Ok, so we are all friends here, right? We can talk openly and honestly with each other, right? Good. Over the course of the past week and weekend, I decided to design a Resort themed to Mario and, on the whole, it was ok. If I had to rate it, I would give what I produced a big, fat meh. I don’t want to be too critical (a bad habit of mine) but I do need to be critical. The point of doing these projects is so I can learn, and being honest with myself about what went wrong is the best way to do that. More important than understanding what went wrong, it’s important that I understand why it went wrong so that I can do better next time.
First I’d like to begin by talking about what went right.
So then, on to what went wrong…
I kid, I kid! But not by much. My absolute favorite part of my design is the “future expansion” area in the shape of a “W” for a hotel based on Mario’s evil twin, Wario. I’ll explain why I like it so much later, but for now let’s just say I think it is a great example of what storytelling through design is all about.
Now on to what went wrong (for reals this time). I left the actual task of painting until quite late in the week (by design). I spent most of the week thinking and “researching” (i.e. playing video games). Things looked good in my head and my little sketches looked ok, but problems showed up once I finally started to paint. I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about architecture and even less about hotels, and this negatively impacted both my design and my rendering style. Since Mario’s world is a big, goofy, cartoony land, I wound up painting everything in a big, goofy, cartoony way. This would be fine if I was designing a cartoon, but the project called for a resort, a thing that needs to be built in the physical world. While the pieces weren’t meant to be blueprints, I still need to get a sense of environment and atmosphere across that has some physicality to it.
The obvious solution here is to begin painting earlier. Not only will this allow me to spot problems sooner, but it will help me produce better design overall. Essentially I took my first painting of the hotel and, because of time constraints, was forced to make it my last painting of the hotel. Ideally you want to try out as many designs as possible in a loose and quick fashion and start to reign in that design through subsequent paintings. Big, broad ideas early and then gradually refine. This is what concept art is for and I somehow forgot that entirely.
The project’s biggest shortcoming, I feel, is that it is simply unimaginative. There are some cute bits here and there, like my little packet of 1-up coffee (I admit I did like that), but not much that I would call a standout.
I mentioned earlier that my favorite part of the design was the “future expansion” shaped like a “W.” I think it is my most clever bit of design by far, and it’s something that isn’t even there! In fact, that little gag is the whole reason why the hotel maintained its “M” shape. That little space implies alot of things and really gives the viewer permission to fill in the gap.
Many fantastic artists, like Rembrandt, Craig Mullins or Herb Ryman, paint extraordinary detail where they need it, but leave other parts vague. Whether we want to or not, our brain begins to fill in the gaps and we slowly discover an entire world in our heads that is only implied by a few quick brush strokes. Themed environments can work this way as well by knowing which details should be stated, and which should just be implied so that the guest can discover their own world.
What would a Wario hotel be? Maybe some kind of reverse negative image of the Mario hotel? Maybe the cast of people working the two resorts would put on opposing shows every night. Maybe they would fight over who had control of the pool. Maybe one side would take over the other hotel, “vandalizing” elements to make it more themed to the other guy. It leaves room for you to finish off the story and we all know that our own stories are always the best ones.
I’m not saying that I need to leave big, gaping holes in everything that I paint, but the key thing here is to learn to be aware of the psychological implications of my design.
How do I fix this? What is the solution? Easy. Do more projects. Luckily for me, the next one is on deck.