Friday, 10 February 2012

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

What is an Art Director?
The art director is a person who supervises the creative process of a design. The term 'art director' is a blanket title for a variety of similar job functions in advertising, marketing, publishing, film and television, the Internet, and video games.

Various artists may create or develop specific parts of an art piece or scene; but it is the charge of a sole art director to unify the vision. In particular, 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. The art director makes decisions about visual elements used, what artistic style to use, and when to use motion. One of the most difficult problems that art directors face is to translate desired moods, messages, concepts, and underdeveloped ideas into imagery.

In film
An art director works directly below the production designer, a large part of their duties include the administrative aspects of the art department. They are responsible for assigning tasks to people and keeping track of the art department budget and scheduling as well as overall quality control. They are often also a liaison to other departments; especially Construction, Special FX, Property, Transportation (graphics), and Locations Departments. The Art Director also attends all production meetings and tech scouts in order to provide information to the set designers in preparation for all departments to have a visual floor plan of each location visited.

In Video games
The Creative Director is responsible for the overall look and feel of a computer game, overseeing any high level decisions that affect how the game plays, looks or sounds. The position is a relatively new one within the games industry and has evolved out of the producer's role as this has shifted towards managing the process of completing a game on time and on budget.
The Creative Director's focus is ensuring the quality and style of the gameplay, artwork, music and audio assets that make up the final product. In many cases, the Creative Director is also the creator of the original game concept and characters, and so acts as the visionary who makes sure the finished game fulfils the initial goals.

 V. Matt Carofano the Art Director on Skyrim
At the start of a project, the Creative Director works with a small core team defining the framework of the game, with special attention placed on the artistic styling and any technical obstacles that will need to be overcome. As the game's development continues and more staff are added, the Creative Director works closely with the lead programmers, artists and designers to ensure all the code and art assets produced, as well as playable versions of the game, meet the initial vision and are of a sufficiently high quality. The Creative Director deals with issues arising such as new features and any major redesigning of characters and scenarios. Outside of the development team, the Creative Director acts as the game's advocate promoting it to executives who are not directly involved in production, such as the sales and marketing departments.

Becoming a Creative Director
There is no set route to becoming a Creative Director, but it is not an entry-level role. Creative Directors usually have over five years experience in a senior game development position, and have shipped commercially successful titles.
Many Creative Directors have previously worked as a lead artist or lead designer, while others come from a production background. They will have demonstrated exceptional abilities in terms of understanding how the different components of a game combine together to create the finished product.

Essential knowledge and skills
The most important skill for a Creative Director is to be able to inspire artists, programmers, producers, marketing staff, and others involved in the development process to make the highest quality product possible. In this respect, the Creative Director acts as the game's visionary during its development.
They also require the ability to make tough decisions that affect the game's schedule and budget as well as the look and feel of the final product.
Creative Directors should have a good understanding of the bigger picture of game development, including the impact of their decisions with respect to financial and managerial outcomes.

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