Tag Archives: 3D illustration

It’s alive! GG design fiction graphic novel – Chapter 1

Good morning!! I’ve done it. The first 40 pages, chapter 1 of The Lightstream Chronicles graphic novel is now online and available for a free download.

The Lightstream Chronicles Banner
Chapter 1 is alive!


Visit The Lightstream Chronicles website and comb through all the great content that I’ve put together for the project such as backstory, character profiles, behind-the-scenes, etc. and then navigate on over to chapter 1 and download the HD graphic novel for your reading enjoyment.  The download is a 69MB PDF so it might take a couple of minutes based on your internet connection but it shouldn’t take too long. (The link will take you to ge.tt and you’ll have to look for the download button off to the right.) Remember that it is HD, which means you are missing out if you don’t zoom in and inspect the scenes and panels. But you can read it however you want; fast, slow, twice. If you’re going to view it on an iPad, which works quite well, make sure you have a pdf viewer app like GoodReader, but there are also free apps too that work fine, like Stanza.

If you are a graphic novel fan, then you know that this is not the first CG graphic novel, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that you’ve never seen one quite this detailed. I could tell you more about it but I would really prefer that you visit the website and get a more detailed version. Where we may be onto something completely new is that it quite possibly may be the first design fiction graphic novel. If you follow this blog, then you already know all about that, but here are some refresher links. Like this or this.

Latest update on Kickstarter is that I’ve received Amazon approval and I have submitted the project for KS approval… I’m hoping to go live with the project on October 30. Stay tuned.

If you like what you see in chapter 1 – “like” it  on Facebook. Thanks! Enjoy!


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1100 renderings (give or take)

Some notes on the ongoing production of my CG based, sci-fi, crime-thriller graphic novel: The Lightstream Chronicles

According to the script, there are somewhere between 212 and 230 pages of sequential art that needs to be created for the book to come to completion. At an average of 5 per page, the math tells me that there could be some 1,100 renderings that need to happen. More math: If I hope to complete it this year, that equates to 3.28 renderings per day. That would have to include post production; any Photoshop work that I need to do. But that’s just the rendering part of the project. There’s still dialog and page layout. I could probably do a more exact breakdown, but why bother? It’s huge.

While I acknowledge that this should plunge me into deep depression, I fully expect that some scenes will go more quickly than others. Scenes with dialog, without a lot of character movement and mostly “camera” work (I have several of these) are a “light-once-move-camera-shoot” proposition. I have been on enough live action shoots, however, to know that it’s not that easy. Sometimes lighting a close-up can take hours.

The most time consuming scenes are (and will be) the sweeping establishing shots, like flying over Hong Kong, Sean’s expansive synth lab, police headquarters, and the epic chase scene through the city.

Character Design

So far, all I have published is my character designs, which, so far, are pretty close to final though I have fully redesigned Sean and I have a first pass at Techman.

Sean Nakamura

I realize that, if you have followed the blog for the past year, you already know the basic story and you can glean some insight from the character descriptions that have been posted on DevArt and CGSociety, but even then, this name dropping doesn’t make much sense.

Scenes and proof of concept

For my 5th quarter thesis review, I have committed to completing an entire scene as proof of concept. Perhaps this will go online as a bit of an introduction. The scene I have chosen occurs early in the book where Sean Nakamura, the prodigy designer of synthetic, near-humans, is wrapping things up in his lab. The lab is one of those huge establishing shots that I was talking about and it starts out with a fly-over of Hong Kong with a zoom-in to through the windows of his penthouse laboratory at Almost Human Corporation (AHC). The strategy, thus far, is to build out as much of the lab as possible to focus in on the dialog.  The body of the scene takes place from pages 15 through 19. It would be great to add the big tension scene immediately thereafter on page 20 and 21, but this would require significantly more modeling, so it’s a long shot.

Conceivably, we could have these 7 pages by mid-to-late March. Snails pace. I know. It will get faster. Really.

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More than a graphic novel

Let’s face it, I came to Ohio State to make a graphic novel. For me, it was the epitome of holistic design and a realization of “epic integration.” In the professional world, I was forever battling to make clients and decision-makers embrace the idea as it applies to brands and their stories — experiences. Over the years though, so much of your design sensibility becomes second nature, intuitive. What seems obvious to you is not obvious to everyone else. Thankfully the faculty prodded this out of me and as a result there was the discovery of design fiction.

Through design fiction, idea-objects gain knowledge mass and a sense of credibility. But design fiction is more than just constructing a set of plausible constraints through which a design might exist. Bleecker states that drama is of great importance. “We can put the designed thing in a story and move it to the background as if it were mundane and quite ordinary — because it is, or would be. The attention is on the people and their dramatic tension, as it should be.” (Bleecker, 2009:37) Thus, design becomes that invisible collaborator with culture in making life seem as real in the future as it is real for us now.

In fact, science fiction has a long history of introducing new technologies and artifacts that go on to become real world devices. The gesture-based interface of Minority Report or the multi-storey videos of Blade Runner are only two examples.









Evolutionary geneticist and science lecturer David Kirby calls these props “diegetic prototypes” (Kirby, 2010:1) “Film-makers and science consultants craft diegetic prototypes and enhance their realism by creating a full elaboration of the technological diegesis which includes any part of the fictional world concerning the technology. Through their actions they construct a filmic realism that implies self-consistency in both the real world and the story world.” (Kirby, 2010:46).

While design fiction can be used in filmmaking to create acceptance of a concept or idea as some kind of future product placement, that is not its greatest potential. “A particularly rich context, a good story that involves people and their social practices rather than fetishizing the object and its imagined possibilities — this is what design fiction aspires to.” (Bleecker, 2009:27).

Playing around with these concepts makes for a very rich exploration into a future design. Stay tuned for the story synopsis, characters and more – coming August 2011.


Bleecker, Julian. 2009. Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction. Online. http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com

Kirby, David. 2010. The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development. Social Studies of Science, 40/1; 41–70, February 2010. http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journals


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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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Is design becoming a commodity?

Is design becoming a commodity?

I was looking over my skill set today and felt compelled to ask the question of whether or not some of my expertise has fallen into the realm of commodity. 

Take for example the art of 3D illustration, modeling and graphics. There are a number of offshore firms doing this and cranking it out really at a fraction of what it would cost in the States. They probably have more processing horsepower, faster rendering speeds and obviously lower pricing. Can a really talented small business or freelance designer compete in this landscape?

Here’s another example. Visit the site called 0Desk. (www.oDesk.com). You will see that there are hundreds of designers out there who are doing logo design for an average of $8 an hour. If you were formally trained at a university or design school in the art and science of corporate identity then the notion of a solid, versatile and sustainable logo that costs $20 makes your head spin. To make it even more challenging,  a lot of the clients posting jobs on this site are asking for “sketches” up-front before they hire. Nevertheless, these clients are getting what they need and (based upon the number of designers that bid on these jobs), there are lots of people out there willing to do the work. 

If you did enough of these jobs could you actually eek out a living?

I had an acquaintance in the consumer electronics business that used to say, “There is very little nourishment in a bowl of volume.” (And that’s an industry that should know.) I have seen this proven out many times. Becoming a commodity, no matter how much you sell, is a slow road to nowhere. Most would agree: The key to big success is in differentiating your brand from everyone elses.

So where is this going? I think that with the advent of the personal computer —specifically the Apple computer and its emphasis on graphics and graphic software — even faux-design became accessible to the masses. It’s the idea that with just enough technology,substance doesn’t matter so much. (Take a look at most PowerPoint presentations.) 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that great design has to cost a fortune or that designers who work cheap are hacks — I dare not. I’ve done dozens of design projects of all sizes and scale on tight budgets. I’m not whining either — just reflecting. I think that the conclusion from all this is still the client’s ability to discern the differences in good and good enough. If you have a discerning eye, much of what you see from the 3D rendering farms has two distinct components: superior realism, and average design. As for logo design, the design master Paul Rand said, “Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.” If you can do that for $20 you are under charging.

Therein lies the difference, and I’ll admit it’s subtle. Even in product design, the difference between the iPod and all the other mp3 player choices is the subtle difference of great design. And yet, there are many manufacturers out there selling a steady clip of “average”. 

So how do I summarize this and answer my original question: Is design becoming a commodity? I believe almost anything can be commoditized in today’s world. It’s the nature of technology: faster and cheaper. So the answer is: Yes. Great design may well be in the eye of the beholder. If it functions and is pleasing at the same time, I think you have a winner. At the same time there is, and will always be a place for the exquisite, which can be simple or complex. And even those designers will, at times, do the $20 logo. 

One thing I think remains true: Even the best technology can’t supplant the human spirit and the vision it can produce — tough to commoditize.

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