From Paper to Production – How to Convey a Concept Through Design

Having the ability to illustrate concepts can be a huge advantage in your industry. Illustrations are essential to selling a concept, as they can provide a visual representation of an idea, as well as provide blueprints for how an event or product should look. This quick guide will discuss when to use illustrations and how to use them to tell a story. 

Thumbnail Sketches

When deciding what your sketches will convey, it’s important to decide on the subject or focal point of your illustration. Each illustration’s purpose is to capture a moment or scene of an important subject you want your audience to see. Before diving in, make a couple quick doodles on paper, highlighting the important elements of your concept. By doing so will help you decide on the direction of your illustration.

Types of Sketches

Before diving into an illustrative piece, it’s important to decide what style works best for your concept. This will be determined based on the subject of your idea serving the illustration’s purpose. For example, are you showcasing a product that people are interacting with? Or are you capturing the layout of an event? There are many ways to go about designing a piece, before starting it is important to determine what design style to move forward with. The three most common drawing categories are aerial perspective, storyboards, and subject sketches.

Aerial Perspective

A landscape drawing on a plane, that shows depth & dimension (TBS Wrecked Island, San Diego Comic Con)

Storyboard Sketch

A sketch that captures the tone of an environment or a setting. ( Dr. Who Experience, San Diego Comic Con)

Fabrication Sketch

Drawing that focuses on the structure or build of an object or person. (Universal Studios, Secret Life of Pets 2)

Telling the Story

What is it that you want your illustration to convey? What moment is it that you are trying to capture? These are the two most important questions to ask yourself when deciding on a design direction. For example, if your concept is an interactive piece that draws in crowds, you will want to focus your scene on that fabricated piece. Capturing that “scene” may require you to fill in a crowd of people buzzing around the interactive piece. Keeping your crowd figures loose and vague, will naturally fill the space without directing too much attention to the crowd.  

Story Telling Sketch - GDX Studios

Color or Grayscale? 

Illustrations don’t always have to be in full color to convey a mood or be appreciated, sometimes working in grayscale can be equally as powerful. At times, especially with preliminary drawings, grayscale illustrations are acceptable and achieve the same objective. Defining your illustration’s purpose can help you decide whether or not color is necessary. Is it a preliminary drawing you are working on? Or the final piece? What is the turnaround time for your illustration? These are all important factors to consider, before jumping straight into color. 

Incorporating color can be tricky and time consuming if you don’t already have a system. I recommend deciding on a color palette for each illustration before adding any color. When doing so, consider the setting, genre and tone of your illustration. Take a moment to consider how you might want your audience to feel when viewing your illustration. Is the setting mysterious and intimate? Or loud and bursting with energy? I personally like to work within analogous color schemes. I find that when using a series of colors that blend well together, it’s easy to maintain control and balance within my work. 

By using color detail sparingly, you can control the focal point of your illustration. Try washing single tones of color over areas that the audience doesn’t need to focus on, such as crowds of people, surrounding buildings, and backgrounds. Doing so will create depth in your illustrations, and naturally direct your audience’s eye to where you add detailed color and highlights. 

Black and white vs color rendering - GDX Studios

Including Your Client’s Brand

Although incorporating branding sounds like a selling point, it can quickly become a turn off if done incorrectly, especially with preliminary illustrations. With that being said, it is important to keep things vague and loose. Try roughly sketching in logos and materials relating to your client’s brand, with a basic wash of color. You will want to avoid adding too much detail or color to branded areas. Your job as a concept artist is to capture a moment as a whole, there will come a time later down the road, when branding is discussed and detail to those elements will be called for. For the first and second round of designs, try to focus your illustration on grasping the look and feel of your concept, and illustrate a scene that tells the brand’s story.

HBO Deadwood Sketch - GDX Studios

Using Sketches to Support Your Experiential Strategy

Having the ability to sketch out and create scenes from scratch gives you flexibility that you may not have when working within design programs. It also adds a touch of uniqueness and originality to your proposals, helping you to stand out from the competition. It is always good to keep a journal at your side, where you can scribble down doodles and reference sketches for ideas that come to mind.

With time and practice, you will find that getting your ideas out on paper can be a seamless and rewarding process.

experience-good | GDX Studios