Rhino Redesign


Hey there! I’m new to this community, so let me introduce myself. My name is Sam, I’m currently a junior in high school, and I love design. Recently, I’ve been really interested in industrial design. I found that Rhino is a popular program for 3D modeling, and it didn’t seem too hard to learn, so I downloaded the beta for Mac. Long story short, I thought it would be fun and interesting to totally redesign the Rhino interface. I have some experience in graphic design and web design, but this is my first attempt at software design.

I introduced a few new features into my design, which are pointed out in the image below.
If you’re confused at all by anything then let me know and I should be able to clarify.

One thing I’d like to clarify is that there would be more modules available than the ones shown, so if you’re wondering how a particular feature would be accessed, that could possibly be accessed through another module which you could add to your workspace. Oh, and the “mini windows” are a type of module that I thought of which allows you to see a mini preview of what’s going on in the other views (front, right, top, perspective). Modules are closable; the bottom-rightmost module is an example of a closed module. Modules are also rearrangeable, and they could even be popped out to be a floating window.

Let me know what you think about the design and what issues you would run into using this version of Rhino. If I am missing anything critical, tell me!

One more thing. This is not functional software, I designed this in Photoshop.

So, without further ado, here’s what I came up with.

Here’s the design without the pointed-out features:

Credit to Martin Spencer-Ford on GrabCAD for the Lamborghini model.


hey Sam… looks like an interesting project you did there :thumbsup:

i guess my main issue is that’s it’s blacked out and it’s probably more of a personal aesthetic choice of yours as opposed to a practical working environment…

what i mean by that is it fully reminds me of driving in a car at night… in fact, if i view your image at full screen and turn off all the lights here, it looks even more awesome… but the problem is, most people aren’t doing 3D drawings in dark rooms nor are they doing color critical work such as how a video editor might often work.

i’d prefer to work with brighter colors- especially the background color… what happens if i have a light blue background (which is my normal preference)? do the icons tend to disappear? is there no shading/shadowing on the model surfaces?

i don’t know, it’s a tough call because i really think there are a lot of people who would share your preference for this color scheme… especially the gamers that also happen to do 3D modeling.

i really like the idea of savable workspaces if i understand what you’re getting at… basically a one click means to switch to a different set of preferences/panel states/viewport/display mode. ?
is that what you’re picturing?

on a side note, here’s something you may find interesting.



Thank you Jeff – for your feedback, and the link too!

I totally understand what you mean with your preference to lighter colors. I’m thinking that there could be a lighter version of the interface that you could change to in the preferences. Maybe I’ll try mocking up what this would look like!

The reasons I went for a darker interface:

  • Many applications are following this design trend
  • It’s easier on the eyes when working with software for a long duration
  • It looks pretty slick!

Software companies, like Adobe, have been switching to darker interfaces over the past couple of years (with lighter options to change to in preferences) and people seem to like it, at least I do.

Here’s what my Photoshop interface looks like. I’ll refer to this image in the rest of this reply because I got much of my inspiration from this incredible program.

First thing to notice is that it also has a dark interface, which I love! I could switch it to be white if I wanted. This is what that looks like.

Another little thing I love about this software is its flexibility to customize the interface, which is also something I tried incorporating into my Rhino redesign. You’ll notice that my customized Photoshop interface is littered with lots of “module” things, Photoshop calls them panels. There’s my huge layers panel, a color palette, all the tools I need, and some character options for text. I can move these things around, pop them out to be floating windows – pretty much anything I want – and I can save it as a workspace which I can come back to at any time. I could have as many as I would like, too. This is where I got the same idea for the Rhino redesign. So yes, it’s exactly what you were thinking.

Lastly, my inspiration for tabs came from Chrome and Photoshop, and pretty much any program that has tabs. It saves so much screen real estate if you’re working on multiple projects at once. I was surprised that Rhino didn’t have this; I had to put it in!

Well, I kinda sidetracked from the original purpose of your comment, but the extra info doesn’t hurt, right‽


i haven’t used photoshop for a couple of years now and have switched to pixelmator for my image editor… it’s blacked out too…

and i do like it…

regarding using photoshop for example though-

photoshop uses custom UI elements… it (generally) doesn’t use windows UI standard nor osx standards… it uses photoshop standards.

with rhino for mac, i’m thrilled that the developers are going the route of using osx standards as opposed to the mindset of making the mac version look like windows… those kind of ports are generally quite terrible.

however, what you’re suggesting is keeping the windows version as is then custom designing the mac UI and using neither the porting tools available for windows->mac ports nor the UI elements which are available to OSX developers.

that, i can say with nearly 100% certainty, is not going to happen.

color wise, it’s possible to make some adjustments and it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to darken rhino on osx… it would also be possible to give users control or choices over their color scheme. (i’m assuming)

but ‘modules’? there are no ‘modules’ in osx that function in the way youre showing (as i understand the mock up)… or some of those sliders(?) and Xs look pretty foreign…

anyway, i’m not even getting to my point… the point is this- if a custom UI design were to happen, it would be on both platforms… and it would look the same on both platforms… much like how photoshop does…

or, i feel you have a better chance (though still very slim :wink: ) at getting this type of change implemented in rhino if you ditch all the osx specific elements from your design… start from scratch, and redesign rhino as a whole-- the windows version and mac version.

i’m not quite convinced you fully recognize the magnitude of such a request… or, how much time / manhours do you see this taking to complete?


Thanks again Jeff, I really do appreciate your criticism.

First off, by no means am I requesting for the developers of Rhino to redesign their software. This was a project I gave myself to test my abilities in UX and UI design. I’m not proposing that the Mac version be changed while the Windows version stays the same, as that would be wildly inconsistent for Rhino.

Now, I designed this with the Mac platform in mind. However, the same design could be used for Windows with some slight changes to the top of the window.

The UI elements in my design are not OSX elements, with the exception of the three window buttons at the top left. Other than Rhino’s tool icons and the window buttons, all of the UI elements are my own. So, I did in fact start from scratch in that aspect.

This aside, I understand what your point is, and I appreciate you calling attention to it.


it looks like you put a lot of effort in with good attention to detail.

how did you make all the icons?


Thank you!!

I assume you are talking about the tool icons. Like I said, those are Rhino’s, but I customized them a bit to match the theme I was going for. I took a screenshot of them in Rhino (I tried looking for the real images in the contents of the application – no luck) and brought them into Photoshop. I removed the background, set the blend mode to divide, and made a few little hue/saturation adjustments to get that electric blue color. I really like how they turned out!


it look like maya or modo but its impressive, i love it.


yeah, they turned out cool… nice job on that.

(Marlin Prowell) #10


Lots of really good ideas here. I want to divide my comments into two groups: appearance and functionality.


As far as appearance, I would love to have some flexibility in the appearance in the OS X controls, but that unfortunately that does not exist. It takes a lot of work to get a different look with dialog controls because you have to completely go around what Apple provides as standard controls.

Someone wrote a library a while back that provides white controls for a black background, and Rhino uses that in a few dialogs, like what you see in Rhino with the Analyze > Curve > Curvature Graph On menu choice. However, the author abandoned that work a few years ago, so I cannot depend on that library working forever.

Apple has their own library of custom controls that they use for their “pro” apps, like Aperture and Final Cut Pro. But that library is not available to third party developers like McNeel. A little birdie told me that a custom controls library almost made it into Mavericks, but was pulled out at the last minute. I’m hoping that something like Apple’s “pro” controls will make it into the next version of OS X.

I like your recoloring of the the tool buttons. I personally find the current color scheme a bit garish, but that’s just me. The buttons could be recolored in Mac Rhino on the fly. There are over one thousand tool buttons, so it remains to be tested whether automatically recoloring then would make them difficult to distinguish from one another.

Minor quibble: in the coordinates view in the lower right portion of the viewport, it appears you have a CPlane button and World button. The CPlane one is the same color as the X, Y, and Z fields; and World is greyed out. Does that mean the World option is disabled? I’m guessing that you mean that CPlane is currently enabled and you would need to click the disabled World button to enable it, but clicking what appears to be a disabled control to activate it is counter-intuitive.


I get your idea of modules, and I understand where it comes from. They are equivalent in Mac Rhino to the different tabs that are visible in each section in the right sidebar.

Allowing only two sections in the right sidebar is just a current limitation that needs to be fixed. Also, what “modules” that are available in each section should also be customizable. I personally prefer to reuse precious screen space by having the tabbed sections, but you could also have just one tab per section and lots of sections. That way you could scroll vertically through a long stack of sections to find the one you want, just like in Photoshop. :smile:

One of my goals for Mac Rhino is to make it possible to get rid of as much clutter as possible. By clutter, I mean UI elements that do not need to be visible all the time, but easily called up when needed. Mac Rhino does not come set up with a minimal user interface, but intentionally starts with everything visible. That’s so a new user can see all the typical UI controls. But most of what is visible can be hidden until needed. Jeff Hammond has an excellent example elsewhere in this forum of what is possible.

So I would suggest some functional changes to your design. Currently in Mac Rhino there are some buttons in the toolbar that activate popover windows for Layers, Object Properties, and Osnaps. I think those are pretty important because they allow you to hide the sidebars, so I think those toolbar buttons should come back. You have the space in your toolbar, so it’s not a big change.

Mac Rhino also has a status line in the lower left corner of the window that gives important feedback to the user. That needs to be somewhere in your design.

I like the mini viewports in the sidebar, and have thought of something similar. My idea is to have a stack of three or more mini viewports on the right hand side of the main modeling view. They would be live viewports, in they would display drawing feedback while modeling in the main viewport. Clicking in a mini viewport would immediately make it the main viewport, and the current main viewport would take the place of the just activated mini viewport. Don’t know if the swapping viewports would be helpful or annoying - it needs some testing. The “normal” four viewports option would of course still be available.

Tabs. Yeah, tabs should be there.


You have a few UI elements that don’t have an explanation, and I’m curious about your intent.

The Command text field in the upper right corner has a disclosure triangle. What would that button do?

What does the gear button next to the Command text field do?

I assume your layout expects the user to use the floating command options dialog. Is that true?

In your mini windows, there is a button in the left side of the title bar, to the left of the X close button. What does it do?


Overall, very nice work. I’d like to get some of these things in Mac Rhino. We’ll see what Apple announces this June at the next developer’s conference.


Bravo for your effort Sam and to Marlin for your focus on UI space/clutter, my pet. Good to know you’re on it!

I swap viewports all the time. A necessity for complex models. Sometimes I need/like to see all 4, but more often than not need a full screen of Top or Front or Left or Perspective, or a particular CPlane plan, and I switch repeatedly. While the view names at the top of Single Window Modeling works well for such, more options would be a boon too. I’d utilize a graphical representation, etc., in a different location, if the Sidebar was open or my cursor/focus was over there, which it often is turning layers on and off.

In my view some competing applications make view and viewport manipulation much more of a chore than it needs to be. Rhino has been one of the best at this, again IMO.

Yes it would. Garish or not, my brain uses the distinctions to recognize the right icon as rapidly as possible. Contrast and familiarity is a good thing here which trumps any “loud” aspect…it works. Often good design is what works well rather than what looks the prettiest. Winning products combine both!


Thank you so much for your feedback, Marlin!

I was not aware that there were that many tool buttons! Photoshop has gotten away with monotone icons, but then again they don’t have as many to deal with.

As for this, you are definitely correct. I overlooked this counter-intuitive functionality.

I see what you are saying here, it would be easy to access those functions from the toolbar if those panels/modules are not open. However, I left them out of the design because those functions are already visible on screen through different modules. I was thinking that top toolbar could be customized (like how you can in SketchUp) so the user can decide what buttons they would like there. (Hence the gear icon next to the command text field.) It would save screen real estate to have certain features as pop-up panels if you only need to get to them every now and then.

Oops! I definitely agree, it should be in the design.

This is also what I had in mind for my design. To answer another one of your questions, the little button next to the “X” is a like a “fullscreen” button, it would make that viewport the main one. I didn’t think to make the whole mini window a button that would do this, which is better.

I was thinking that would open the command history box. (I think that’s what it is… sorry I’m a newbie!) This one:

Hmmmm… thinking about it, would the actual status line fit into the command text field? Then all of the command-related functions would be in one place. Then again, status bars are known universally to be located at the bottom of a program’s window. I don’t know, just an idea I thought of right now.

Yes, that’s what I was thinking.

Thanks again, Marlin! I really appreciate it, and keep up the superb work.


fyi- you can see all of them in one place if you go Rhinoceros-> Commands-> Customize

also, if you really wanted to, you could make your own toolbar with custom icons… drag/drop an image onto the one circled below…

my take is that the option is more useful/practical for adding macro/script icons to toolbars but i suppose you could change the standard rhino ones this way.


Hi Gravity

If you are still looking for the toolbar images, they are downloadable from here;


They are V4 and various sizes including the original 768x768 pixels, also there is a test command, I think, @pascal, which allows you to download all of your icons, including customised ones, all named with their associated commands. I’ve done this so I know its in there somewhere.

Good work with your UI, I particularly like the clickable mini-viewports docked off to the side, great for users like me who spend most of the time with Perspective view maximised.

Nice to have colour options in the workspace too, although with eyes fixed on grey tones day after day, it might take a bit of getting used to the darker colours.
If you interchange files with co-workers with different colour schemes the geometry colours can become really difficult to work with, i.e. the bright colours from a dark background become way too bright on a grey background, so a method of changing the geometry colours states may need some thought.

It’s good to see such enthusiasm at the beginning of your career, :sunny:


i think i might use the mini viewports as an alternative to elevator mode and some other things… like you, i’m in perspective most of the time… with a mini viewport (assuming it’s not display only), you could use it to get shift key orthos off of other cplanes pretty easily/fluidly.


Hi guys

I’m sorry, but I don’t like the recoloring… That would be an ergonomic disaster, I think

I think that the especially the colors (and shapes) helps a lot to find the right button quickly. This is important!

Good :smile:



How about adding the 4 viewport types to the Right-Click menu in the viewport? Just under Repeat.
Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to switch when in a maximized single view. Personally that would be what I would use viewport Right-Click for the most along with Repeat and perhaps shade mode.


you can’t use that context menu while in the middle of a command or with items selected… which, for me at least, is often the times when i switch viewports.

i suppose i could think ahead a little more and recognize i’ll need another view prior to starting a command or making selections but i’ve fallen back on not worrying about it since i can just click up top on an as realized basis.

(edit) or- i suppose the viewport options could be added to all context menus? even though it may be out of context in many scenarios.


Good point Jeff. I suppose it would be pre-command only like shade modes at present. Could just be me, but I see the viewport right-click as good place to manipulate the viewport without loosing focus, similar to how the customizable middle mouse button (or other buttons in a 3+) has been a productivity boon when populated with one’s most frequently used commands.

My middle-button has 23 grouped logically to me.  Marlin - the ability to add a separator line would help my feeble brain a bit.


you can switch display modes during a command-- just not with the context menu… i use the control-command shortcuts a lot (S-shaded, G-ghosted, X-xray, W-wireframe)

i’m not really sure what you can do with viewports though… if i used a macro ' _Front ,it wouldn’t change me to the front viewport… instead, it would change my current viewport to Front settings.

i don’t know… i haven’t really investigated the options for this… i just use those buttons up top.