Growing up with comics and video games, I've always had the imagination of what it might be if I could make a game. In the last winter, my dream comes true. I had the chance to work with Tinybop, an app company creating elegant, educational iOS apps. They invited me to collaborate with them for the newest app Weather.
I was really excited, and a little bit nervous about the collaboration at first. I graduated from a design school which had lots of team projects. But I was always the shy one and not good at talking. During my professional years as a freelance illustrator, I've worked with many clients in editorials. I like working alone and communicating with fewer people during a project. So, when the app project comes in, I was worried if I was good enough for communicating. But, when I met the people from Tinybop, they're super nice and making me feel comfortable to work with. After some meetings and art trials, we started working in Weather.
I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents in a countryside of China. Every time people bring up the weather, it reminds me of there. The fresh smell of the earth after rain, cicada sounds, frog sounds, and the fisherman relaxing on his little boat across the river. For me, "weather" is not just about weather systems, it’s more of a vehicle for connecting the earth, humanity, and heaven. Landscapes and environments bring me the biggest inspiration and emotions to my art process.
Making Weather was quite different from work I’ve done for other clients. I’ve always done editorial works. Everything was fast and text-oriented. Weather was the first time I worked for more than three months with a group of talented people, listening to different perspectives and thinking about kids’ interactions—it’s really amazing to see my artwork interacted with.
1. Working Schedule
When doing editorial illustrations, I got the brief/article from art director, then came out with 3-6 idea sketches. We discuss, revise and pick out the strongest one so that I can go for the final image. Usually, it takes 1-2 weeks. After images are done, the assignment will be finished. But for making apps, that's quite different. I'd started working with Tinybop from October 2015 to January 2016. During these three months, we'd separated different tasks in each week. No necessary for me to work in the office but we had meetings once a week for checking the art/tech developments and assigning new tasks for the following week. After individual tasks are done, there's time for unify everything and lots of edits/changes/polishes according to reaction of users and design of the app.
2. Workflow: From idea to final
The process from ideas to the final result is similar to a design project. As an illustrator, my job is to create illustrations as concept art. I draw sketches and illustrations that I image the app, the team will have to discuss and translate them into physical products. For example, for the first scene of Weather, the land, I came out sketches, an illustration and an animated GIF that I thought might be helpful for the scenario that I imagined. The app team has to discuss how to translate my illustration in a deep/designed way but still keep my artistic voices. Many details have to change/add/remove because of the kid's interactions and user experience. When I was creating images, I simply just use my preferences of colors, compositions and tones, etc. But for creating a product, there're lots of things need to be considered, and I think that helps me to learn from different perspectives!
One thing that really surprises me is to see how illustration becomes a product! I imaged they might just drag my art into the app-making program. But in fact, it's way more complicated than I thought! I work in Photoshop. Once they've got my files, they'll need to separate each part and translate them into vector files in Unity 3D. After knowing that, I used vectors shapes for small details instead of drawing them too small, and separate layers for animated objects and characters.
3. Working tools
Besides a face-to-face meeting every week, we also used lots of digital tools for communicating ideas and thoughts. Dropbox is good for sending bigger files. So I shared a updated folder with all the teammates. We use Dropmark for sharing inspiration references, and Trello for comments of each task. These are super helpful for the teamwork.
Working for an app project is one of the most special and amazing experience for me. I start to miss my hometown, appreciate my influence and emotions. I learned different perspectives from people doing other jobs and start considering more things outside of my tiny world. I'm happy to see kids' interactions with my artworks. Most importantly, I felt my communication skills are improved. I don't afraid talking with my thoughts anymore. (Well, sometimes it still got me nervous) It helps me for other collaborations in the future as well.
Many thanks to my teammates, and the fun group of Tinybop! Weather can't come out without everyone's efforts. I like they're having a huge stack of children's books shelf. That's a heaven!
Thanks for your patience if you're reading to the end and please forgive my grammar mistakes. To write more blogs and improve my writing skills is one of my goals in 2016! I'll keep learning and practicing. You're welcomed to leave comments if you have any thoughts!
So, catch you down the road!