Thursday, October 30, 2008

Storyboards are fun

I'm a sucker for animation. Naturally, I love looking at things like model sheets and storyboards. Today I ran across Bill Peet, a former storyboard illustrator for Disney. While his style may seem a little old school (i.e. not as flashy as today's concept artists) it does exactly what it needs to. He quickly and simply captures the movements and emotions of characters and scenes through his rough snapshots. What strikes me as most impressive is how close many of his storyboard designs, which come at the first stages of pre-production, are to the final designs seen in the films. It just goes to show how, if you are successful in capturing the basic qualities of a character, which Peet's illustrations do very well, the aesthetics just fall in place.

Storyboards are cool, and they can be really helpful in describing the use of a product. They kind of suck to do, though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On my way

One of my goals for the quarter was to learn new methods of vizualization in Illustrator, Photoshop and by hand. The recent USB project has really helped with this goal. Marker rendering and Illustrator techniques will help my front end work, but the best technique I've learned with this project has been painting over 3d models in photoshop. Not only did this come out sweet looking, but it helped me finalize materials, colors and forms.

We're beyond the point that I would normally do this for ID studio, but I think I'll go back and do this type of rendering for my computer project. If it helped this much for a flash drive, it's bound to work for a whole computer system.

Here's a link to the project pdf to look at the other work that went into this project.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blogging our lives away

A portion of our work for our design communications class has been bloggin about various design related topics. This has put a serious hurt on my Simpsons QODs, but it's been interesting. Here are my opinions on a few of my classmates' posts:

Alison Knaack
Her recent post regarding
Viktor Schreckengost received two comments...from his wife and stepson! It's pretty amazing how far-reaching this interweb of ours is. This was just a journal entry that ten years ago would probably been read by no more than two people, Alison and our professor. Now anyone anywhere has access to her random thoughts and opinions.

Alex Aeschbury
Alex really stepped out for his first inspiring designer. Dali is not know for his products, but produced some of the most interesting objects of his time. Kudos for digging a little deeper.

John Ariosa
His posts are just hilarious. Clever titles, pictures, etc. just remind me how to take some time to laugh at life, the universe and eeverything.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I love watching movies, but I hate most movies that have come out in the last 10 years. Elitist, weird or tasteful?

Zhu vs. Shinkawa

So, since my "inspiring designer" was Feng Zhu, I thought it was only appropriate to compare him with another concept artist - in this case Yoji Shinkawa. I was exposed through Yoji's work through Metal Gear Solid, a game for the orginal Playstation.

As stylized as Zhu's work is, Shinkawa's is that much more. He often leaves work at the sketch phase, only sometimes adding small bits of color and shading that do more to pop the image than actually show form. Drawing with a brush pen, his lines vary dramtically, at times splitting in two. His characters appear to move through the page.

This method is incredibly effective for concept work in the video game market as so much depends on visual style. It is not very effective, however, for communincating finalized designs. Even his model sheets are sparse on detail. I give a lot of credit to Konami's 3D modelers and animators for bringing Yoji's designs to life. He doesn't give them a ton to work with, but I guess it works. While his style is not particularly helpful with my professional work (at least not more than rembering to give my sketches as much life as possible), I have to say I could look at his images all day. They are simply gorgeous.

If I could draw like this...

I've always been drawn to concept art as it often combines two of my passions, art and film.
Feng Zhu has uncanny style. After watching several of Zhu's instructional videos, I was blown away by his methods of visual communication. From quick ink sketches, to sillouhetted explorations of form to final renderings, his work is always full of life and emotion.

Drawings are purposefully ambiguous. Much like a novel, they allowe the audience to fill in the gaps they cannot see. Zhu's work is a perfect example of this. His work flow blends rough sketch into finished rendering, producing a result that uniquely combines the movement of a sketch with the precise detail of a rendering.

While effective for concept art, I hope to bring some of this technique to my own product design. A large aspect of product design is controlling the emotions of the user. If I can progress to the point where my products have as much vitality of one of Zhu's characters or environments, I will be a much more effective designer aesthetically.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What does the future hold?

Just as the industrial revolution swept through the world of the 19th century, so will the technological innovations of the 21st...

...Wow, I didn't think it was possible to write something that tacky. Anyway, with the speed at which our technology is evolving, our world is bound to change. At the forefront of these changes, I see the emergence of nanotechnology, genetic engineering and sustainable innovation.

Nanotechnology, the control of matter at molecular and atomic levels, has the potential to create materials and processes previously thought to be impossible. My interest in it lies in the controversy surrounding it. On one hand, we have the potential for incredible breakthroughs in fields like medicine, electronics and energy production - breakthroughs that could greatly benefit the human race and our world. On the other hand, there is the potential for disaster. Undetectable nanoweapons, manufactured microbes that can destroy an entire city, and the devastation of our environment are just a few of the reasons that there is an air of apprehension surrounding nanotech. Science has not yet destroyed the earth, though some have tried, and I trust that we will be cautious enough to keep it from happening. Nanotechnology is, at the same time, full of hope and despair.

Human evolution no longer exists. Take me for example. I have asthma. If nature had its way I would have suffocated as an infant and died. I did not, and my debilitating mutation will be passed on to future generations. Genetic engineering could potentially fix this problem. Altering, and hopefully improving, what makes us human has the potential to artificially revive our evolution. As with nanotech, there are potential dangers. If perfected someone could create an army of super-soldiers (all of which would be named Ivan Drago,) but this is an area of science where I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks.

In the last few years, I have seen a drastic change in the world's awareness of environmental issues. Going green is hip, and many are becoming truly committed to living, and helping others to live, sustainable lifestyles. Sustainability is less technology and more mindset. The world is coming around the realize that we have a responsibility keep the earth a beautiful, hospitable place. With this new way of thinking will come innovation at the highest level. We are already seeing the big guns of pollution, the automotive industry, try to save face with hybrid and electric cars. Seeing a company like GM take environmental initiative, even if it's just to help their image, gives me hope for our world's future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

If you want to know what newschool skiing is all about...

Skiing is my life, and I spend countless hours watching and rewatching skiing movies. There is always something new to see, a nuance that I missed the times before. For those who haven't experienced the world of newschool, I always point them to the trailer for Shanghai Six, a ski movie from three years ago.

At its core, a trailer should get people excited about the movie. It should make them want to see more. The trailer for Shanghai Six does just that. Its tempo, through both editing and music choice, provides excitement, while the visuals showcase the best the movie will have to offer. More than that, though, it accurately captures the vibe of the freeskiing community. We see it all - beautiful environments, riders ripping the mountain to shreds and kids just fooling around with their friends. The skiing lifestyle is an interesting mix of awe, adrenaline and comradery, and this trailer captures that feeling perfectly. It is the one trailer that I watch over and over, each time renewing my love for the sport.

Strangely, the actual movie is very different. It's pace is much slower, and the mood is considerably toned down. I can't understand how Level One could have gotten the trailer so right, but the movie so wrong. Oh well, I guess I'll always have the trailer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why I love Honda

I get into arguments a lot with my brother in law. I despise General Motors, and he has worked for them his entire life. I can't help myself. Their design, their corporate responsibility, the face they put on for the's just aweful. Anyway, most of our arguments end up with me using Honda as a counter-example. I love their cars, and believe that they're doing things they way it should be done. When I thought about how they communicate this, though, I realized they were unique in the fact that they don't.

Line up an Accord and a Malibu. The differences are blatant. In short, everything on a Honda just fits. The doors close with a more reassuring feeling, everything on the dash is where it should be and the car is just plain gorgeous. Anyone that has owned a Honda in the past will agree 100 percent, as will many who haven't. This has become Honda's image - the idea of pay a little more, get a lot more. What's strange, though, is that, while Honda has created superior cars, they have not created superior advertising. Their commercials and print ads are pretty run of the mill and by no means unique or eye catching.

Honda's brand image has been built entirely by the quality of their products. It's odd that a company that has been able to so consistently exceed their consumers' expectations of performance doesn't try harder to do the same with their advertising. Maybe they are content where they are, or maybe they just don't realize it. Whatever the reason, it is a unique case that I feel needs a little more thought on my part...

...In the mean time take a look at these; try to tell me they don't do cars right.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Last Portfolio Sucked, Your's Might Too

My Last Portfolio Sucked, Your's Might Too

An interesting article from dealing with the overall experience when viewing a portfolio, in this case online. The author points our overarching issues he found after viewing 200 portfolios. Things like overly complex navigation and indistinguishable thumbnails discouraged the author from delving deeply into some, while a lack of contact information defeated the purpose of others. The article highlights two main points when designing a portfolio that will get you recognized:

-Keep the entire user experience in mind. Take into account how the viewer will want to look at your work. Chances are slim that they want or have the time to dive in to the full sensory experience, so omit the fancy flash navigation and background music. Most viewers, especially employers, want to flip through quickly and go back if something caight their eye. Their should be a hierarchy of communication that naturally allows viewers to do this.

-Remember why you are displaying your work. In most cases, a portfolio is used to land a job. If evaluating your talent, specific to the job you are applying for, and contacting you after the fact is an employer's main focus then it should be yours as well. Resumes and contact information are critical and must be easy to find, read and use.

This really isn't different from the approach we take with porduct design. Understand your audience and the experience they will have with your design.