Saturday, 11 February 2012

Elements of game design, part two: art direction for games

When I think of 'art director' I think of someone who does just that, they direct the way something looks, flows and feels artistically, whether it be a video game or a film. During our last critical studies group we watched some of the development interviews from Black Hawk down and I found them really interesting. I have always really liked Ridley Scott's work and the films he works on but haven't always understood exactly why I enjoy them so much. Learning more about him through interviews with people hes worked with was eye opening. I think an important part about being an art director is having strong roots in art yourself and being able to visualise and then communicate this well and I think this is something Ridley Scott can do.
Due to his artistic background he has a fantastic understanding of light and how to use it in his films to give the most effect and feeling. People find him much better to work with because he can communicate his creative vision through drawings, something other art directors might not be able to do.

Ridley Scott

I know there is more to being an art director than I realised, so I looked for what exactly you need to do to be one in the games industry today. This is a job listing at one of EA's studios -


Art Director - Gothenburg
The Art Director is responsible for the visual style and quality of all assets created by the team. This includes in-game and front-end menu assets, web sites and branding.
Responsible for the initial high concepts behind visual style, the Art Director communicates their vision by creating key drawings, concept images, mood boards, colour swatches, documentation and example assets.
The Art Director works with the project’s Senior Producer to ensure the art direction fits with the overall project goals and they also work closely with the team’s game and web artists to realise this vision.
Given this is a small, nimble team with a start up mentality, the Art Director needs to be ready to get their hands dirty by also contributing to the production of game, menu and web assets.
You will also be actively involved in hiring new art staff into the team, as well as liaising with contractors and outsourcing groups.

You have a deep understanding of several 2D and 3D software packages. An advanced understanding of motion principles and/or training in areas such as classical animation. During your 3+ years of professional experience you have been responsible for leading and inspiring art production teams. To join our team, you must demonstrate solid communication and problem solving abilities. You must be strategic, as well as have an eye for detail and commitment to deadlines, delivering high quality art on time and on budget.

Experience and Qualifications
• Prior games industry experience or film/television production, or on line experience are each a major plus
• Prior experience as Art Director or Lead artist is preferable
• Solid understanding of art and development practises
• Broad interest in aspects of visual art outside of video and computer games

Demo reel requirements
• Conceptual communication
• Composition
• Colour
• Light
• Motion
• Front End and Typography
• Presentation skills
• Craftsmanship
• Breadth of creative styles.

Jonathan Jacques-BelletĂȘte,
Art Director for Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Wow. Although its great to set your sights high, being an art director seems beyond me right now. I might well get there at some point but given what they have to do I'm not sure I'd ever want to! The art director is responsible for the visual style and quality of all assets created by the team, this includes in-game and front-end menu assets, web sites and branding. That seems like alot of responsibility and not something I'm sure I'd ever want to take on. The art director is tasked with visualising and communicating an idea and then bringing together everything that is produced to unify the vision. The art director is in charge of the overall visual appearance and how it communicates visually, stimulates moods, contrasts features, and psychologically appeals to a target audience. In smaller development groups the art director is also tasked with producing artwork or 3D assets along with everything else so they need to have a good working understanding of both 3D and 2D. Art directors, in short then, are very talented people! They require a huge amount of vision and knowledge and the ability to lead and inspire other people, with years of experience in the industry.

An interview with the art director behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution!