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Source Image Search Strategies, Concepting

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Step Two

No matter what you're creating concept art for, doing research to find source images is an essential beginning step. As I mentioned in the quote in my previous post, Google Image Search r0x0rs j00r s0x0rs! And then there's always the library, although it sometimes requires lateral thnking to figure out how to search for books that would have pictures of the type of object that your interested in. For example, while there are books about clothing in the fashion section, if you want ethnic clothing you may be better off looking for a National Geographic photobook about the appropriate country. If you want uniforms, you either have to look in the military history section or go to a hobby and game shop (or a museam gift shop) which carries coloring books about the different time periods and armies. If you want modern dressy clothing Elle and Vogue mgazines are the places to look ( elle.com has an awesome collection of runway videos). For any kind of specialty clothing currently being mass marketed, internet stores generally have great image collections.

Anyway, I'll assume that if you have the right combination of logic and creativity necessary to be a concept designer, you can also use those skillz to find yourself a pile of source images.

Step Three

Now comes the part that is at the heart of concept design - analyzing your source images to break them down into patterns and details, and then remixing these to create your own unique new designs. As far as I know there is no word for this process. I suppose we could just call it analysis, or even concepting.

So, what do I mean by patterns and details? Well, continuing to use clothing as my example, outfits of clothing have lots of properties: fabric type (weight, thickness, stretchiness, texture, cultural associations and symbolism e.g. for leather, denim, satin, gauze, lame (accent on that e), etc.), color and pattern including colorscheme, which is the relationship between the colors in the outfit, for which there's a whole field of study called Color Theory (and again, cultural meanings imputed to these colors, patterns, and color schemes, like snakeskin print, or red, white, and blue). And finally, shape which includes everything from different types of collars, fastenings, and edges, to how the article of clothing fits the model. For this last category there is an interesting thing called a Fashion Encyclopedia, but the examples of these that I have seen have disappointingly few illustrations, so I made some for myself, and now I'll share them with you:

generic blank for sketching clothing onto
simple (tube) garment bases at various lengths
terms for garment base hem lengths
simple neckline types
folded neckline types
tied neckline types
basic sleeve/leg types

Clearly this is not a complete listing of all the elements that can go into an article of clothing, but IMHO they're a useful place to start. And don't forget that, even more strongly than fabric and color, clothing shapes have very strong cultural associations. Just seeing the silouhette of a cowboy boot or hat, or a stiletto heel, or a victorian s-bend corset, or a turban, triggers a very powerful response in the viewer's mind and when combining shapes to make an outfit you must chose your combinations carefully - shapes with contradictory associations can cause your outfit to look mismatched or ridiculous.

That's all for journal enry 2. Next time tune in for sunandshadow's super brief summary of the Principles of Design!
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Wow, stumbling across your journal was like finding a hidden treasure in an amazonian jungle. Very good stuff. Please keep it up [smile]

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I concur with pan. This has to be the first methodical treatment of concept design I've ever read on the Internet.


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