Designer Spotlight: Ryan Kittleson

This weeks designer spotlight, we are re-featuring Ryan Kittleson! Ryan has been a Shapeways community member for quite some time, and has become a big part of the “meme club” we’ve come to know and love. We wanted to catch up with Ryan and visit his 3D print journey with us.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you located?
I’m an art nerd and computer graphics junkie. I currently live in Brooklyn but previously lived in Orlando where I was teaching 3D modeling at Full Sail. I work as a freelance artist and sculptor in a variety of industries like games, animation, visual effects, product design and prop creation.

What’s the story behind your designs?
I really just make what I enjoy seeing. Memes are fun, but I also like designing my own art and functional objects. When I saw Toy Story and Jurassic park, I knew that I had to get into 3D modeling. I’m drawn to new technologies and the power that they have to enable new kinds of art.

What brought you to 3D printing with Shapeways?
My background is in 3D modeling for animation and games so I was always comfortable with just seeing my designs on a screen. Then I went to a Shapeways meetup in Manhattan in 2012 and they opened my eyes to the many ways that I can turn polygons into atoms. I’ve always been creating designs, objects, and sculptures and now with Shapeways that process is more accessible than ever.

How did you learn how to design in 3D?
I’m mostly self taught. I’ve always been into sculpting and modeling by hand in the physical world. As far as digital goes, I started with Rhino and then moved more into Maya and Zbrush. I’m also really into free and open-source software like Meshmixer, Sculptris and Blender.

How do you promote your work?
I let the internet handle that. I’ve found that by simply making things that are fun and interesting to me, other people pick up on that and share my work around the web. Probably my biggest viewership is on my YouTube channel where I post a lot of my work and some 3D modeling tutorials. I do have a Facebook page and a Tumblr as well.

Who are your favorite designers or artists?
As for art, I’m really inspired by M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, H. R. Giger, Jim Woodring, and Bill Watterson. For design, I love it when I see an elegant solution to a problem that I didn’t realize I had. When I think “Why didn’t I think of that!” it’s an inspiring and yet frustrating feeling.

Who in the Shapeways community has served as an inspiration to you?
Todd Blatt and David Lobser. Basically anybody who subverts the traditional manufacturing model.

If you weren’t limited by current technologies, what would you want to make using 3D printing?
I’d want to design my own 3D fractal house and then have an army of nanobots scurry around, forming the structure with their fearsome mandibles.

Extended Questions!
Since you’ve joined Shapeways, what have you learned about 3D printing? What has changed for you a designer in the past few years?
My learning has been mostly a fine-tuning of what I new before. Particularly the importance of iteration. There’s so much about a print that can come out differently than expected. So I like to order a copy for myself and see what problems might arise and then make changes to the file and print again until I’m satisfied with the details and design. Then I’m ready to offer it to the public. As a designer, I’ve been branching out into jewelry more which I find very satisfying as a designer.

Memes have become such a huge part of the Shapeways marketplace – what is your favorite step of design while creating a new meme?
My favorite step when making memes is the research phase where I try to get a real sense of what a meme really means to people and how to best represent that in 3D printed form. After that I love the act of sculpting it and bringing it to life. It can be a very meditative process to create all the shapes and details.

Have you done anything different to promote your products?
To promote my products I have been getting more into instagram and twitter. Not nearly as much as I should probably, but more as an experiment to see just what effect it might have.

As a final thought, I’ve noticed that the 3D printed meme “game” is different than it was just a year or two ago. All the low hanging fruit has been picked by myself and the handful of other artists who do them. So I have to be more responsive when a new meme surfaces. I also have to be more judicious because a lot of memes are very short lived and quickly forgotten. I don’t want to spend a lot of time making things that won’t sell beyond a day or two.


  • Awesome, fun photography
  • Easy sections for shopping
  • Nice shop description with contact info
  • Interesting variation and experimentation with material


Thank you (again), Ryan! We’re obviously big fans of your work, and love that you are expanding into jewelry! Ryan is also a Designer for Hire, so feel free to contact him for specific modeling jobs. As always, to be featured, email aimee @ shapeways.com.

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