Almost exactly a year ago, I took on a project to design concepts for an original show, written by Aron Dunn.
SAM GAKMAN: "Crossing Guard to the Netherworld"
It was a pretty neat idea, and I hope the pitching went well. I made the poster above as a cover page, and a bunch of other cool designs along the way.
So let's take a tour of how the show's designs got to where they are! (And see if I can share anything I learned about freelancing).
First impressions: After reading the script, and seeing some doodles by the shows creator. I decided to give the designs something of my own flair. Something I hadn't seen in animation yet.
I thought it would be cool to do a lineless style, that looked halfway to cell-shaded. I imagined how interesting it would be to rig eyes like these.
I also was really liking the idea of getting away with solid colour implying silhouette, to subtly suggest texture. (Holly's hair)
Here's the lineup I handed in for the first pass.
It was a complete do-over. Which was fine. They definitely wanted line, and for the main character to feel more weird.
As a designer, you get a lot of those broad stroking adjectives in your critiques. And sometimes it's hard to know how to deal with them. Something like "I wish he had more energy", could mean "I always imagined him with curly hair". In an odd way, I think because people train themselves not judge others by their appearance. They also forget how to describe appearance.
The easy thing for me to do in those situations, is just throw a bunch of really rough designs out, and say... pick features off of these that you like. (Get them thinking in a physical appearance manner)
So that's what we did.
I always provide the original drawings they picked as reference, because it helps clarify that you made the changes. It also gives people the option of going back to an earlier design they liked, without having to pull up old files, that are maybe a week old at this point.
Once that was done, I made a pose sheet for the character, to test out the design.
Helmut went through a similar process. Just a bunch of fun varying designs, hoping to catch something that they liked.
When you get critiques, give them what they ask for, as best you can. And then always include what you think is best. If you're their designer, it's because they're paying you for your skill. What your gut feeling is telling you, tends to win out when all the options are on the table.
Number 9, was my "Ignore the critiques, go for what looks good" addition. I even subtly cheated by arranging the page to funnel the eye to that position. Manipulative?... yes... for everyone's good?... also yes.
Erik was awesome to work on at first. Big bold shapes. Simple clean silhouette. But cause, every shape on him influenced the perceived size of every adjoining shape, it became really difficult to change him subtly.
The producers on this were really nice to me. I know they could of futzed around with trying different beards and such on all the different face shapes (Because I was doing that to myself at the time). But because this was a pitch, and not a final show design, they were really lenient, and went for what was working best right now.
And besides, he was still cool to draw!
I can't remember why included the next image. But all I can think of is, I was supposed to reference Owen Wilson to design Lucas. He then turned out Hispanic?
Anyway, Here are the final designs! It was a really fun project. There were more sheets of drawings (and a bunch for colour palettes), but I have nothing else to say about them.
Since this project, I was rehired to design another pitch. So a year from now, I'll post something about that one.