Skip to content or navigation

Mac stalwart innovator interviewed on CAD Digest: Runs through history of formZ

formZ founder and Mac 3D software luminary Dr. Chris Yessios, discusses all things formZ and modeling including the future of his program in a very informative interview at CAD Digest. We summarize a few highlights and add our analysis to what we learned.


There is a very good new interview published on the publication CAD Digest, a Q&A with CAD and Mac software developer industry veteran Dr. Chris Yessios, CEO of AutoDesSys, Inc., the maker of the venerable and innovative formZ 3D modeling software.


Dr. Yessios came to America in 1968 to study city planning after studying architecture in Europe. Having some contact with early computer classes at university, he fell in love (was bitten) and transferred to an interesting new doctorate program at Carnegie Mellon University in CAD (computer-aided design).

The interview highlights that the innovative research work being done by Dr. Yessios at Ohio State’s department of architecture was strongly supported by IBM, DEC and the National Science Foundation. It also highlights the story in more detail of how the arrival of the Mac ushered in the emergence of formZ—the application—later in the late 80’s.

For Yessios, the arrival of the Mac gave the CAD researchers he was affiliated with the “interactive machine supportive of a graphic user interface,” the one the team had been “dreaming of” for implementing 3D modeling software tools.

05 - Another image showing the SubD tool palette in the image.

01 – formZ’s latest version showing its SubDivision surfaces features.

The interview goes on to talk about formZ’s name origin, its beginnings and market segments, including estimates of its user base. Dr. Yessio says in the interview, which was conducted by industry CAD journalist Ralph Grabowski, that formZ’s main competitors in terms of functional and market lineup are Rhino and SketchUp. Yessios discussions formZ in comparison to those two tools briefly, in favorable terms for formZ naturally.

BIM and Scripting

Scripting and making generative-type parametric modeling possible and easy in formZ has been something discussed with AutoDesSys in our own interviews not that long ago. So none of that new news. But, besides the number of formZ users Yessios estimates working around the world, exclusive of students (which has always been a big group), a surprising tidbit was his comments about BIM and formZ. We won’t mention them as we encourage you to read the interview article itself. It is quite interesting.

The article is packed with interesting insights, history and forward-looking comments about formZ. We highly recommend it!

Architosh Analysis

This is a superb interview and the first time the company, to our knowledge, has shared so much about their future roadmap (though without any time-table or order of sequence deliverables—i.e.: without a map) with formZ. The company tends to hold its cards tight to its chest, whereas its main competitors in Rhino and SketchUp seem to have more open communities online and lots of engagement between users and developers.

MORE: In-Depth: The New and Dynamic formZ 8

Yessios’ comments regarding BIM suggest the company is carefully looking at Trimble SketchUp’s latest playbook. That, of course, is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a smart thing. The visual scripting or computational modeling comments expand upon what the company shared with Architosh last summer.

When one looks at the entire architectural software industry, formZ exists outside any of the “big four” AEC software houses (Autodesk, Bentley, Trimble and Nemetschek AG). But so does Rhino. SketchUp is a centerpiece of technology in Trimble’s hands. Autodesk has its SketchUp and Rhino equivalents (Vasari and its open-source offshoot Dynamo). Bentley has Generative Components for computational work, competing with Rhino+Grasshopper and the open-source Dynamo. But what does Nemetschek AG have? When it comes to a pure, purpose-built or “multi-personality” 3D modeler, the Nemetschek Group largely comes up empty. Counting Cinema 4D’s very good built-in modeler would be a false equivalence.

But back to formZ versus Rhino. Or formZ versus SketchUp. While the company may borrow plays from either of their play books, the one key thing both companies do so well that the folks at AutoDesSys may be weaker at, is support and encourage a vibrant user and third-party developer community. It’s the power of end-users given the right tools to flex their creative muscle to customize and share capacity with the rest of the community that makes those two communities—and the product at the heart of them—flourish.

Reader Comments

  1. formZ founder and Mac 3D software luminary Dr. Chris Yessios, discusses all things formZ and modeling including the …

  2. Maik Obermüller liked this on Facebook.

  3. #CAD Mac stalwart innovator interviewed on CAD Digest: Runs through history of formZ

  4. Matthew Ivanov liked this on Facebook.

  5. Hamza Faisal Moshrif liked this on Facebook.

  6. Really enjoyed reading this and the history. I’ve known Chris and been selling formZ almost since the beginning but learned a few new things. Great product , great people!

  7. Mac stalwart innovator interviewed on CAD Digest: Runs through history of formZ via @architosh

  8. June-Hao Hou liked this on Facebook.

  9. Greg Conyngham liked this on Facebook.

  10. RT @BrianLockwood: Mac stalwart innovator interviewed on CAD Digest: Runs through history of formZ via @architosh

  11. Greg, I agree with your sentiments. It is interesting to observe how some companies that are very focused and maybe quite small, have remained independent of the big four AEC software houses. Abvent with Artlantis is another one.

  12. Great to see there are some independents left in the industry with so much consolidation. And yes Abvent is also another one that fits the category. Artlantis has been developed for many years – I almost 20 years since we sold our first license. And do you remember their modeling program “ZOOM”? I’d love to see you interview them on the company history!

  13. Walter Lima Rivera liked this on Facebook.

  14. It may be time to interview Abvent. So many companies now in the Mac CAD/3D/VFX market…I started Architosh with the dread that we didn’t have enough tools and to prove we actually did. But these days it’s a growing bounty. It’s so good to see. 🙂 And I think having strong independents is vital to innovation. Look what has happened to Softimage.

Comments are closed.


INSIDER Xpresso 
Monthly newsletter with a focus on emTech (AI, machine learning, AAD, AR, robotics, 3d printing, and smart cities) its impact on CAD professionals.)

Subscribe now — it’s free!.

INSIDER Xpresso keeps CAD industry professionals up-to-date on next-gen emerging technologies (emTech) that will revolutionize the worlds of AEC and manufacturing and design. As an Xpresso reader, you will hear from some of the most important voices inventing and using the very latest tech in areas such as AI, machine learning, algorithm-aided design (AAD), AR, VR, MR, 3D printing, 3D computer vision, robotics, and SmartCities technologies.

Each issue arrives in your inbox on the first Sunday of the month. Issue #1 arrived on March 3, 2019. Full archives and easy navigation for your pleasure. Enjoy! 

Sign-up for our monthly newsletter
architosh INSIDER Xpresso.

  • Architosh will never pass any of your information onto third parties.
  • For more information read our privacy policy.
  • It is easy to unsubscribe at any time. Follow the links in the newletter footer.

(Recommended. These infrequent sponsored emails help us to provide our Xpresso newsletter for free.)

INSIDER Membership

Read 3 free Feature or Analysis articles per month.

Or, subscribe now for unlimited full access to Architosh.