Unity3D. This allowed for faster prototyping and an overall faster production timeline.


Leveraging the native UX of Zappar and the creative direction, Design created another lo-fi Version 2.0 of the Overall Concept and User Flow for Development to build the Unity framework while final assets were developed in 2D and 3D. This User Flow outlined the full experience from the QR code in the email, to the native Zappar UX, to presenting our final gift to our clients: A winter wonderland, popup 3D card, with a polaroid picture of our 900lbs teams and a warm holiday message!


To incorporate familiar branding in the 3D Card AR experience, we repurposed a lot of our familiar orange and white elements to be used in the UI overlay. A UI styleframe in High Fidelity was built early for Development to test layout across multiple device aspect ratios, check font legibility, and keep the messaging simple. Our Happy Holidays greeting was the first winter wonderland visuals that were approved! We knew the 3D Card was the star of the show so keeping these UI elements simple was key.


Testing was easy, using the Zappar portal we were able to host the experience and generate QR codes to launch it. This allowed for quick deployment and testing internally before we sent it off to our clients. The team scanned the QR code from their personal phones and tested the experience to make sure it was consistent across multiple devices and users.

As we were building assets, we sent over proxy 3D assets to get scale and presentation locked-in in low-fidelity. As we continued to build our 3D Card, we put together a number of fun holiday assets and developed a similar white outline style as the custom popup yard signs you see for birthdays and special events. This cut down dramatically on 3D development time as we took an assortment of colorful images and painted over them as 3D “cardboard” cutouts and spent little time building stylized geometry to fill the scene.

Each iteration toward High-Fidelity required close art direction and collaboration between 3D and Design to focus on creating a visually stunning 3D asset but working as optimally and efficiently as possible in the timeline. We made sure not to scope-creep but it was hard not to get crazy ideas like having the card open to confetti popping out, the little snowman throwing a snowball at the camera, or small micro animations to make the card feel even more alive!

Overall, this project would not be possible or meaningful without reaching our clients. We typically send off tangible goods and 900lbs swag but we wanted to make the same impact on our clients in a virtual setting. It’s important to us to make sure the message to our clients was personal, technology-based, and fun to explore – similar to our experiences and products we are privileged to create for them.

We made sure the email greeting was simple, the instructions were brief, and they were able to dive into the experience as quickly and effortlessly as possible.


The final visual elements are displayed here and were funneled into Unity3D to build the 3D AR Holiday Card experience. During our last in-person visit together, we each signed our names on an iPad. We then took that iPad layer and put it on top of our snowfield that serves as the background of our 3D card. On top of the background, we created an atlas of colorful popup elements to be used across the card and fit into a winter wonderland scene. Over a Zoom call, we took a 900lbs company photo and retrofitted it into a polaroid picture. We added some snow falling particle effects to add to the aesthetic a bit more. The 900lbs branding was kept to a minimum but our orange complemented the cool blues really well! And finally, we made sure our Happy Holidays greeting was big and bold on screen!


Here are the final beauty renders of the 3D AR Holiday Card! Given the rapid turnaround time, we’re proud to showcase an experience that was timely for the holidays, unique to our audience, colorful, and impactful for our clients and internally give us a platform to further develop AR experiences in the near future.

We hope that everyone had a safe holiday and look forward to designing tomorrow together in 2022 – virtually or in-person.