Toy Tech: Emotional Impact



Visual development art for feature film, © 2016 Dreamworks.


In talking to a group of design students, I was amazed how many of them were eager to learn new techniques, both conventionally and digitally. It’s great to see people excited about trying new things and pushing creative limits.

With all of the techniques out there, the most common question I get asked is how to put emotion into ideation sketches. Design schools can teach you the very complicated procedures of perspective and color theory, and even how to convey a three-dimensional look to your art, but emotion can only come from your heart and life experience.

To set your work apart from all of the other portfolios in the pile, you must successfully combine the technical with the emotional, by simplifying all of the design elements into a unified whole pointing toward one focal point and conveying a specific emotion.

Too much rendered detail will muffle the emotional impact, and too little technical ability, such as the lack of solid foundational drawing skills, will lower the perceived level of visual accuracy and communication.

The concept art posted in this article is a piece I did for a feature film. The assignment was to depict the main character lost within a cavern of ship wreckage that had to have the look and feel of a graveyard. He is lost and alone, yet hopeful.

The technical accuracy of the perspective drawing has to be correct to keep the modern, sophisticated viewer from being distracted, but the emotional impact was much more important. So, the surface details were indicated but not noodled-out to the nth degree.

Also, the lighting was simplified to create one focal point of major interest, even though great care was given to make sure the other areas had enough information to tell the story. The environment illustrated a graveyard, but still conveyed the feeling of hope, because the darkness was only a design element to support the beam of light.

Everything was positioned to point the eye toward the character. This included the ship wreckage, lighting and even the tonal shades of value—all leading the eye to a specific area of the set while conveying the proper emotions along the way.

Each sketch you do for your own product ideation assignments will have a specific purpose all it’s own, of course in this application, the idea/mech is the most important feature to represent. Be aware, however, emotional impact speaks as much to the viewer’s heart and creativity as the technical information speaks to the engineers who will build the physical toys.

So, as you would refine a presentation down to the most important keynotes, simplify your ideation art to convey the proper technical information, surface details and illustrated form with function in the most emotionally impactful ways.

If you pursue technical accuracy along with emotional impact, you’ll never get bored of your work or career. In fact, you’ll always be motivated to learn the latest tricks in Photoshop and Illustrator so you can push the through to the next level.


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