Creative Futures – Production Design for Entertainment Media – Introduction

As part of our Creative Futures set of lectures, Gareth introduced us to the concept of “Production Design”. To understand exactly what this means, we must first first look deeper into the definition of what this is.

Generally speaking, production design is dealt with by a specific person. This role can be referred to as “Production Designer” or “Art Director”. Games are considered a part of Entertainment Media. But what do these mean?

Entertainment media encompasses all forms of media that provide entertainment for a given audience. Looked at in it’s most broad sense, this can be Books, Comics, Animation, Television, Film, Theatre/Musical Theatre, Ballet, Outdoor Performance, Events, Attractions and Interactive or Passive Digital Entertainment (including Games). It can also encompass any hybrids of the aforementioned medias.

Production Designers can usually be found on Film and Television projects. Their role involves taking charge of the art department. More specifically, production designers liaise with directors to aid with the realisation of the visual requirements of the project. They also liaise with producers to keep within agreed budgets and scheduling/periods of time. They are responsible for realising and informing the director’s vision, along with the director of photography.

Art directors are generally in charge of the art department and either report to the production designer or may themselves be the production designer/take on the role as part of their own role.

Understanding what exactly it is that a Production Designer or an Art Director does, it is fairly simple to see that attention to detail is of paramount importance. This is what keeps people locked in immersion. As such, it is important to cover areas outside your own specialty. This is vital in order to reach the level of attention to detail required to make something believable and immersive.

Typically, a Production Designer will:

  • Clarify the brief and timescale, break down what is to be done.

After this, the Production Designer will move on to:

  • Reading supplement materials, scripts etc… (identifies themes and visual styles)
  • Discussion of concepts and requirements with producer and/or director
  • Research
  • Planning/Monitoring Design Budget
  • Drawings/Models to Scale
  • Producing Design Ideas
  • Identifying/assessing locations, studios
  • Sourcing materials/researching effects
  • Presenting of ideas
  • Researching, estimating and preparing props list
  • Hiring/managing art department team/teams
  • Instructing set construction, environment artists, special effects teams/individuals
  • Liaising with costume designer, director of photography and props, lighting and sound directors.
  • Attend meetings regarding progress, present at rehearsals/filmings to advise on the visual presentation.

There are a lot of these tasks which would apply to us as Games Designers, especially as we go into our Adaptation project, where we are the sole designer of the project. This inevitably means that you have to fill many roles and constantly “change hats” during the process of creating.

The many roles we may have to cover are as follows:

  • Architect
  • Automotive Designer
  • Costume Designer
  • Actor
  • Landscape Gardener
  • Product Designer
  • Blacksmith
  • Military/Weapons Systems Designer
  • Interior Decorator
  • Historian
  • World Traveller/Geographer
  • Triage Doctor
  • Hair Stylist
  • Graphic Designer
  • Choreographer
  • Sound Designer/Foley Artist

Obviously, this is not limited to the list. A Production Designer may need to take on any role to suit a specific task and it will vary on a project by project basis. It is important to understand that anything and everything could be useful to us at some stage in our careers.

As Games Designers, we inevitably will have to carry out this role at some point in our careers.

To conclude, we were introduced to our Adaptation project (which you can read more about here). Over the coming weeks in the session, we were to learn more specifically about specific processes that a Production Designer may have to go through and use these skills learned to create our own adaptation to a game from a previously existing media.

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