Saturday, January 24, 2009

tight spaces get larger

Crawling on one's belly among cobwebs and God-knows-what-else under a house within 5 miles of the Hayward fault is one of many reasons to defer structural maintenance. A kindly friend demonstrated the enthusiasm and curiosity necessary to make a good study and to sustain the yogic postures required for exploration. By the 5th visit (with benefit of lantern, knee pads and elbow pads) what WAS creepy became so spacious and familiar that I could channel my newbie inner film crew.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

view selection

Information one gets about the context of an image's presentation will inform view selection. Choosing good views is half the job. Which view best invokes what my clients wish to project? From what eye level is the project experienced by its user? What season or time of day will create a positive attachment to the audience? In what light does the design look best? Is a 3D model available for seeing the overall project, or is an aerial necessary? I try not to lie about the volumes. It's not necessary to make a ceiling taller, a room wider, omit columns or add landscaping that is too many years forward. The way linear perspective works, a given view implicates the viewer in a scenario and positions him or her exactly where the client wants. If one has to make multiple views to see the "whole" space, all the better. In that case, the viewer gets the brain-candy task of knitting sequential views with his or her own imagination. Choosing views is very powerful.

Monday, January 12, 2009

the interview process

Before we were spoiled by digital 3d modeling,
a perspectivist had to be judicious about choosing views.
If a proposed view was rejected, reconstruction could take hours! To avoid redraws, I developed two steps: the interview and view selection. Despite a technological revolution, this prelude remains crucial to creating useful presentation tools for my clients. It's still time-efficient to avoid redraws, but the unintended benefit of these steps is an awareness of the viewing context.


It's short-sighted to ignore the intended audience of an illustration. A concept illustration aims for a particular business outcome. I make every effort to interview the person who will be showing the drawing, the person "taking the heat" -- who is not always the designer. I question aspects of the design that will inform the illustration: should it reflect the visitor experience, the owner experience, the tenant experience, the customer experience, etc? What are the speakers' goals for the presentation? Are there any discussions we don't want to trigger?
What kind of light will best reinforce the presenter's message? What acoustic qualities of the space can be disclosed with visual cues? Who'd be in this space and how are they using it? The answers are not always what's assumed at first; this process examines the designer's objectives relative to those of the presenter.

A computer model does not perform this service.

As computer-generated perspectives became widely available in the 90s, I expected requests for hand-drawn renderings to disappear. Instead, a steady stream of commissions began: to re-create digital presentations that failed! Like structural engineers who visit earthquake sites or roofs collapsed by snow, asking why failure occurred can be very enlightening. On digital re-do projects, the interview process often turns up answers.


Friday, January 9, 2009

struggling with words

A colleague is working on what promises to be a USEFUL text on perspective drawing. He's solicited thoughts from a few other illustrators. One of his questions: what visuals are your clients asking for?
4 hours later, having reviewed more past work than anticipated, it seems some of the words belong on this blog:

Familiarity with free-hand perspective and figure drawing allows me to make fast, loose but accurate sketches. My clients sometimes achieve their goals by showing the preliminary sketches and there's no need to go to final. I may lose a bigger commission, but I have a returning client.

The high detail and defined edge cues from 3d software often lead the audience off-target. The psychological/emotional impact of that type of image gets in the way. For example, the goal of a presentation may be to vet a project that's schematic. Computer-generated images look anything but schematic! A hand-drawn sketch-over can stylistically dial back the perceived design process, encouraging participatory, not defensive, viewer feedback. The handmade sketch distills information in a uniquely human way. Whether informed by photograph, digital model, napkin sketch or client description, it creates a volumetric space whose attributes are shared with the viewer at the illustrator's discretion.