Interview with Scott Robertson (Entertainment, Industrial and Transport Designer: Minority Report, Universal Studios, BMW, Nike)

Scott is an American concept artist, known for his transportation design work, contributions to movies like Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, and his educational DVDs with the Gnomon Workshop. Scott’s clients have included BMW, Nike, Universal Studios, Mattel Toys and Fiat just to name a few. Scott created the Entertainment Design program at Art Center College of Design. He’s also the founder of Design Studio Press, a publishing company dedicated to art and design education. Scott is the author of several Design Studio Press titles including How to Draw and his latest effort How to Render which are both collaborations with industrial designer Thomas Bertling.

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Anthony: What are the most common mistakes beginners make when building their portfolios?


Scott: Young designers frequently fail to understand the nature of the job for which they’ve designed their portfolios. Nor do they always research what junior designers or junior concept artists typically do on the job. As a result, their portfolios often contain things that are not relevant to the job in question.

Let’s say that the job they are applying for is to design original content for a large franchise that plans to use it for an animation, a video game, a movie, or a toy line. Applicants may naively decide to show their potential employers some still life drawings they made in art school (for example, drawings of traditional but overworked compositions, such as a skull next to a Chianti bottle with a candle stuck in it). In so doing, they run the risk that their presentation will be judged as irrelevant to the job itself; even worse, that they will appear to have no understanding of what the franchise really wants. In short, if applicants hope to be viewed as ‘professional,’ their portfolios must anticipate and speak to the franchise’s needs. This can only happen if applicants do prior research into the kinds of art that are commonly and currently used (for example, in video games like Halo or Assassin’s Creed). Just as professional pianists never begin their recitals by playing Chopsticks, so also must applicants never display samples of their foundation skills. In short, portfolio contents must always be consistent with the job in question and must feature only the applicant’s most sophisticated skill sets.



Anthony: That makes a lot of sense. One of the participants from your masterclass here raised a question: “What is the importance of hand-drawing skills for today’s computer-literate designers?” Are these skills as important today as in the past and where are they most often used?”


Scott: A hand drawing is still the fastest way to communicate an idea. Whether for an animation or a game, it automatically adds value to the work, giving it a huge competitive edge. Furthermore, in the world of illustration, elegant hand drawings with beautiful line-weight are what end up as ‘the final product.’ On the other hand, such drawings have become less popular than they once were, owing to the greater speed and efficiency of 3d modelling tools and rendering engines, as well as the fact that Photoshop continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Yet, we must always remember that the idea is still the most important thing, especially when it can be quickly conveyed in a loose sketch.


Anthony: Good! One last question: “How has concept art evolved since you first created the Entertainment Design curriculum at Art Center College of Design?”


Scott: Actually, I call what we do ‘concept design’ rather than “concept art,’ since it involves almost everything that is designed for jobs built in three dimensions. Of course, illustration skills can also be applied to the basic design job. Unfortunately, the issue of naming what we do has become a bit confusing. Designers who began as illustrators call what we do ‘concept art,’ while those who began as designers but are now illustrators call it ‘concept design’. I tend to favour ‘concept design’ because I think it’s important to distinguish the skill sets of different disciplines. For example, building things in 3D requires a different set of skills than building them in 2D (as in illustration).

I’m grateful for our success and for how we’ve evolved. It is immensely satisfying to see students from all over the world working on their dream jobs as their skills mature. It’s especially satisfying when they find a real dream job after they graduate.


Anthony: Agreed! Thanks for sitting down with us for this little interview.


Scott: My pleasure.

Note: we also recorded a 40 minute audio podcast with Scott Robertson which you can listen to by clicking on this link !


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