Massive Black

Sidestepping the crude and obvious pun involved in their name and logo, Massive Black is one of the industry’s largest concept design studios. They’re a group of concept artists and illustrators who specialize in dealing with outsourced briefs from large projects, usually in the entertainment industry.

The idea of a concept design studio is something I hadn’t thought of until quite recently. In my head I always just thought of concept artists as falling into two categories: either freelancing/working for commission, or working in house as part of a film/game development team. Working as a collective provides certain obvious benefits. To the client it gives an assurance of quality and a guarantee that the work can be done on time regardless of how demanding. If there’s more work involved than one artist can handle, a collective can simply assign multiple. To the artists it takes away some of the strain of constantly marketing themselves. They know the company will always negotiate a fair price for them, and it makes finding work much easier. It also lets them contribute to larger, more well known projects that bolster their CV/portfolio.


Rates calculator

I found this useful tool for determining how to set your rates when freelancing. It basically just tallies your expenses and works out how much you need to charge to meet them. It made me think about some of the costs I’ve overlooked, things like office space, insurance, and advertising. It also made me realize that if I wan to make a living out of this I need to be prepared to charge significantly more than I originally expected.

Making use of 3D

The use of 3D models as a base for concept art is something I’d heard of, but this is the first real use of it I’ve seen demonstrated. I’m in two minds on the technique, on the one hand it seems to take a lot of the guesswork out of perspective and shadow placement, but in this case it also seems to be hurting the artist’s brush control slightly since the linework is always there to hold the forms.

The whole idea seems slightly counter intuitive for concept art. If the goal is to create a design that will then be modeled in 3D, say for a game or animation, then starting that process by building a simplified 3D model seems almost backwards. I can however see it’s usefulness for illustration purposes as well as for shot design in films; where mood and camera angle are often more important than raw design.

Concept art world

Another useful resource. I’d stumbled across the site before now but hadn’t investigated it properly until very recently. It’s a wealth of relevant information and links to industry. It also holds a nice balance between inspiration, learning material, and business guidance. It’s a great place to find practicing concept artists and examine how they work.

Errant Signal

Errant Signal is a series of youtube videos discussing and critiquing video games. This kind of thing is hardly rare on the internet, but it’s done well here and offers some genuine insights. In particular it often takes a more academic approach in examining design decisions, bringing in player psychology, social and/or historical context, and narrative structures. I’ve found the series to be useful and informative when attempting to design systems or aesthetics on small game projects.


The Yogscast are a duo of youtubers best know for their ongoing series of Minecraft videos. They have a sizable following and are considered by many to have been a factor in Minecraft’s overwhelming success by raising awareness of the game in it’s early days of alpha.

Recently they have started a kickstarter page for a game titled “Yogventures”. The page still has two weeks left to run but has already exceeded it’s minimum target by a substantial margin. From what’s known so far the design of actual game borrows heavily from the pair’s minecraft personae and features terrain deformation, crafting, and collectables.

The game seems to be being constructed in Unity, and it’s gratifying to be able to be able to identify a lot of tools and features being made use of.

The significance of the project being as successful as it has been is in the precedence it sets. Very little is known about the core gameplay of the title, and the pitch isn’t coming from an experienced developer with a proven track record but from a pair of youtubers backed up by an indie studio. The fact that so many people are willing to throw money at this entirely based on the influence of pseudo-celebrities shows just how much power that influence can hold.

The art of freelancing

I stumbled across this a while ago be revisited it when I saw it mentioned in the latest issue of ImagineFX. Noah Bradley is one of my favorite artists, his work emphasizes lighting and scale incredibly. He’s also a good artist to learn from, since he sticks mostly to the default brushsets it’s easier to follow how he created a given effect, he also publishes a lot of screen recordings of his process, some for free others at a premium.

His video “The art of freelancing” is one that I’m sorely tempted by. It addresses the business side of being an artist that’s so rarely discussed. How to market yourself, how to deal with clients, pricing yourself and dealing with payments. Judging from the half hour sample it’s presented well, and also includes a pack of related resources. My only reservation is with the price, $57 for a 5 hour, audio only, podcast seems pretty steep.