After 10 years of designing sports products, industrial designer Eelco Siebring has opted for quite the career change. No longer designing sporting equipment, he now works as the lead designer and 2D layout artist for Undone, the upcoming, and quite unique, animated series on Amazon Prime centering around a girl named Alma as she interacts with time to solve the mystery behind her father’s death. Here’s the trailer for some context:
So, how does an industrial designer fit into the world of cutting-edge ‘2D’ animation? According to a feature he did with Autodesk, designing products and sketching concept art are more similar than you might think. Using his own product sketches of a rice cooker as an example, he shows how both fields solve problems using a visual medium:
Both product design and concept art have one goal in mind: to appease the people paying the bills. Product designers want their ideas approved so a physical product can be manufactured and put into circulation while concept artists want their world to be fully realized in a movie, TV series, video game, or some similar form of artistic expression.
Siebring says this is where the biggest difference in the two fields lies. While product design is fixated on creating tangible, real-world objects to be used in the physical world, concept art allows for more creative freedom as the rules aren’t really set in stone. Depending on how the artist envisions the world, sketches could mimic the real world or reject it entirely.
He goes on to show how product design usually focuses on the production of a single, tangible item and the various rules it has to adhere to so it can function properly. On the other hand, concept art can cover anything from a single piece of flora to a fully-fleshed out world which bends to the rules you set. The scope of concept art is definitely bigger than product design, but when it comes to prop design however, Siebring says they are more similar.
He goes on and gives a number of ways a person can make a good design. For instance, a very traditional industrial design method focuses on creating various thumbnails, focusing on their proportions, and developing a couple of ideas until they are fully fleshed out.
Another example is to keep on working on a single idea until it covers every aspect you have in mind. Siebring uses a silhouette in this instance, starting from a shadow and developing the design until the final product is completed. While funneling your thoughts and efforts into a single train of thought can lead to some quick results, the biggest drawback is that this method does not allow for much creative freedom.
Lastly, he draws on concept art and names another process which combines different techniques to arrive at a result in the fastest time possible. Using references, making thumbnails, adding 3D models to your 2D sketches… this mish-mash of methods may seem messy, but it definitely works for some designers.