3D Designer at Active Theory


JohannesHeld (3D Designer at Active Theory)

I am a Los Angeles-based 3D Designer working at Active Theory. Through motion and an appreciation for detail, I help brands to creatively convey their message to clients.

Los Angeles, United States • May 27, 2024

What led you into design?

I never thought of design as a career path for me. From a young age, I was mostly invested in learning about anything related to nature and science.

In my teenage years, I then came across a movie called "That's It That's All", in which a couple of the world's best snowboarders perform the most incredible stunts. All packaged within a great edit, of course.
This inspired me to take my first small steps with iMovie and the Adobe Creative Suite, where my friends and I went on to create our first skating and snowboarding clips ourselves.

I kept on editing holiday videos and messing around with Photoshop for years to come, but I mainly saw it as a hobby at the time. That was until I discovered Rhino, a 3D Modeling Software - as part of an Architecture class. This quickly had me glued to my desk, and I found myself recreating real-life scenes in 3D whenever I got the chance.

What does a typical day look like?

In the morning, I start my day with some good coffee and, most importantly, fresh air. On a usual day, this means that I ideally head out for a short 30-minute walk first thing, during which I like to connect with family and friends back home.

At the office, we usually kick things off during our daily morning sync. Since part of our team is located in a different time zone, this is when we assign our tasks for the day and get to see what the team has been jamming on.

After that, I get to work. Depending on the stages of a project, this is the time of the day when I get to model, render, animate, optimize or texture 3D Models and scenes for production.

Throughout the day, I also connect with developers and other designers to discuss ideas and the more technical topics at hand. My favourite time of the day since we get to strategize and communicate ideas from different angles.

After work, I usually go for a quick workout and meet up with friends.

Every other Thursday, the team meets up for dinner, which is a great way to chat outside of work and enjoy some quality food together.

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

In my free time, I enjoy going outside and exploring the city with all its amazing shops and galleries. More often than not, I'm left most inspired by simple settings and daily surroundings.

As a 3D Designer, a big part of my work is to apply familiar impressions to an imaginary context. Back in London during my time at uni, I used to go out to photograph facades and textures, creating normal maps out of them to later use in my work. This used to almost feel like a treasure hunt and worked as a great way to start shaping ideas away from the screen.

Whilst this has shifted to different approaches nowadays, I still find myself looking for interesting settings and places with similar contexts. This can range from a construction site on the side of a road to finding joy in simply browsing furniture stores for classic design gems.

Whilst I primarily work in a three-dimensional context these days, grid systems and typography also still play a vital role in how I approach my work. At last, I'm happy to have friends from different backgrounds who work in different industries. Discussing work but also things such as simply enjoying a cup of coffee together immensely fuel my creativity.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

When visiting my friends in London earlier this year, I came across this beautiful chair while browsing through a boutique store in Soho.

I later found out that this piece, called the "Hyaline lounge chair", was designed by Fabio Lenci back in 1967. Whilst the floating look with its almost Bauhaus-looking shapes is incredible by itself, I can also tell you that it is very comfy!

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

One project that I'm personally really proud of is the new Buttermax website the team and I have been working on. Buttermax is a new brand that focuses on craft and buttery smooth digital production.

I have also recently joined forces with my friends Marvin and Jesper at Maneken. They have been building a browser-powered editor that lets users play with mockup images directly on the web. We decided to work on a bespoke collaboration together. Here is some early work in progress:

What design challenges do you face at your company?

With our team, we're constantly looking to innovate and create the best possible experience for the end user. With that in mind, it is vital to stay curious and, most importantly, to stay up to date at all times.

I'm very lucky to be part of such a great team where innovation feels so organic and learning new things on a daily is so much fun.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Stay curious and keep an open mind. Great work tends to be a product of iteration and communication. For that, I think it is crucial to approach your work with intent and the willingness to learn from your team along the way. Whilst your initial vision matters, don't be afraid to have your research direct you onto a different path than you had originally anticipated. Last but most importantly, have fun!

Anything you want to promote or plug?

You can find more of my work in my portfolio.

Also, my good friends at Mouthwash Studio recently launched a new site featuring their design and direction for Mirage: Apple's first-ever commissioned artwork, by Katie Peterson & Zeller and Moye.

It's a stunning collaboration; you should definitely check it out.