Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thinking About Technology From A Design Perspective

There are any number of ways that technology can look, from alien and organic at one end to hard and metallic at the other. As an illustrator, one of the hardest problems to deal with is the technology. Before settling on the look of it, you need to ask the writer some very basic questions. These questions will determine how the technology looks in the comic and what kind of models you should be looking at. These three questions are:

Before we get going it needs to be noted that the level of technology is superfluous here. Once you have established something as a laser rifle, all that matters is that it fires a laser ray; there are a practically infinite ways that it looks. The same applies to almost any kind of technology, allowing two crossbows to have the same function but look completely different. It's just important to decide on some basics before getting to the design phase.

1) What is the tone?
The tone of the piece needs to be reflected in the technology. The more geared towards horror it is, for example, the more likely it is to be more organic in feel, while a more clinical story requires hard tech. On the other hand, something for kids or comedy will have more curves, brighter colors, and look more plastic. The tone helps define a lot about the look of the comic, so that decides need to be defined first and foremost when it comes to designing even the basic appearance of even the small details of your comics.

2) What is the genre?
Different genres have different expectations, and those expectations should be reflected in the comic. This should not be seen as a limiting factor, but more as giving your audience what they expect. You can't do a superhero comic without having a lot of glowing tech with Kirby crackles, just as you can't have science fiction without clean lines. If you are doing something dystopic your technology should be dirty and gritty. If you are doing something in a fantasy vein, you should have a lot of glowing things. Your readers are coming in with certain expectations, and you should try to honor those expectations.

3) How much technology is out of place?
Let's look at some real-life examples here, such as smart phones at an Amish farm; Amish kids are not as out of touch with today's technology as it may seem. Consider cargo cults, and how much of the technology from airplanes are on some islands where they crashed. The same applies to just about any genre, such as Klingon knives in Federation space or a katana wielded by a barbarian. You're going to have something that doesn't fit; you should decide on how prevalent it is and then run it through the other two questions.

Those questions should help you decide on the look of your technology that looks the best for your comic and give it a nice, consistent look. So ask the questions, no matter how embarrassing they may seem. 

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