Ch1 – Class 02
Thumbnails and Lineup
When one sets out to design a character they have to ask themselves a few questions:
Who is this character?
What is their purpose/function. Literally or within the narrative?
It can be very easy to lose track of your goals and get side tracked by the art itself. So repeating questions like these through the design process is a good way to stay on track.
With any character its important to take into account the read order. The read order is the hierarchy of focus for the audience. Were your eye goes first, second and third. By paying attention to how you group and separate different elements within your character design you can control the read very easily.
We can apply these rules of separation and grouping within a single character. This will help us to establish the priority of the read and keep a consistent art direction throughout the design. It also helps us to balance the weighing of the design. Busy areas vs rest areas.
Pirates of the Caribbean – the costumes for this film are insanely detailed and noisy. They consist of multiple materials and a hectic shape language. So how do you ensure the audience isn't detracted by the by all the busy bling?
In this example they are grouping a bunch of elements together within the costume silhouette, belts, pistols, different fabrics etc. The values and colors within the costume area are tight by design, ensuring low contrast and fairly consistent color. It allows the viewer to see it almost as one shape. It also allows our focus to be pulled to the characters face. As the highest point of contrast the face now becomes the first read.
Zelda – I love to look at Zelda as an example of self-control on the creators behalf. We have a game that in its original form had to contain simple designs to ensure some level of readability. But over time the creators have consistently come back to simplicity as the best option. The read is so clean and aesthetically pleasing. It ensures that all animations a clear and any accessories changes are easily noticeable. It adheres to a super tight style guide.
3 main groups are obvious, Gear, Base costume, and Head. Notes the Tunic color value choice that’s nicely pops the gear off the back.
Street Fighter has well define characters within a tight style guide. The simplicity of them works even well pulled back into pixel art form.
As costume designer it’s easy to get carried away and lose site of what the focus is and end up over designing. Remembering your initial goals is very important.
In rare cases it can also be desirable to lose focus within a design.Take these costumes by Galliano, they look awesome on the cat walk. But will anyone ever wear them? They are costumes for the sake of costumes. The focus is the costume and can seem confusing.
Dark Souls. The character designs in this game are confusion for game play sake. Half the fun of this game is working out what the enemy does and when they’ll do it. So the read is hidden with many of the creature designs for creepy effect.
TF2 for example separates its character with silhouette and secondary shapes and then groups them all back together with Color pallet and a strong style guide.
Predator groups its main protagonists together with color pallet and materials and then separates them also using color palette and also shape language.
MOTU groups its characters for different reasons. They are manufacturing a physical product and most likely want to reuse assets. Note the legs, furry shorts and arms are identical for the most part. The material and dimensions of each character are the same. Creating a very strong grouping and art style.
They separate their characters with strong color and minimal secondary shape changes. They have been successfully doing this trick for as long as I can remember, its genius.
The Walking Dead does a similar trick. All the characters for the most part adhere to a very strong style guide. Their silhouettes, secondary shapes and color pallet are consistent. This allows them to give separation between the characters at a glance, the audience is never confuse with who they are tracking on screen.
Simple reading clothes, no graphics, very little noise, muted color pallet. The focus for the most part is always channeled towards the face.
League of Legends is an interesting project. They make there money by selling different skins for their already massive roster. But in game-play its extremely important that each character is recognizable at a glance. A very tricky balance and it needs constant adjusting.
So with that we are back at thumbnails and lineups. Often with thumbnails we get the best read. Clear defined silhouettes, easily readable secondary shapes... only to lose it with detail in the later iterations. So when you are doing your thumbnails I want you to think about Grouping and Separating elements to ensure the audiences eye is where you want it to be.
- Iterating on very broad ideas in a short amount of time. Focusing on silhouette and secondary shapes.
- Outcomes - will include grouping and separation, establishing points of focus within a group and within individual characters.
- To compare and resolve ideas in a short amount of time. Adding more minor details. The
level of detailed required will meet the task.
- Outcomes - Establish the order of the read, establish style and art direction, weighting of the character or characters, costumes, color pallet etc.
Demo for thumbnails
3 x value
Demo for line up sketch.