Common Sense Review
Updated February 2015

123D Design

3D modeling app works well on iPads, allows sharing and commenting
Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating
Not Yet Rated
  • The 123D Design workspace.
  • The options menu lets one save, export, share, and print models.
  • On the 123D website, projects from all the 123D suite of apps are viewable.
  • Export options for 123D Design project on the 123D website.
  • 123D Design quick help and video tutorials available on the web.
Easy to use and powerful.
Not as much support for teachers as some of Autodesk’s other design apps.
Bottom Line
Perfect for classrooms with iPads, but desktop classrooms with Internet may choose another app instead.
Mark Chen
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Very powerful design app features lots to explore and build with.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Ample video tutorials and how-to guides scaffold learners into design, but these require Internet access.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

The website features a help center, but, surprisingly, user forums are not well supported.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Like with most design apps, teachers could easily have students work alone or in pairs, learning 123D Design at their own pace in a workshop or studio-like classroom. Teachers could also incorporate 123D Design into larger engineering projects where students have specific goals or design needs they are seeking solutions for. Ideally, these projects would last several weeks to allow students ample time to delve into all of 123D Design’s features and to iterate on design solutions that more closely meet their needs.

The use of 123D Design is especially appropriate for an iPad-enabled classroom or for a classroom that doesn’t have an always-on Internet connection. For a classroom with desktop computers and access to the Internet, Tinkercad might be a better choice since Autodesk has created ready-to-use curricula for that tool.

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What's It Like?

123D Design is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling app that lets users build complex models by combining simpler geometric shapes. What makes 123D Design so great is how easy it is to hop right in and then to share and comment on creations with others. Users can select from a panel of basic shapes to drop into their workspace and then manipulate them in many powerful ways that include combining, subtracting, resizing, beveling, hollowing out, and aligning. Users can then save their projects to a user profile and make them shareable, share links to social media, or order 3D prints of their work. They can then access their profile from Autodesk’s 123D website and further manipulate or export their work to then import into another app or to send to a personal 3D printer. Most notably, this can all be done on an iPad since 123D Design supports iOS devices as well as desktops.

In fact, initially, it was unclear how 123D Design is different from another Autodesk app, Tinkercad, especially since some users find Tinkercad more intuitive to use. Exploring these two apps further, it turns out Tinkercad is great for desktop computers with Internet access, but it doesn’t work very well with tablets, even though it’s a browser-based app. Selecting, dragging, dropping, and other actions don’t work well with a touch device. 123D Design, however, works well with tablets: For example, objects snap toward each other like magnets, making it especially easy to combine shapes together. 123D Design also doesn’t require an always-on Internet connection -- though, obviously, sharing with a larger community of designers requires online access.

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Is It Good For Learning?

This 3D design app works great on iPads and allows novice and experienced designers alike create and share projects easily. Initially, 123D Design is pretty overwhelming with all of the available objects  and a blank canvas. It might help new designers to have specific projects or needs in mind to help them choose which shapes to start out with. 123D Design is part of a suite of tools from Autodesk meant to help almost anyone get into 3D design and printing. Other tools include 123D Sculpt+ and 123D Catch.

All of these tools come with ample support from the 123D website that includes tutorial videos, allowing new users to get right into design work. When stuck, the same website includes a help center and, buried within that, a user forum. It’s puzzling why the user forums are not highlighted or accessed easily; improving these resources would boost this app's learning potential and better support its users.

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See how teachers are using 123D Design

Lesson Plans