Sometimes we are being trapped within vicious circle of troubling thoughts. Struggle to find answers makes us go round and round, stumble, get up and continue searching. I dedicate this illustration is to all who are lost within themselves and relentlessly searching for answers.
This is one of very few drawings made in mixed media after a long time. Initial structure of the drawing was done in pencil and then inked. After that I scanned it and coloured digitally.
Why this question?
Even after more than ten years as a concept artist I still ask myself the same question: what is a good design layout? Too often I see 3D artists getting frustrated when they try to study design layouts given by 2D artists.
We 2D guys many times get lost in this jungle of visual information. We follow trends and fill our blank pages with unnecessary sketches just to make the page look full. At the end we use a whole lot of cheap photoshop effects to make everything look shiny. Everything might be very clear to the concept artist himself but not to the 3D guy who uses this information. Too often he gets tangled up and has hard time decoding the visual riddles we provide them with. This shouldn’t happen. If it does, it means job has been done poorly and incorrectly.
How to do it right though? It is hard to find analytical information on this specific topic, so I decided to dig deeper into this subject myself. It is not an attempt to find all the answers but to get to know the subject more and share knowledge with whoever might find it useful.
So what is a good design layout?
In my humble opinion a good design layout is the one which delivers very clear information on how to proceed with the task once it’s been handed to the 3D artist. Not less, not more.
If you ever bought something from IKEA you probably know the feeling when you hold the manual in your hands and hope that all instructions will be clear enough so the job can be done smoothly. Same goes with design layout. Person who uses your visual guidelines is hoping that he will have the same smooth experience as with assembling IKEA furniture. If that’s the case, then both the 2D and the 3D artist avoid running across the office or writing tens of messages trying to figure out what was supposed to be clear and easy to read in the first place.
So what elements make a good layout? According to my opinion, these are the most crucial things when delivering visual guidance to the next person in line:
Side, front, back and top views
Size reference indicator
Multiple piece explosion image
Change stages of particular piece/pieces
Combinations of these basic elements can vary depending on situation. Often we need second page if first one gets cluttered with too many images. Better keep it clear and move it to another page than deliver a mess.
Short explanation about each of these elements
Everything is usually very clear for concept artist himself. However, 3D artist sees the layout for the first time. Let’s not forget that. To be on the same page with your colleague you need to show your design in context. Believe me, this way you will avoid false interpretations. To save time, you can use fragments from previously done key art or sketches. Finished and neat look is far less important than the story we tell with our layout to the 3D guy. Often times it can even serve as inspiration for his work. This is always a plus.
This one is for your object or character to be shown in perspective. We have to choose suitable angle of camera and the object itself to provide as much visual clues and information about shapes, volumes and textures as possible. The key here is to use simple light. Don’t do fancy and strange. Shadows have to be simple and travel through the surface telling clear story about shapes, volumes, textures and curves.
Side, front, back and top views
Here we should find all the information that was missing from drawings mentioned above. Side, front, back and top views give artist all additional information for modeling. Plus it serves as ready-made blueprint for sculpting or poly modeling.
There ALWAYS has to be a size reference. It doesn’t matter whether you do realistic design or stylized. Always include information about scale. If you don’t, you will be visited by a 3D artist with a lot of questions. Your choice!
This one also will help you to avoid unnecessary frustration. You can make your life easier by gathering a little material library of your own. In no time you will have quite nice set of material examples and the only thing left to do with individual layouts is to modify them when needed.
Is it worth to spend so much time making such layouts?
Firstly: yes! Secondly: not always. It is a time consuming task. We don’t always have the luxury to spend hours making this happen. But keeping these things in mind will give you a good chance of making life easier for yourself and others. I’ve received many thanks when the visual information I provided was clear and easy to understand. It takes time, but in the end it pays off. So again, it’s your choice. And last but not least I see design layout as an art form in itself. Sadly though very few people pay attention on creating a well-crafted design layout.
Few more examples
Here are few examples from my archive. I don’t want to say this is the only way to do it right but I believe these are somewhat following the principals I have written about in this post.
Reason one: Honesty.
I will never forget how puzzled my dad was one day when I was trying to explain the way I get payed for my freelance work. “So you just report hours you worked and they fully trust you?” “They never ask if you really spent your time on the tasks?”,-he was wondering. I answered that yes, they do. But with their unconditional trust comes great responsibility. When you get a full trust from the beginning you actually want to exceed their expectations. So in the end it’s a win-win situation.
Reason two: They know how to do things.
You might miss some enthusiasm in the way people do things here but most of the time their pragmatic approach really pays back in the end. Every step is taken seriously and with careful planning so there are no nasty surprises later on. I like it and I think there are many companies who could learn from Finns.
Reason three: Zero stress work environment.
This one comes not because such thing as stress wouldn’t exist here. It certainly does but the difference is that people don’t use it as a tool to hurry and push others. It was a big surprise for me. People avoid by any means putting stress on colleagues shoulders. Might be that it’s especially characteristic to game industry but I strongly believe there are also many other companies like this in Finland.
Reason four: Sharing is caring.
Finland is country with only five million people. Nevertheless gaming industry is quite big here and majority of companies are based in Helsinki. One might think that professionals would close themselves in to protect their intellectual property but you would be very wrong. I’ve witnessed cases where companies help each other, share knowledge and support their “rivals”. Makes you think.
Reason five: People ask about you.
I was amazed how much I was asked about how I’m doing. To such an extent that I started wondering if they were spying on me? :) Luckily I was wrong. For the first time in my life I really felt that someone cared about my well-being, feelings and experiences living in a new country. Now I have got used to it and think about it as one of the gems of Finnish culture.
Reason six: More than just a job.
People pay huge taxes here. Everything is expensive compared to the rest of the world. Still, people here don’t seem too upset with this. I was told that by paying big taxes you help society in many different ways. Finns have small gap between poor and rich, quite amazing social security system which functions well. Oh, and did I mention that these guys trust their government completely? Crazy, right?! And beautiful at the same time nevertheless.
No place is perfect. Finland is no exception. It has it’s perks and I do miss many things from my home country Lithuania. But all in all I can say my stay in Finland has changed my understanding about things I took for granted for a long time. I used to think certain things could be done only one way and that there was no way they could be done differently somewhere else. I was wrong big time and feel very fortunate to have experienced it first hand and learned form this society. I hope this text gave a little taste of Finland beyond Santa Claus, reindeers and other cliches.
Hello everyone and welcome to my new space where from now on I will share ideas, visuals and interesting stuff. Nevertheless you can still go and explore my blog post archive where you will find interesting stories posted in the past.
Thank you and see you very soon!
My dad Romas Bagonas. Photographer.
Algirdas Ramanauskas. TV host, musician, political activist, actor.
Pen on paper.
Lights turned on at the end of the movie and I was still not been able to move a muscle in my body. Wanted just to sit and let energy flow and settle down in my body. I was still there in those woods and couldn't come back to realize I'm surrounded by red seats and people hurry to leave from cinema.
Hi. Not so long ago me and my colleague decided to visit abandoned villa village which is located in the middle of the forest very close to Helsinki. Here are couple of photos I want to share with you from our little trip to this ghostly place.
This time I found myself again holding brush and paints in my hands during my vacation time back home. I was asked to paint a wall for my godson and for sure it is not a situation you can say "no" when he is looking at you with his pretty eyes. So here is result I want to share with you. I went for more abstract characters picture. No particular heroes from animations or similar due to the age of my godson Atas. We decided that when he will really point out later on what he really like, then I will do it for sure. But so far colourful and happy picture should make him happy when he sees it every day in his own new room.