free parts

I haven’t had much time to work on 3d renderings lately, but I’m trying to tinker as much as I can so I don’t forget how to do this stuff. I’m not kidding – the intricacies of FormZ and Maya are so complex that I start forgetting things after only a few weeks of non-use. That need to keep tinkering is how this set of 3d renderings came to be. I wasn’t even trying to create a full set of images here…I just needed to do something to keep my 3d knowledge fresh.

Luckily I’ve got a pretty good system of pre-lit environments set up in FormZ that I can just dump objects into and render. Not having to set up environments from scratch saves a ton of time, which is really important to me these days. Time is something I don’t have much of anymore, so I’m taking advantage of anything that I can get! The downside to that is many of my renderings tend to look the same, so the balance of time and creativity (learning new things) is something I think about a lot. What’s more important? Spending 4 hours on one amazing illustration, or creating 10 in that same time period that are similar to what I’ve already been doing for years? I know that I’d learn a lot more by slowing my output and focusing on fewer (and better) images instead of trying to crank out as many as I can. But letting go of the feeling of needing to produce as much as humanly possible is hard to let go of, especially since that’s what the Norebbo brand was built on (in the beginning). But I’m getting off track here…

Free Time

Free Time

Free Help

Free Help

Anyway, these three renderings consist of various objects posing with bright red FREE tags. The one with the lifesaver is the one I like the most. It represents the concept of “free help”, which I think could be a useful image for anyone offering that kind of service. Please feel free to use the image to promote your own brand or product – and I’d love it if you send me a link showing how you used it!

MD-80 side view blank

Next up in my series of blank side view airliner templates is this McDonnell Douglas MD-80. Technically, this is also an MD-82, MD-83, and MD-88 because they all look the same from the outside – the only differences between them are technical and under the skin. So that means I just created three templates for the time it took to do one! :-) Seriously though, I researched all three aircraft rather thoroughly while doing this illustration, but I’d appreciate clarification from the experts out there as to whether or not they truly are identical. From all that I could gather, there are no obvious external differences.

md-80 line drawing

McDonnell Douglas MD-80 technical line drawing

You might also notice that just like my Embraer 120 Brasialia template, I decided to spend a bit more time on this and accentuate the shadows more than I normally do for these types of illustrations. Stronger shadows help to make the aircraft look more realistic, but I purposefully left off the gloss and reflections. That kind of stuff just gets in the way when adding color to these things if you aren’t working with the layered source files, and it’s always best to apply the bling after everything else is done. I can still remember my college viscom (visual communications) professor getting excited when he added the white gauche highlights to his demo renderings in class. I get that same feeling today when doing the same thing!

I’d also like to point out that I’m not completely finished with this MD-80 set. One particular aircraft that is pretty high on my to-do list is an American Airlines MD-83 in the bare metal livery. I can’t use the all-white template attached to this post, so that means that I’m going to have to create a bare metal version (just like I did for the DC-10 and 767-200). Those take a long time to create though, so I didn’t include it as part of this basic template set. But it is coming, and I’ll add it as an addendum to this post when complete.

I may also create another minor version of these with the cone tip at the rear of the fuselage (under the vertical stabilizer). These illustrations feature the more common “screwdriver” tail, but to make this set complete I’ll need to do the other version as well.

british airways 777 side view illustration

One of the most interesting things about being a visual designer is that it is very easy to track personal growth over the years. I learn something new with each illustration I create and it’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come! This British Airways 777 illustration is a perfect example of that. Let me explain…

I was quite proud of my British Airways A380 illustration two years ago when I created it, but comparing that drawing with this 777 is a night and day comparison. The Union Jack colors on my A380 are dark and muddy, and some of the details on the aircraft itself are too bold and heavy (such as the part lines). I’ve since learned to exaggerate colors a bit, keep the shadows light and transparent, and tone town the little details as much as possible. This helps to make the illustration to look more like a photo rather than a drawing, and I feel like I’m making pretty good progress with this stuff. I’m far from an expert at airliner art, but it’s fun to keep learning and refining my craft.

The flip side of all this growth is that it makes me feel ashamed about some of my older work and it’s difficult for me to resist the urge to delete it all from this blog. Of course I’m not going to do that – being able to see (and analyze) a linear path of growth and learning is an essential part of being a successful illustrator. But it still doesn’t make me feel comfortable!

Anyway, creating this British Airways 777 was fun – and challenging. I didn’t realize it before doing this illustration, but there are several versions of the Union Jack flag on these BA 777’s. The shape and complexity of the wave is different, and the newer version is a bit more wavy with smoother highlights. This illustration, by the way, features the older version on aircraft G-YMMS. I’m surprised they even made that change at all because I’m willing to bet that most people wouldn’t even notice that kind of thing.

united express emb-120

As strange as it may sound, this United Express EMB-120 was the motivation for creating a template for this aircraft in the first place. I know it isn’t the most exciting thing that I’ve ever illustrated, but I needed this airline/aircraft combo for a personal side project that has been neglected badly as of late. It feels good to be scratching items off my to do list!

Introduced by Pentagram in 1998, this blue “tulip” livery was never a favorite of mine. The contrast between the upper and lower sections of the fuselage makes the aircraft look bottom-heavy, and I’ve always thought that they should have incorporated that dark color higher into the fuselage. But we all know how badly dark-painted aircraft fade just after a few years, so I guess it was a smart idea to keep the top portion white. Especially since the United livery that preceded this one was dark gray (commonly referred to as the “battleship gray” scheme), which was starting to look downright horrible on many aircraft in their fleet by the time this livery was unveiled. I think they learned their lesson on that one.

My favorite look on this little Embraer has to be the bare metal SkyWest and Comair liveries that seemed to be everywhere in the late 1990’s. I’m convinced that a livery featuring generous amounts of bare metal can make any airplane look good – even this Brasilia! These are complex machines after all, and exposed aluminum really emphasizes all the cool little details.

Anyway, that side project I mentioned above is in need of two more EMB-120 illustrations: a United Express version in the battleship gray livery, and the bare metal SkyWest scheme. I’m not sure how soon I’ll get to those but you can bet that I’ll post them here once I finish.

emb-120 blank template

I’m slowly chipping away at my goal of building a large collection of blank airliner templates, and this EMB-120 illustration is my first turboprop. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to creating it, mostly because I’m not a fan of smaller aircraft such as this, and the 120 is not a very nice airplane to fly on (IMHO). It’s loud, cramped, and it’s small size means that it gets bounced around a lot in rough air. Thankfully, I may never have to ride on one of these things again as they’ll be gone for good by the end of the year (at least here in the US).

Having said that, I actually enjoyed doing these illustrations and my admiration for the EMB-120 grew stronger by the time I was finished. There’s some pretty neat engineering going on where the wing meets the fuselage (I love complex surfaces like that), and the organic/twisting form of the prop is very well designed. Not bad for an aircraft that was designed in the early 1980’s.

mb-120 line drawing

A technical side profile line drawing of an Embraer 120 Brasilia over a white background with and without the landing gear deployed

One final thing I’d like to note about the white version of this blank template is that I got a little bit carried away and I may have put too much detail into it. That’s not really a good thing, as the entire premise of these templates is to present a basic representation of the airplane that can be enhanced later when a livery is applied to it. Too many shadows and reflections can actually make things more difficult when applying color later, so it’s best just to keep things simple. My 757-200 template is a perfect example of that. The shadows are light and transparent, and I didn’t apply any gloss to the surfaces. I should have had the same restraint with this Embraer – but I’m going to leave it for now to see how things go.

What do you think? Do you prefer these templates to be more or less detailed?

movie delivery stock photo

I recently upgraded to the latest version of FormZ (v8), and finishing this set of stock illustrations featuring movie clap boards was the first time that I really got the chance to dive in deep and try out all the new features. These aren’t the first renderings I’ve created in the new version though – that honor goes to my Google+ mini-set, which I am still thinking about finishing (someday). I’ve got a lot of fun ideas for that one which should work pretty good when modeled in 3d.

I actually started this multimedia-themed clap board collection in FormZ 7 last summer. I never did get around to finishing all the renderings that were on my list, but I wanted to get it wrapped up, so I imported what I had created so far into the latest version and got to work. Importing old project files into the latest software always makes me nervous (will it even work??), and I did run into a couple issues here. The first (and most annoying) was that the parameters of my saved views were all messed up. The cameras were intact, but the viewing angles were not. I basically had to rebuild all my views, which is something I usually spend a lot of time on to get looking just right. The second issue I had was that all my texture maps were lost – so I had to manually re-map everything.

Other than that, I’m starting to like version 8 a lot. Of course it’s nowhere near as powerful as Maya is, but this is good 3d modeling software for creating simple (but great looking) renderings.

Anyway, this is an eclectic collection of images. Any one of them could be used in association with movie-production topics, but there are a handful that are more generic and would work well for anything related to multimedia in general.

movie addiction stock illustration

Movie Addiction

movie research stock illustration

Movie Research

movies on sale stock photo

Movies on Sale

car movie stock photo

Car Movie

movie database stock photo

Movie Database

making movies stock photo

Movie Making

movie premier stock photo

Movie Premier

award winning movie stock photo

Award Winning Movie

clap board on a soap box stock photo

Film With a Message

So there you have it. And now that I have a decent 3d model of this clap board built, don’t be surprised to see it make random appearances in other renderings going forward!

thai airways international a380 side view

It just occurred to me as I was going through my archives that I have a lot of airliner illustrations that I’ve created over the years which I never got around to uploading. Although I don’t create these side profile illustrations for the sole purpose of uploading to this blog, I do like to post as many as I can – after all, they don’t serve any purpose stashed away in my archives where nobody but me can see them.

This Thai Airways A380-800 is one of those “lost” illustrations. I created it shortly after I finished my A380-800 side view templates about two years ago, and being a new livery at the time, I remember thinking how striking this livery is on that big whale of an airplane. I’m especially anxious to apply it to the 787-8, but my to do list is long enough already, and there are a lot of other illustrations that need to be done ahead of that one.

Of all the airlines that fly the A380 today, I think that the Thai Airways version is the best looking of them all. The Lufthansa and British Airways illustrations I created just don’t seem to have that visual “pop” that I like, and I’m pretty sure the reason for liking this Thai version so much is that is that half of the airplane is painted bright purple. Combined with the gold accents in the logo, it’s a rather stunning combination – especially when viewed in bright sunlight. I can’t say the same for the more reserved (eh…stiff) liveries from LH and BA.

Anyway, I’ll be uploading more airliner art from my archives in the coming weeks. Some of those pieces aren’t as polished as my latest stuff, but it’s probably worth posting just so I can get my entire collection organized here on the blog.

blank white 757-200 illustration

These side view Boeing 757-200 templates have been on my to-do list forever, and I just couldn’t put them off any longer due to a personal side project of mine that required some illustrations of this aircraft. I’m really glad to have these done and out of the way! Well, sort of. You see, just like the Airbus A319/A320/A321, there are actually quite a few versions of the 757-200. There were two engine types (Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce) offered during it’s production run, with two different wingtips (with and without winglets). I only illustrated the Pratt and Whitney engined version for now, but I did create both versions of the wing. So I still have some work ahead of me…

I’ll attach the versions with the Rolls Royce engines to this post as soon as I complete them, but for now, here are some all white renderings and wireframe line drawings of the 757-200 with Pratt and Whitney engines – with and without winglets.

Here is the line drawing version of the aircraft at the top of this post (with winglets):

757-200 line art with winglets

Technical line drawing of a Boeing 757-200 with winglets

And here is the fully rendered blank white version and associated line drawing for the non-winglet version.

white 757 template

All white Boeing 757-200 template (without winglets)

757-200 line drawing without winglets

Technical line drawing of a Boeing 757-200 (without winglets)

The 757-200 is a good looking aircraft, isn’t it? The equivalent airliners of today (the Boeing 737-900 and Airbus A321) just don’t look as sleek and graceful as this thing does, so it’s going to be a major bummer when they retire these things for good. But now that I have these templates, I plan on creating many variations of it with some of the best airline liveries from all over the world.

glossy card with article title

There are dirty little secrets in every profession, and the field of visual design is no different. It’s been my experience that clients tend to think of me as someone who sits around and has fun playing in Photoshop all day (hardly what they would call “real work”), and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This isn’t easy – I’m usually juggling many clients at once, trying to meet insanely tight deadlines, fielding phone calls and attending meetings, all while trying to stay as creative as possible and on top of the latest design trends. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that visual designers (like me) generally tend to look out for themselves and skew their output in ways which makes the daily grind easier to manage.

So, in no particular order, I’d like to present a few dirty little secrets about the visual designers you hire to work on your own projects:

We use stock photos and other graphics whenever possible

Back in the early days of my design career, I worked with a guy who I considered to be a really good designer. Whatever he worked on seemed to be on the cutting edge of the latest trends, and I remember greatly admiring him for his ability to reinvent his style from project to project. That’s a really hard thing to do, and I was in awe. However, it wasn’t until we worked together on a project for the first time that I learned the secret to his success: stock illustrations and “borrowed” design elements. What he essentially did was take existing elements from other designers, modified them a bit, and arranged them into compositions relevant to the project he was working on – and he wowed the client every single time. He did very little illustration and layout exploration on his own, and I was totally bummed when I realized what he was doing. It was like revealing the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz!

That’s an extreme case, but the truth is that I learned a very important lesson from him. Sometimes it’s ok not to reinvent the wheel and struggle to solve design problems that have been solved long ago. Illustration, for example, is extremely time consuming and can easily eat up entire project budgets really quick. More often than not, I find myself reaching for assets left over from old projects (and even from my own stock illustration collection) in order to meet tight deadlines at or under budget.

Additionally, ask to see the contents of your designer’s bookmark folder. You’re likely to find scores of links to award winning (and really cool) examples of projects just like yours. We look at this kind of stuff a lot to help spark ideas for the work we are creating for you. Just don’t be surprised if we “borrow” an element or two that we found somewhere else.

We don’t like it when clients give us laser-specific design direction

I may be nodding my head in agreement when a client tells me to change the button colors from blue to orange, but the truth is that I already tried orange and it clashed with other elements on the page. And although I’ll try my best to give them my expert opinion as to why that doesn’t work (possibly creating an updated mockup right then and there in the meeting), I know that these battles are not easily won.

The fact of the matter is that we are the style and design experts, so we appreciate it when clients respect our opinion when it comes to knowing what looks good and what doesn’t. Our reputation is on the line as well, so this project is as important to us as it is to them.

The Oatmeal did a brilliant job of summarizing this point in a comic strip, so much so that it’s not even worth reading any additional thoughts from me on the matter. He totally nailed it.

We care more about our own portfolio than your product

Don’t worry – I’m not saying that we don’t care about making you and your product look good. What I am saying is that we tend to skew our output towards styles that we favor and are likely to enhance our full portfolio of visual design work. Even I fully admit to steering clients into particular design directions that would help me learn new techniques and fill in empty spaces in my own portfolio.

I can hear you all gasping from here. But fear not – even though I’m looking out for myself, I’ll do whatever I can to address my client’s issues and make sure they get what they want. The key here is negotiation – both sides listening and respecting one another, and making adjustments until everyone is satisfied. I’m not going to just throw ideas at them that I know they won’t like – I’ll integrate my needs in with theirs, and I’m hoping they will do the same.

And yes, we will turn down projects that don’t seem interesting. I’ve certainly done it in the past, and a long time colleague of mine is notorious for this. He’s incredibly picky, selfish…and very smart. He’s also one of the most talented designers I know, so he can afford to be choosy.

Indecisiveness will cause us to lose interest

I admit it. I’ve dropped clients in the past who kept changing requirements all throughout the design process, causing confusion and chaos for all involved. It’s a mentally draining experience to have to go back and redo design concepts over and over (and over) again in order to incorporate last minute feedback and product tweaks, and I do what I can to avoid getting stuck in that trap. There are so many other things I’d rather be working on that would feed my creative soul and further my career.

Most of the other visual designers I know have that same “abbreviated” attention span, and I’d be willing to bet that they’d agree with me when I say that clients who don’t know what they want are usually the most difficult to work with.

We secretly wish we would have chosen a different career

I’ve always wondered if I was the only designer that had rouge thoughts like this, but after 18 years of being deep in the trenches of corporate design studios, I’ve found that many of my visual design colleagues feel exactly the same way. Why the heck did we choose a career that is so incredibly subjective? Everyone has an opinion on style and design, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Our ultimate goal, it seems, is to deliver design solutions that will annoy as few people as possible.

I should have chosen a career with very clear objectives. Moving furniture is a perfect example – there’s only one way to deliver furniture from one building to another, and once complete, you punch your time card and go home. The world of graphics and design is not like this, especially when dealing with clients from hell. Once the preliminary concepts have been presented, then begins the endless stream of revisions, more brainstorming sessions, design explorations, last-minute requirements changes, and more revisions. All due within incredibly short deadlines, of course. I just want to finish gracefully and move on to the next project!

The bottom line

I realize that all of this probably sounds selfish and arrogant (so much that I was even thinking about not posting it), but writing stuff like this helps me vent. Being a visual designer is a lot harder than most people think, so don’t be too hard on me for shedding some light on what’s really going on.

Anyone need some furniture moved?

spirit airlines silver and gray pixel livery

Spirit Airlines is one of those obscure air carriers that I’ve never really given much thought to in the past. They’ve always just sort of been there, distant and uninteresting, mostly flying to places I never travel to. But all of that has been changing over the past few years – they are quickly turing into a major low-fare airline, and I’m starting to hear more and more people talk about them wherever I go. Usually that talk isn’t so good (they are probably the stingiest airline in the US right now), but it’s been interesting to watch them grow from nothing into the near-beheamoth they are today.

All that growth has meant that they’ve had to experiment with a lot of different things over the years, playing with different business models and fine-tuning their product. That continuous fine-tuning has resulted in three different liveries over the past decade – all of them quite different from one another, reflecting a “low fare” look with a twinge of serious professionalism. Sort of. Let me explain…

The silver and black “pixel” livery at the top of this post is my favorite of their last three liveries. It’s cool, high-tech, and very unique. It doesn’t really convey the “low fare” message very well, and I’d go as far as to say it does the exact opposite. It looks very high end! That’s probably why it didn’t last so long.

The next livery (below) was unveiled just a few short years later, and to me, it was a huge step down in terms of style and design. I’m not really sure, but the bright blue and and neon accent colors just scream “cheap vacation packages to Cancun”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I really cringed when I first saw it. I couldn’t believe they killed the pixel livery!

Spirit Airlines blue and white livery

Spirit Airlines blue and white livery

And finally, Spirit just went through another major rebranding effort last fall. The livery they came up with was…well…um…bold. Have a look for yourself:

Spirit Airlines yellow livery

Spirit Airlines yellow livery

I have to give them credit though. If they are looking for attention, they are certainly going to get it with these bright yellow banana planes flying around. How could you not notice something this flashy over all the other airlines that are mostly white with a few splashes of color here and there? Knowing how risky they’ve been with their marketing campaigns in the past, I’m pretty confident in saying that I’m sure that’s their goal. They’ve succeeded admirably in gaining my attention.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to illustrate these three Spirit Airlines liveries on the A319. I was dreading the silver and black pixel livery the most, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to replicate it with any sort of realism. But it wasn’t that bad – and as a matter of fact it just reaffirmed itself as my favorite Spirit Airlines color scheme of the past 10 years. The yellow version was the most difficult of the three – yellow is always a difficult color to render because it’s way too easy to make the shadows look muddy (“poopy” is another way to describe it). On top of that, there isn’t always enough contrast to be able to show gloss and reflections accurately. I gave it my best shot though, and I hope you enjoy.