I have been asked to make a Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s), buildings, landscape, characters, buttons, machines, and so this has made me a generalist in a lot of fields that many people have become experts in. Truthfully in a perfect video game making world this stuff would be handled by architects, fashion designers, industrial designers and graphic designers who are the real students of their trade. Maybe that will be done in the future but for now it’s up to young artist’s to bring their own, and perhaps naive aesthetics to each game.
Thinking about the vastness and nuance of these fields is a little scary when you have to do a whole game by yourself. But I have an old truism that helps me get started on my designs.
FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to raise Video Game art out of it’s traditional Low Brow Role, but in my little company we have to make decisions very very fast. So I like philosophies that help to drive correct decisions.
People often tell me that my job is subjective because it’s based on what I like. I have to explain to them that this is simply not true. I am a problem solver. I attempt solve a myriad of Video game art problems. I also have a team who works with me who will question my ideas and conclusions hopefully tightening up any loose ends that I may have missed.
When they critique my work, and I theirs, I like to steer the conversation in along the following path.
1) Does the art function?
2) Does the way it look enhance the function?
3) Is it beautiful?
I was looking around for blog posts on this subject, specifically as it relates to video games. I found an interesting article from the New York Times for anybody who might want to continue to question these ideas.
Joking aside, the dislocation of form and function has set a new challenge for designers: how to help us to operate ever more complex digital products. In ye olden days when form did follow function, you could guess roughly how to use an object from its appearance. But our ability to work out how to download and play music on a Shuffle is largely determined by the design quality of the software that operates it — the “user interface” in geek-speak, or “U.I.” If the “U.I.” is well designed, you should be able to use the device so intuitively that you will not have to think about it. But if it is badly designed, the process will seem so confusing that you will probably blame yourself for doing something wrong.
The Author is questioning the new forms in things like the cell phone and computers in general and how they have yet to enhance their functionality. It has been left to us… The artist’s working on the (applications) games to enhance the functionality. Sounds like an interesting area of study to me.
The next phase of U.I. design will take this further. John Maeda, the software designer and president of the Rhode Island School of Design, believes that our current “awkward mechanical dance” with computers will be replaced by an intuitive approach. “It will need to be more improvisational,” he said. “There will be a need for more subtlety and grayness.
So the future of our work is going to get even more crazy as we attempt to make our games even easier to play. As the keyboard is not longer the first choice for interacting with our devices. Like the Wii. It’s more fun because of the way we interact with it.
I also like this take on it from Graphic-Design.com
That’s right it’s just like you trying to ditch your little brother at the mall there is no escape — “Form Follows Function”. This simple phrase carries nearly as much weight in graphic design as in architecture and in industrial design (and video games) – added by me. It has been the mantra of many of the greatest designers of the 20th century. Several years ago it was given a new twist by John Bielenberg who wrote “Deform Follows Disfunction” (no “dis” is not a type-o). Bielenberg’s post-modern twist seems more applicable then the original in today’s world where even the top design schools are advising their students that “form follows passion” and rather than asking yourself what is good design ask yourself “do I like it”. I think do I like it still applies, but only after you follow the first tenant.
“The function is largely the challenge of a project. Addressing the function is what makes design good or bad. If you remove the function, you remove the foundation and in all likelihood you’ll end up with a really crappy building (interface or game). Even in fine art a piece will inevitably have it’s roots in reason. Many of the great artists of our day and of days long past have spent a large portion of their careers writing and lecturing on what these reasons are. Having a reason of some kind whether psychological, mathematical or what-ever, is largely what makes art legitimate. “I like it” would make for a pretty short or shallow career for even the most technically proficient of artists.”
That’s a great summary. I’ll just apply it to my next GUI or Character.
I find that if I try to study the tenants of those who came before us then I can come to a solution must faster and I can stand by my convictions. Also when the CEO or the programmer start to argue based on preference rather than whether it’s the best solution, I can just tell them, “form follows function, but yes I will change that button again.”
Calgary, Alberta Canada. Estimated population: 1,230,248.
Number of game development companies: 2-3 (depending upon how you define “game”).
With a world renowned computer science department at the UofC as well as the Alberta College of Art and Design, how is this possible? It’s a question I struggle with every single day of my life. With a myriad of companies in Vancouver and Montreal, Bioware up in Edmonton and a spattering of devs across Ontario and even a few notable companies in the Maritimes, how is it possible that one of Canada’s larges cities is almost completely void of game developers?
There have been a few over the years that I’m aware of. I was even an employee at one of them. The problem is they always bite off more than they can chew, and when the going gets tough, good people move on. Some of us however don’t want to move on. Some of us have decided to root ourselves and our families here in Calgary and we’re not going anywhere.
After a couple years at Orbital Media followed by close to five years at GamesCafe, I now find myself at BigStack Studios. We’re making iPhone / iPod Touch games. The internal development side of BigStack is currently very, very small and is made up completely of people who are rooted in Calgary.
I feel an incredible amount of pressure to make BigStack a place that is associated with Calgary. I also feel like it’s certainly in part up to me to make BigStack a fantastic place at which talented people want to work at.
Are there any other people out there living and working in Little Big Cities? I’d love to hear from you.
Are there any other rooted Calgarians out there that want to or are struggling to make games? I’d love to hear from you as well.
Daniel Kratt, Senior Designer