Thursday, April 10, 2014

Graphic Designers Are Reading: Science Fiction

Inherit-the-StarsRecently I’ve been thinking about my most creative and productive periods of my life and what those moments had in common. In my youth I had great creative bursts right around the time I discovered an incredible new novel or motion picture that captured my imagination. One clue was thinking back to when a new SF (Science Fiction) blockbuster would arrive in theaters and most of my free time was spent with blank sheets of paper trying to recapture the visual aesthetics that I saw. I’m not sure if I was tapping into the inspiration or trying to mimic what what I saw with my own variations. Does it matter?

As I chronicled in my earlier rant (Remembering Frank Herbert) I was inspired to go even deeper into my own imagination and tried to create things inspired by what I read. I had no real “visual” queues other than the cover art and it’s font. Everything was from what I was interpreting from the text, period. My vision of the landscapes of worlds like Caladan, Ix, Giedi Prime and especially Arrakis were either similar to what other readers envisioned thanks to concept art by concept artist John Schoenherr or totally different.

I was amazed by the differences that I saw when I talked with other artists who were trying to draw the same things. 

That’s the amazing thing about actually reading science fiction – your version of “a world beyond your imagination” could be totally different than my “world beyond your imagination.” My idea for the Atreides crest were similar to many other artists because of the description and different in some ways thanks to our own interpretations. This is neither good nor bad – it’s the creative process.

DUNE is just one example of a book that ignited my imagination. There are dozens of other books that I’ve read that caused me to just start drawing. Currently I’m working on yet another project and I’m listening to “Inherit The Stars” via Audible and the ideas just keep flowing. Why is it important for Graphic Designers to read Science Fiction? What does my source of inspiration have to do with you and our other fellow graphic designers?

Without a doubt – and I know I’m reiterating a point that I’ve already made in other rants– SF expands the mind and increases imagination. An author takes you to another place via his words and your mind has no other choice than to try and fill in the blanks and create the “movie in your mind.” Especially if you’re a creative, our minds are specifically built to create something out of nothing, filling a vacuum that nature abhors.

The best suggestion that I can give is for graphic designers to get their hands on any good SF book and actually start reading and see where it takes you. Let the book take you to somewhere new where you’ve never been before, especially if you’re new to the genre or haven’t been able to enjoy it in the past. Keep a sketch book near by and just see what happens. I know that winter is behind us and the majority of us have or long reading days behind us until next December – but just bring your book and pad with you to enjoy the warmer weather during spring cleaning breaks.

If you try this experiment (read some good SF and see where it takes you creatively) please send me some of your results. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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