September 6, 2016 / Ben H. Rome

Finding Future-Forward Art

This post is the third in a series about the IH Professional Pathway program. Read the previous posts, “Transforming Perceptions” and “Creating Character.”

Last we met, we’d figured out our scope and direction, sketched out our character ideas, and begun sorting out the method of our medium. I’d like to expand on that for this installment, as it’s probably the most-asked question I’ve fielded since the rollout of the IHProPath project.

Why not photographs?

Part of the answer goes back to a concept I mentioned previously: “future forward.” By placing our characters and their scenes a bit forward in the future, we would not be beholden to the stricter details of today. I realized this early on during our character design brainstorms—one of my experts asked me what type of gas chromatography mass spectrometry devices we’d have shown in our student scene. I balked at that, because I first had to look up what that terminology meant!

It became fairly evident rather quickly that aiming for the “here and now” was not going to work. It would mean slavish adherence to every detail, to make sure we got it all absolutely correct. That process alone would add months, if not a year or more, to our tightening timeline.

It would also impact how we presented the images. Photography was the first consideration but it was soon pushed aside after considering the above implications. Never mind constructing the “perfect” scene with all details covered—finding the right subjects would also increase the project’s time. (And budget!) Rather than go into such mind-boggling detail, I turned to a mainstay I have used in my “other” life as a game freelancer: illustrative art.

Using artwork has a number of benefits, the biggest being the ability to create a future reality regarding workspaces, equipment, and backgrounds. By using real-world elements in combination with futuristic stylings, we would cement the image with relatable material for the audience while still conveying the idea of just-beyond-the-horizon technology.

Unsure what I mean? For an easy illustration, look at the tablet in the hands of Melinda, our Early Career Professional. The shape, size, and obvious use of the device easily tells you of its function. But by making the screen holographic and transparent, we’re seeing a common tool of today “futurized,” adding to the scene’s more advanced bend.

Notice the other object in the background, to the left of our futuristic tablet? You can easily identify it because it has a familiar shape and is a common item found in the setting of the piece—a fire extinguisher. You automatically processed its presence without actively searching it out, and that helped cement the entire scene for you. How many other items and actions can you spot in the entire piece?

So then, my next question: how difficult would it be to recreate this entire scene as a photograph? And if we could, imagine the cost! The illustration conveys a much richer and complex snapshot at a fraction of the cost of a photograph.

Of course, you need to make sure you’ve hired an artist with such skill and capabilities. Fortunately for AIHA, I have a few in my arsenal of contacts.

I quickly put together a Call for Artists document, which gave an outline of the project and a request for a (very) rough sketch based on a sample scene I provided. The Call then went out to several illustrators who have worked in various entertainment-oriented industries, such as comics, animation, video games, and tabletop games. While I did have a shortlist in mind, I wanted to see what this community could come up with.

A few artists responded to my proposal, and about half submitted sketches and follow-up questions. Much to my surprise and delight, Klaus Scherwinski, an artist I have worked with extensively on game product in the past, was one of the respondents. He requested a Skype call, during which he proceeded to not only ask great questions about the project as a whole, but also gave some creative suggestions that we’re incorporating in Phase II.

Klaus is an accomplished illustrator, and has worked as a creative artist for more than a decade. Based in Germany, he’s worked on comic books, game publications, and video game art, and had just begun branching into full-blown animation. When I found out he was not only available for the timeline of our project but also excited about participating in something revolutionary in a completely different industry, it was a no-brainer to tap him as our lead illustrator for the project.

It would be up to him to give life to our burgeoning vision.

Ben H. Rome

Ben H. Rome is AIHA’s Content Marketing Specialist.​


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