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  • Writer's pictureedwardjamescoco

Stylized Rendering

First off, a shout-out to my new home page for the web site. I still need to do some troubleshooting, but I thought a soft rollout would be better than an instant reveal. For the last few months I've known that I needed a home page that made the site look a little more like a business rather than a personal portfolio. The truth is that it functions as both for me. It's a reference I use to show current clients and collaborators what I've done. And it's (hopefully) a site that will pull in new business. With the Live Event industry still shut down, I feel like I'm going to need to lean on that "new business" a little more heavily in the future.

Anyway. . . what I wanted to talk about this week was how I have been using the term "stylized rendering". I use it on my site, and I use that term when I talk to clients and team members. Almost every time I bring it up I need to explain what I mean. So I thought I would do a quick post on the subject.

Honestly a stylized rendering (to me) is any kind of visual sketch that isn't trying to mimic reality. Architects and designers use realistic renders (and "photo" realistic renders) to simulate real world environments. The goal being to get as close to an actual photograph, or the viewer's eye, as possible. Whereas a stylized rendering adds a level of artistic embellishment in order to heighten the visceral reaction to a design. Rules of reality are bent and manipulated to evoke a greater sense of something. I love doing realistic renderings (just look at my multiple postings from over the summer) but stylized sketches have a very useful effect when used productively.

Our old robot friend, rendered as a stylized white model.

There are dozens of different styles of these types of renderings. Your rendering could have a watercolor effect, or utilize another painted style. It can be "sketchy", or replicate a line drawing. You can do white models, single-texture models, or even sketches that look like cel shaded cartoons.

The robot, as a mock blueline drafting. This is actually rendered from the model instead of being drafted.

I do a lot of stylized rendering when I'm designing events. I've always felt that it sells a design a lot better than photo-realism. My rationale is that I'm not just selling a design or an element, I'm pitching the emotions and sensations that the design will evoke from the intended audience. I think it's a very important philosophy in event/experiential design. You can design lots of "neat stuff", but it's crucial to remember your audience and your objectives. It can sometimes be useful to design in a vacuum; but you can't leave your design in that vacuum forever. At some point it has to emerge and be applied.

The sketch above is an example of what a stylized rendering can provide. This was a quick mock-up for a red carpet premier in New York. Obviously I wasn't going to realistically model and render a section of 57th Street. It was more useful to include some architecture, provide a wireframe of the venue floorplan, and then model the elements which best described our approach to the client. I like these sketches because they're part design and part technical. They help bring some technical obstacles into discussion, while forwarding the creative concepts towards a final design. My mentor in grad school used to warn me about getting too "final and polished" with sketches while the design was in process. He used to say that looking too finalized can make a client/collaborator think that you've gone down the road without them. It's a fine line to tread, because you always want your presentation materials to look professional. But you also need to remember that your collaborative process should be developing towards a goal. So your sketches should evolve into the final design rather than trying to make a quantum leap from concept to completion.

Here was another idea that worked better as a white model rather than a rendering. I only had a couple of hours to hash this out for a client. They were providing hockey sticks and a very tiny budget, with little turn-around time. So we were going to have to use purchased elements, donated elements, and some custom design. I could have taken this to actual pencil sketching, but it would have given them a false sense of the physical items and spatial layout. I was also trying to work out the physical production of the piece with a Production Manager and a Technical Director. So, yeah, I was doing several phases of the process at the same time. Never a great idea; but the project was small so I pressed through. This quick stylized rendering became a great starting point for developing things on the creative side as well as the technical side. It was not nearly developed enough for a final design; but it got us all on board and moving in the same direction.

Here's another quick one. Not the greatest sketch in the world, by any means. But here's why it worked: We already had those goal-post games from a different event, and our client wanted to put them on the back of a truck and drive them around LA. They wanted to explore how to do this as quickly as possible but couldn't really wrap their heads around how it would all spatially work out. So I took the model of the actual goal post units, found a model of the exact truck they wanted to use, and pieced together a very quick stylized sketch. This showed them the correct scale of the piece, some technical challenges, and all of the available places to add/augment the design into something a little more attractive. It was another great starting point for discussion and communication. It didn't matter that this wasn't a completed rendering (or that it looks like we're in the middle of Iowa), it served a purpose which moved us forward.

Just one more. . . I promise. I realized that I'd shown some examples of stylized rendering where the sketch was a benefit because of the speed of production. But I hadn't shown an example where a stylized sketch helped to heighten the mood or evoke a feeling. The two sketches above are from a big party I designed for MTV. Parties are tough to render. You want to make the sketch feel like a party but you can't always fill the space with dancing/drinking/partying people; because it obscures the design elements you're pitching to your clients. So you have to balance it out. Model the actual space and design elements, add your branding (to scale), toss in a few scale figures, blend in some fancy lighting and effects, then throw an art filter over the whole thing to bring it together. It's a blend of 3d rendering and photo compositing. But the ultimate goal is to create a stylized sketch that gets the concept across.

Ok. . . this was a bit of a longer post. Thanks for sticking with it!

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