Tag Archives: concept design

Design challenges in design fiction

Part of what makes design fiction so interesting is that you have to speculate, an exercise almost unheard of in the traditional practice of design. In fact, after 30 or more years in the profession, most clients would probably concur that the designer has no right to be wrong. Market research, iterative design and prototyping, along with the rigor of the design process should eliminate ideas that don’t cut it or won’t cut it in the outside world. Design, as we know it, is a criterion-based practice. Time, money, market, manufacturing, competition, user analysis/interface, usability testing and a myriad of other forces are what shape, and ultimately mold, the final solution. It is a fact-based, reality-based endeavor. The exercise, if you will, of design fiction, forces the designer — not to abandon research — but to venture forth without the comfort of the conventional design climbing holds, or to create their own. Building design constraints for a speculative future can be approached two ways, through pulling threads of existing technologies and social trends (which seem to be becoming the same thing) or through wild unbridled fiction. The latter carries the dismissive, “Don’t ask me how, it’s just that way”, as something akin to the writer/artist’s artistic license. Hey, it’s fiction. The former blends the brain of the designer and the writer/artist and insists that he or she ground the idea, however speculative, in the roots of some plausible science or social momentum.

Hence, as I begin crafting the visual world for my graphic novel, I find myself struggling with these challenges daily. This summer, I am working on the self-imposed deadline of August 31 to have completed character designs for the eight, key cast members. Each character is posed in a relevant (though not apparent without having read the story) scene from the book. That requires not only the design of the character and the questions of what they would wear, the material, the design, and the function, but also the design of their accessories, as well as the design and construction of the set on which they are standing. The decisions seem endless, sometimes terribly frustrating and enthralling at the same time. The CG workflow, which at this level often distributed between specialists in modeling, texturing, posing, lighting, rendering etc., lies squarely on my shoulders. Since I don’t posess virtuoso proficiency in any of the above, it adds to the challenge. On the up side, I may well be a virtuoso (at something) by the time the project is completed.

I plow ahead, but I am excited to show my progress, and hopefully on, or near to the deadline.

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Big news

The last post was Halloween. How embarrassing! Well, as I said then it is the curse of the blog. But in all fairness, the blog is not my business. So it’s time for an update to all those who pay attention to this (greetings to both of you), on what is going on. It’s not like I’ve been lazy or anything, in fact, anything but. Part of the rules of the blog are that I don’t talk about work, but I did finish an epic project at “corporate”  that’s been going on for 18 months. But the real news is that I’m leaving that to go back to school. Yes. I have accepted a formal offer from The Ohio State University Department of Design for a 3-year Graduate Teaching Associateship while completing the requirements for my MFA. As the Masters Degree is the terminal degree in the design profession, it will position me to directly pursue a professorship with a design school at some point – or back into the corporate realm. OSU is the 5th rated design school in the country and the place where I received my BSID.

This requires selling the house and moving to Columbus for the next 3 years. Huge. But why? Even parts of two things: 1.) I feel as though I can reboot my corporate contribution with fresh insight. 2.) 3D has long been a back room passion of mine. I’ve woven it into the workplace whenever possible when designing trade show architecture, showrooms and retail display but not enough to keep me energized and growing. I decided seriously a year or so ago that I was going to really develop the skill particularly in concept design and concept art. Noodling around with ways to quantize my skills I decided against jumping into some other corporate situation. Two years back I put out some feelers to a couple of universities, Parsons New School of Design, and Ohio State, (my alma mater). Both respectable, but Ohio State is clearly rated among the most advanced, plus they work closely with the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design. (See where this is going?) When OSU offered me the Graduate Associateship and the endorsement to jump into my own theories of epic integration. See the website and previous blog entries. I decided, “Hey. I’m not getting any younger.” So I went for it.

The idea: At OSU the Design Department has 3 disciplines, Interior, Product and Visual Communications and together with the co-program  at ACCAD this gives me the opportunity to further explore the idea of epic integration, how brands, stories, and experiences are intensified when everything is designed with co-dependence on everything else. At this point I’m looking at the idea of fabricated experiences. My interest is to delve into the fabrication or simulation of real or fictional environments that employ a rich back-story. Taking the form of graphic novel, animated film, concept art/design, or interactive story the exploration would make full use of the potential of digital visualization together with a multi-faceted design narrative that embodies concept interiors, lighting, product, and visual communication design.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. With getting the house ready to sell and pitching junk from the last three decades my weekends, which are usually reserved for concept art and my web novel, have been fairly non-productive. As soon as there is something decent to post (visually), I will.

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