A Question About Design In Concept Art

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  1. #1

    A Question About Design In Concept Art

    What makes a design, good or bad in concept art? There's designs for robots, characters, environments, vehicals, but what exactly makes something cool and interesting versus terrible and lame? Obviously how well you draw/paint the concept so that it makes sense to the viewer is relevant. And obviously the research you do and coming up with shapes you enjoy plays a part as well. But its seems that there's more to it than this.

    My thoughts on it is, it seems like it depends on the viewer and the times. For example, lets say someone creates the first fork. 'Oh wow, it's a FORK! I've never seen that before. What a great idea, what a great looking design for this object.' Now lets say that all millions of forks looked like the original. After a long while, the fork design becomes mediocre. Lets say someone designs a completely unique look for the fork. Now that new fork becomes the attraction and everyone says how wonderful the design looks, and buys that new fork set. Now lets say, all forks now look like that new fork. After a while, that fork becomes lame to those who constantly experiences it. But finally, lets say that a new person who's never experienced forks before sees the old fork and the new one for the first time. That person then says, "I like both of these forks, wow, so cool." And someone who has experienced all these forks, for some reason, grows to enjoy and apprieciate the very first fork design.

    I think concept art design is much like the fork idea. You can draw a robot, and it may be cool to you. It may be unique to you. And lets say you did research robot designs from other artists, but your robot to you honestly looks as cool as most of the ones you've researched. Is it 'really' cool? Or is it mediocre? How do you know?

    Lets also say this; 5 other good artists love your robot design, but 5 other good, equally experienced artists say it's mediocre. Who's right? who's wrong? Should you change your design for the other 5 artists? Or should you stick with what you have because you like it? Or, if you stick with what you have, does that make you arrogant and non-cooperative for not changing your design like the other 5 artists suggested? Or, are you going to be precieved as arrogant or none cooperative to one group or the other no matter what decision you make? And in the end, most importantly, did you really make a good design?

    What do you all think?

    -C

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  3. #2

    A 'DESIGN' Conversation on CA.org ! ..wow ^_^

    It seems that there is Good Design and What's Cool. That is, what's Cool in 'Our' Time. Good Design can be Cool but, something that is Cool doesn't have to be 100% great design from all angles. Street Fighter is a good example. Capcom created something cool through the Good Design of the personality, dynamic posing and shaping of their characters alone. There really is Nothing' to those Street Fighter Costume designs worn by the characters we love so much.(Btw Chris I found my Sagat figure! Praise the Lords! ^_^) Trendiness plays an obvious role. J.C. Leyendecker was considered Old Fashion by the end of his career and now days his work feels very fresh to many of us today. Why? Because we're not affected by the trendiness of his time and are able to just look at the great design. It is Essential' for Us as Concept Artists to be very well versed in what is going on in our Field(Thoroughly). It's not enough to do the Research for a piece as it is assigned to us. It needs to be a part of our life to be Constantly looking, exploring and building that visual vocabulary. Knowing what is out there and what Design Shapes have been beaten to death is what's going to keep us striving for something fresh and not repeating the last thing someone did. Good Design can seem outdated and viewed as boring, that is why it is valuable for us to touch on something that seems Fresh and New to stand out. But, then one has to ask, what do I want with my Art and Who do I want to Please? Do I want to do Good Design or do Good Design that Stands Out? ...Perhaps it's not tangible to stand out as Cool' for all time. Or did I just reiterate what you said for the most part?

    I don't believe these are concluded thoughts..Just some views to get this going.

    What do you all think?

    -Joshua

    Last edited by JoshuaTheJames; July 24th, 2005 at 03:17 AM.
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  4. #3
    I think good, cool (or trendy), and new are three different things. We can do respectable work that's been done before and isn't particularly relevant to our times, but work that does all three will obviously be more memorable. To please clients, I think we all know that quality and freshness/newness aren't as important as the coolness (i.e. dark stuff, pokemon, whatever the trend of the day). If we want to make great art, it has to have a purpose, and if it's been done a million times already then there's no point in doing it unless you add something to it (which makes it new).

    As artists we have to be honest with our goals. Through history we naturally pick up where other artists left off, so we must decide if being different is important. If not, then just do what you like and hope you don't get fired. If you DO, then you gotta suck up your pride when half the people say a piece is generic, 'cause they're probably right.

    What do you all think? (sorry, I had to do that. No offense, guys.)

    -Andy

    Last edited by theincredibleandy; July 24th, 2005 at 03:26 AM.
    Andrew Murray
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  5. #4
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    Doesn't good design have universal principles? Rhythm and balance come to mind. I'm not very well versed in design, maybe some experts could shed more light on the what, how, and why.

    I self-published a book on the fundamentals of drawing from life.

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  6. #5
    (haha, it's good you finally found Sagat, what the hell happened to him?)
    Josh, How does one know if a design is "good" or "great" or "cool"? Do we decide that a design you do is good because you yourself like it? Or do you base it off of what other people think? If you base it off what other people think, then how do you know who is right or wrong about your design? How do you know when what you create has reached the "great" mark in design?

    Andy, Like you said, if half the people say your design is generic, then suck up your pride, but what happens when the other half of people say your design is great? If ten experienced artists say your design is ground breaking, and ten others say your design is weak, then how do you know if what you have is good or not? How exactly does one measure what "good" or "cool" or weak in concept design?

    Jet They're sems to be universal principles, but it also seems that within those principles, some designs are respected more than others depending on who is viewing it. So, is there really a design that is considerd equally great amoung all experiencd artists?

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  7. #6
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    Design is completely subjective based on its audience ---- In what a concept-designer does, it's a selfless methodology to deliver entertainment-product to a user.

    For example, think of this forum as a demographic ---- An awesome, outstanding deign/rendering we love and all agree on - might rank extremely high (5 stars) - might make it on the front page for all of us to respect...
    Then take that design and post it on an alternate forum (such as CGtalk maybe) --- And you could get a completely opposite response as it gets burried in piles of threads.
    The most successful designers on CA.org are often ones extremely researched on 'us'... and basically know how 'we' work/think, here on the forums and they can challenge our tastes and feed on our interests --- but might fail doing so with other audiences....

    I donno if that made any sense... but a design is judged purely by its audience.

    Another example might be 'Anime' ---- many folks here might hold very negative judgement towards it as a style... Yet you can't deny that as a product, it often has extermely 'successful' designs, simply based on how attached its audiences are ..... In an instance like that, you have to judge design based uppon its user ... not people that would immediately dissmiss it completely as 'bad design'.

    This was a good little Dictionary description I always looked towards, that I felt outlined our purpose fairly well (if not a little vague)
    ----------------------------

    design
    <process> The approach that engineering (and some other)
    disciplines use to specify how to create or do something. A
    successful design must satisfies a (perhaps informal)
    functional specification (do what it was designed to do);
    conforms to the limitations of the target medium (it is
    possible to implement); meets implicit or explicit
    requirements on performance and resource usage (it is
    efficient enough).
    A design may also have to satisfy restrictions on the design
    process itself, such as its length or cost, or the tools
    available for doing the design.

    -------------------

    So basically, for a design to be 'good' it needs to be judged as such by its user (if you wanna make a great design, figure out what your audience loves and what challenges them) ----- If grandmas like Hummel-Figures, who's to say that they're bad/kitch ... Grandma's money is worth the same as ours.

    Last edited by Sammy; July 24th, 2005 at 04:28 AM.

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  8. #7
    What makes a design, good or bad in concept art?
    That one is easy.
    The boss (whoever pays you) has to like it.

    But for an extended version:
    The definition of conceptart or conceptdesign as well as art and design in general is very broad.
    You can´t fit it into one paragraph because everyone has his own opinion of what works.

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  9. #8
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    I think a strong factor is how well composed the picture is. How all elements are balanced can make a picture good or bad.

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  10. #9
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    Design as a word is getting so overused. Everything is design. Maybe we need some smart people to get together and invent a few new words for us

    Ok now that i've been stupid, here's what i think. Good design varies for the product, first. In product design, i like apple products. While lots of PC's come with hundreds of blinking little lights and look like something out of alien, the Macs don't look like something. They have been made for people to use them, and people don't have a use for lots of colors on the front of their PC. This just to illustrate a point.
    Now in typography, we have a city magazine here that looks terrible. The layout changes without a system throughout the magazine, the font is way to small and not layed out nicely, different colors for several articles, stuff like that. Then i picked up a magazine at a bar this thursday, and it looked great. A nice, big font, a very simple layout, big pictures and the text was divided into small portions for lazy people like me to read. Looking at it the front cover, i saw it was sponsored by our soccer team, which is where the money is in my city, so no big surprise here.

    Why did i write this? Because the bottom line here is making it work. Of course there are fashionable ornaments you can put into your designs, but why? It looks nice for a week or two, but in a month other publications have picked up on it and it becomes boring. Same with fonts.
    Now, how does all this apply to concept art. Here, still, the problem is to make it work. Take Feng for example. He studied product design, and that's what he does. His rendering is something he picked up along the way, learning from his colleagues. He has to come up with things that would work. His drawings are being built or rendered, and you don't see the drawing anymore, it serves as an indication for what has to be built.

    And what is being built has to work. Darth Vaders mask is a complicated device that allows him to breathe, and that's what it looks like. It doesn't look like the latest in fashion.
    With dragons, there is a stereotype of a dragon. If you just draw the stereotype (the 1000th fork) it's not interesting to those who've seen 5 fantasy book covers. Of course, for the fantasy book cover, the idea is to transport the content of the book, and for that the stereotype fulfills it's purpose - it tells the reader "There are dragons in this book.", which is all it has to do. Of course, a stylized dragon would do the job, but fantasy readers are interested in the anatomical details of what a dragon looks like.

    To a video gamer, dragon anatomy is an old hat. He's probably seen dragons in movies and read "The Hobbit", so he expects something that fits the universe of the game he is playing. Here something like Sammy's dragons that take parts of sea creatures and dinosaurs are more interesting. If they fit into the general tone of the game, they create something unique. And that's really the point, right? To create something unique. Now i don't really know much about it, but think in fashion the same principles apply. The elements work together to create a lasting impression. Every element has to be chosen to point towards that impression.
    In Marko's Degenesis work, he chose elements that transport the idea of a wrecked world. He didn't stray from the science fiction stereotypes for the sake of not repeating something, but he created something by choosing elements that are unique to his idea of a science fiction world. Then he used the same elements of pattern and design - see how that word is used for completely different things? - to make a pleasing image and used composition to show the viewer what is important and how elements relate to each other.
    There's a misconception i think in trying to differ a formula for sake of not repeating yourself. You can change all you want, and you get the arbitrary designs you sometimes find in student design work that mean nothing.
    That's enough ego masturbation, i need to do some things that mean something, like eating & stuff.

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  11. #10
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    I was an artist first and trained in that field, but I discovered over the years that I am a designer first.

    Design is problem solving, and the solutions don't have to be pretty. They have to work. The best designers are capable of producing a solution that is both pretty and works.

    At the foundation of design is the ability to produce something that fulfils a need for a certain specific audience. The larger and more diverse that audience, the more restricted the solution becomes, because you have to deal with the "lowest common denominator" factor. A large city newspaper will never be as creatively "pretty" and exciting as a newsletter for artists, for example, because the audiences' tastes and expectations are so different based on their demographics.

    You also have to deal with a matter called "reality," especially in the art fields. Any 5-year-old can "design" a space ship. WE have to be able to design a vehicle that at least looks like it will work under some variation of the laws of physics. How far to push that design and still have it believable to an educated adult audience is what makes us something other than a 5-year-old.

    You'll notice when I leave a critique here on some one's art, I usually approach it as a designer. Is the idea sound? Is it possible? Is it original? What are the "structural" flaws that may affect someone else's acceptance of your idea? I leave the specific details and niceties in color and structural/anatomical accuracy to others to crit, because they're so much more attuned to that area than I am. Hell, I'll buy a purple cow with a 50-foot flagpole up its ass, but only if I'm convinced the cow can still stand and "be" a cow.

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  12. #11
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    Well...

    My opinion is....to make a really good concept you need to consider this factors:

    Fist and more inmportant of all: For who?
    -There is a mayor percentage of "costumers" that love anime style, because of the design versatility etc..and becuase they think the old style is getting to old.

    -Theres people that totally despise Anime and will look at it for a second and turn away

    -Theres also a mayor percentage that loves american/european style, they feel that the realism and detail play a much better part in making a story or a game etc...and as anime, people that dislike the style will quickly turn away after realizing the style ( in bouth cases they wont even consider the design....is like when a kid says he doesnt like fish.....no matter how you make it, he wont eat (even if he only ate it once)...no matter if the most delicious fish in the world.........heheh that little funny things humans do about "taste")

    Well next is the age...that one is tricky, you can always thin on making something simple and more cartoony for kids, becuase they dont have concepts entirelly clear, and they can get lost in detail, though kids today demand more quality and detail.....and people in general demand more quality and more detail ( not only "rendering" detail, also concpet detail...making your piece mean something...or be because of something....but thats for later )

    AND theres a big percentage of dumb people that dont want to think at all, just be entertained....you can show them flashy objects and move them around....or just make the things as "popular" as you can...of cource anything made for this crew will be forgoten in time...quickly...is like feeding them french fries, they like it but is unhealthy, and they keep getting fatter and fatter, and after they are done, they will want onion rings, tons of it....and then some nachos. Also for the dumb kids that will become this dumb people, is like feeding them candy....sure is good, easy to sell, they always want more and they will cry for it....but how about the dentist´s bill
    ( But this is dying..thank god.......or is it O_- )

    Well then, after this ...composition, design, and context...think your concepts, play with the colors, think deeply each character/ world you create...etc

    There is some trick in color for example, red and pink are balance breakers in color composition, green is a perfect balance.....then you can see wish colors have the same visual weith with each other, like yellow/purple, orange/blue, etc...then is temperature...and psicological effects of that colors ( for example, a yellow room is a nice place to have diner, you feel warm and welcome...and happy ......a blue room is kinda desesperating..you feel cold, wet, like drawning...is the perfect color for people that stay in your house and you want them to leave as fast as possible )

    In here, your word will be judged on "how is done", for other people you need to create a context for the piece, you have to make it clear enought so you dont have to escuse or explain yourself, if they dont get it, they wont like it...thats why you might make a great robot, but industrial looking in an industrial kind of world, and you can create a context for it, if is complex, the people that wont like it is becasue they didnt quite get the full of it..they might say "is lame" or some word that means absolutly anything..like most people are used to use when they save themself the work of making an argument....but theres going to be people that WILL get it, they will give you arguments about why they like/hate it

    Thats all

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  13. #12
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    Great thread topic - although an insanely difficult one to answer compounded by the fact that multiple questions have been asked in one shot.

    From my experience a good design and a cool design are two completely separate things completely non-related to each other. I've seen good designs that are extremely functional and low cost to create, but look like dog snot because they haven't been rendered to the nth degree.

    Likewise, a totally shot design os say a car can look tits because of the rendering, but if the wheel arc is so low that the wheel is unable to articulate on the y-axis or if there is insufficient air scoops to force out heat from the engine compartment, its a poor design.

    Cool is also, as mentioned in one of the other posts is dependant on context, what looks good now, might look shite to another generation of designers, just as some designs from yesteryear look like the work of too much marijuana in the mahogany pipes of some conceptualists. Tastes change inexplicably over time, and at different rates, there are lots of reasons, politics, social requirements, psychography etc etc.

    Its difficult to predict what will appeal to people in the future, all we can hope to do is appeal to the consumers and viewers of today, but there is of course the overstepping of the line as well, thats when cliche happens. Since the creation of the iMac, how many things of all shapes sizes makes and models do you see with interchangeable everything in bright gaudy colors? Everything from TVs to dildos, thats just an obvious case of overdoing something until it becomes a parody of itself.

    There is of course fundamentals that are time tested, and thus completely required as the basis of good and cool design - a union more often than not, seen together about as frequently as a Klan rally in the middle of harlem. Well okay, i exaggerate, but you get my point.

    The fundamentals of composition, color theory, value, function over form (in the case of product design), etc etc are all nessesary tools from which to better tackle a highly subjective matter of style.

    Its the reasonwhy michaelangelos work is timeless, its why Andrew Loomis continues to be one of the most influential teachers of all time, its why the model T ford, does not seem as out of date as a 1982 Toyota.

    When in doubt, get back to the basics, thats my theory.

    Goddamn, did I even come close to staying on topic?

    m

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  14. #13
    They're sems to be universal principles, but it also seems that within those principles, some designs are respected more than others depending on who is viewing it.
    Chris, I think it's obvious we won't find a piece that's EQUALLY enjoyed by EVERYONE. It has to do with how many times each person has seen the kind of art in question. As much as we don't want to be judgemental, experienced artists seem to pretty much agree on what makes for "good" art (balance, variety, simplicity, rhythm, etc.). For me, if I'm not SURE the piece I'm doing rocks, then it's not complete. Thus if half the people who see my piece love it and half are bored by it, then some problem is visible enough that half the people see it. No piece will be loved by everyone but, like I said, artists usually agree on what great stuff is.

    Andrew Murray
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  15. #14
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    Art creates problems, Design solves problems.

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  16. #15
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    Sammy and many others hit it on the head. I just worry that you might be thinking too much about it. There is an audience for everything.

    In my opinion, the best, most popular designs (music, art, etc.) are the ones that incorporate a little of everything.

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  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilaekae
    Design is problem solving, and the solutions don't have to be pretty. They have to work.
    * bingo *
    That actually sums it up pretty nicely : ]

    There's never going to be a 100% pure/perfect methodology to designing for us, simply because peoples' tastes are constantly changing and unpredictable ... If everyone had a nice little road-map for conceptualizing, then we wouldn't call it designing - we'd call it 'making'

    Another example I look towards (as far as this forum demographic is concerned) is my personal profile --- Now that we're able to upload our own portfolio images, we get a chance to see how many views each image gets...
    Now I'm mostly centered on creating mechanical-design, some creature, and some environment - it's obvious that my design interests never truely lead to character/costume....
    But 95% of this forum (and the concept-design industry as a whole) is more focused on character, costume, human anatomy --- So naturally, the only human sketches uploaded in my portfolio get the most views (not counting the image that is immediately uploaded) ...
    No matterr how hard I try on mechanical and creature works they will never fully satiate the majority of this forum's casual members.
    Simply put, most people here do characters and they want to see other designers' characters for stimulation ... And if I want to become a 'better' designer on this forum I should do more characters and work harder at them.


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