PERSPECTIVE | Viscom Skills (Part II / II)

Today, the Internet provides car design students with an endless well of inspiration to draw from.  However, the vast expanse of the web is not always conducive to the preservation of “lesser-known” Viscom techniques.  My personal theory is that most students draw their Viscom inspiration from the most popular works – those that get the most Google hits, for example. Naturally, this can have a homogenizing effect on drawing styles at the student level and contribute to the narrowing of those styles.  With this theory in mind, let’s consider some of the more traditional ways in which techniques are developed, modified and preserved for future designers.


By Necessity

Being an automotive interior designer by trade, I am well aware of the crucial role that materials can play – not just in design, but in the visual communication of a design.  It’s very important that the viewer be able to clearly distinguish one material from another (this principle is explored in OSV, tutorial number 4).  The point is that occasionally, you may find that you have to render a specific type of material that you’ve never tried to render before.  In this case, you may find it necessary to invent a new Viscom technique, specifically geared for this material.  As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.  For example, I used to illustrate textured leather by placing my portfolio case under a drawing and burnishing the grain onto the page with a pencil.  The same technique could be applied to exterior elements; the backside of a bicycle reflector can be quite helpful when creating quick grille textures.  In most college level Viscom courses, a strong emphasis is placed on learning how to render a common array of materials such as wood, chrome, brushed metal, polished metal, translucent plastic, etc.  Having a base knowledge of how to render materials like these is critical for any industrial designer.  Apart from OSV, there are also some great workbooks that can help you establish your own baseline.  North Light Graphic Workbooks, for example, published an excellent series of marker tutorials by Lee Woolery in the late 1980s. These tutorials are broken down into four separate categories:  Basic Skills, Rendering Reflective Surfaces, Textured Surfaces, and Illustration.  You may find copies of these books on Amazon or eBay.


By Sharing

When I was in grade school, we used to play a game called “telephone” – a student would come up with a message and whisper it in the ear of whoever was sitting next to them. Then that student would whisper what they heard to the next student, and so on.  By the time the message got to the last student, it sounded quite different from what it started out as.  The lasting impression I get from this game is that an idea or a concept is inevitably changed, altered, and in some cases, improved upon as it passes from one person to another.  I have found this is also the case with visual communication.  The Canson splicing technique that I teach today was taught to me when I was in school, but in a slightly different way.  It was primarily used to delineate automotive glass from sheet metal. For  example, if you were rendering a car on blue Canson, you could splice in orange or red Canson for the windshield and window portions.  This made distinguishing the glass from the sheet metal easier and, overall, made the drawing far more exciting.  Later, it occurred to me that the splicing technique could have much wider applications:  Hard shadows, race car graphics, tires, headlamps, the list is seemingly endless.  So now, when I teach this technique to my students, I’m not only keeping it alive for another generation, I’m giving it a new dimension going forward.  The same dynamic can occur when an analog technique is transferred to a digital environment.  For example, some students try to emulate the look of vintage sketches by using special brushes in Photoshop.  In doing so, they evolve the look and the technique in a way that the creator likely never envisioned.  But no matter what the original intent of the technique was, the act of sharing that technique can have a rejuvenating effect  –-  one that ensures it will be around for years to come.

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