Knowledge Base

1st November 2023

Our Creative Workshops: Iteration

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The Workshop

On the 3rd of March our creative team took part in a creative development workshop here in our Norwich studio. We hold these creative development workshops to provide an opportunity for the entire creative team to come together and delve deeply into a technique or topic, discuss ideas, and develop new techniques to implement in our creative work.

This particular workshop was led by our creative director, Robin Fuller, who covered rapid iteration through the lens of character design. Robin’s background in the animation industry has given him valuable insights into these processes and theories. Check out this article for more information on semiotics 

We started the workshop by sketching super quick doodles of characters from random splashes of paint and ink. We then developed these ideas further through a series of different iterative exercises, drawing, re-drawing, drawing each other’s characters and bringing in outside references to generate different possibilities and options. Working against the clock through quickfire rough sketches with pen and paper encouraged a bold, un-precious approach that was perfect for exploring ideas beyond the obvious. Ultimately, it’s not about good drawings; it's about good ideas!

After the initial series of iterations, we delved briefly into semiotics, exploring shape language, economy of detail, macro and micro context, and how we can use a single design to tell an entire story. With these ideas in mind, we went back to the designs and made final iterations, considering the personality and story behind each character and how we could change the designs to best communicate these ideas to an audience. After all, all design should be an act of communication between the designer and the audience, and character design is no exception.

By the end of the workshop, everyone had a design that was far removed from the initial ink-splattered doodles: an entire character that had been conceived, designed, and evolved through a series of iterations in just one morning.

Why is iteration important?

Iteration is essentially the act of repeating a process or set of steps multiple times to improve or refine the outcome. By engaging in a cycle of prototyping, testing, and feedback, we can explore different ideas, approaches, and options. We analyse each iteration to achieve the best possible result.

To make meaningful iterations, we need to make changes that have a significant impact on the design or idea or are based on significant feedback or new information. This exploration can sometimes take a project in new directions and unlock unexpected possibilities.

The ideal time to iterate is at the beginning of the design process, using rough prototype materials such as sketches, storyboards, or grey-box versions of games or apps. This approach allows us to work more quickly and explore ideas fully, avoiding the obvious and the clichéd without the large time commitment of going through a full design process. By spotting potential problems in the early stages of design, we can explore ideas without attachment.

Working quickly enables us to take creative risks in a low-risk way. Sometimes, finding what doesn’t work is the best way to find what does. As the author John C Maxwell said - Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.

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