Tag Archives: graphic novel

What happens when designers ask, “What if?”

Background

If you follow this blog then you know that, last year I decided to leave my corporate job and a 30 year career as a professional design practitioner and go back to school. There were a lot of motivating factors, but most exciting was the idea of pursuing what happens when design is integrated on the “epic” level. By that I mean, when design is firing on all cylinders, not just great communications or great product design, but holistically woven into every aspect of a company. Whether, in reality, they fit this description, Apple is the company that comes to mind.

As I settled into academia, I began to hone in on a thesis that would embrace the notion of epic design. Pull this thread with me…

 

Design and culture

It doesn’t  take a great deal of thought to acknowledge that culture produces design and, in turn, design influences culture. Invention, information, entertainment, transportation, medicine, you name it, they’re all floating in a soup that produces a culture of expectation and more invention. The cycle repeats.

 

Design and narrative

Reach into the soup and pull out one of those ingredients and you will also find a story attached to it. Where did it come from? Why did it take this form? How did it come to be? What were the conflicts? Who was involved? When did it happen? All of these combine into some kind of story narrative. Ultimately, everyone and everything has an origination story. At the very least there is a master narrative that gives context to us and all the things that surround us.

 

Prototyping

How might a designer explore this design-culture relationship in an unfettered exercise of creativity? How often does the designer sit down and ask, “what if?”

What can we learn from examining the design-culture relationship in the purity of the hypothetical. I decided that the answer was fiction: to create a story in the future where everything has changed except for the human condition, and to produce this work in a visual prototype — a graphic novel.

 

The discussion

That’s the premise. I have a particular interest in what designers think, but also anyone  anyone who creates future narratives, graphic novels, comics, movies, art, but also anyone who thinks about what could or should happen next? How does a movie director or screenwriter come at it? A novelist? A futurist? A photographer? A production designer? A game designer? How would you approach it in any profession? What do you think of this exercise? Are you already doing it? Take a few minutes and think about it. How can creativity contribute to future scenarios and what do we take away?

 

I invite you to join the discussion. Some suggestions: Leave a simple comment, a paragraph, a paper, a link to further study or related topics. Leave your comments below and let’s see where this leads.

 

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Journey to the graphic novel

What a circuitous route we travel. Here I am, middle aged, back in school and kind of doing what my brother and I did in 2nd grade… reading and drawing comics. When I think back now to the days when we used to pour over the latest Sgt. Rock comics with art by Joe Kubert, Mad Magazine, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, I really am getting back to some kind of primal calling that’s been with me for some time. In fact, I can track this whole visual narrative idea to several spots in my life where it has just surfaced, it would seem, on its own. Remembering back, comics, and the whole comic style played a pretty interesting role in my life. For example, just recently I remembered trading comics frames back and forth with Larry Mound in elementary school. Larry, usually the more creative one, would pen a frame from a comic and secretly pass it to me. I would pen the next frame and back and forth we’d go. I think we were 8 or 9.  Then all the Army comics my brother and I collected and, of course, we would create our own. Over the years, come to notice, I’ve always had this affection for the frame to frame design style that had a filmic look to it. Graphic Design was my field of study but I quickly broadened out to designing everything including advertising and television. That led to copious storyboards for television commercials that I directed. Then back in the 80’s I developed this single-panel cartoon called the Bacon Strip which I did for the Domino’s Pizza restaurant chain. Later, I moved into the 3D realm, fascinated by the whole CG thing including Siggraph in the early 90’s. Then I taught myself 3D. First, Strata 3D then Power Animator (the precursor to Maya), then a host of others. Following that there were the numerous attempts at writing a novel and one that actually went to 27 chapters. Most others didn’t even get past the first few pages or an outline.

Anyway, rendering in 3D became my passion and then I unknowingly made my pilgrimage back to visual narrative through my admiration and fandom of great concept art. Finally we are at the convergence of it all in the form of a graphic novel. Pretty interesting to look back and see how it all ties together.

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