Sometime last year I found myself locked in a discussion with a friend and colleague about our gripes regarding the Game Design program at our university. While I think some great points were made throughout the discourse we did reach a disagreement over the importance of traditional artwork courses.
I took my first college level art class my first semester here. It was 2D Design with Professor Cooper. I found the experience a unique challenge and highly educational on the basic concepts of composition, color theory, and value. Since that class I've taken a fundamental drawing course, an illustration course, and I've practiced digital painting in my own time. Despite my lack of interest in traditional artwork as a career path, I found these courses immensely helpful in the grand scheme of design. These are a few of the concepts that those classes taught me, and why I feel they were important to my development so far.
Thumbnails are so easy to lose track of, but in my experience, it's vital to a successful project. Thumbnails in an artistic context are small bite-sized images that are meant to represent the roughest draft of a piece. They're often done in groups of 10 or 20 to give the creator some scope on what type of image they hope to create. Thumbnails become even more important once a project becomes a group project. This is because they give the rest of the group a stage to voice their concerns, ideas and complements before the larger piece has already been done. Not to mention they make great work-in-progress posts for social media.
Attention to medium is another lesson I found quite useful. It's easy, especially when caught up in programming, to forget what the end user will be experiencing. When creating a traditional piece artists will often take a few steps away from their piece, or close one eye to attempt to view it from another lens. This is something that seems to be done less in creating interactive experiences. Testing is used mostly for bug fixes making it easy to miss glaring issues with the end user experience. These problems can get all the way to playtesting when it's too late to shift the design. I speak from my own experience in Schrodinger's Lab. Had I taken those steps back and done a better job of playing the game as a stranger might play it, I think some of our design problems would've been easily solved.
Iterative Design is fundamental to any large scale project. This one is a bit of a cheat because I'm confident every class I've taken in the digital media program has stressed the importance of this. The first idea is seldom the best idea. A number of times I've found myself swept off my feet by a concept, and when I start work on it even I get bored. In traditional artwork courses iterations aren't suggested; they're mandatory. It can be frustrating to work through 20 thumbnails when I already know exactly the piece I want to make, but I think it goes beyond simply exploring ideas. I think creating thumbnails, value compositions, final black and white drafts, color compositions, and multiple final pieces forces me into the proper head space for creating artwork. This isn't necessarily something I've seen notably absent from my past projects, but it is something I feel art courses teach very early. It's something I won't easily forget.