Gotta love taking your sketchbook with you to amazing locations. One of the great perks about working for Imagineering is the travel. Sometimes you just need to see and experience something as an artist to really get a feel for what you are trying to recreate. Part of what we strive for when we build an attraction or a place is a sense of authenticity. A place or experience is filtered through our imagination- what we found exciting, how we want to tell a story and what we want our guests to feel when they are in a place we’ve created. It’s editing on a strange and massive scale. We take what is beautiful and unique about a location and culture and try and edit it down to its best features. Idealism is a very real part of design for themeparks. I could recreate hollywood Blvd. for you as it REALLY is, but I’d imagine the hobos, hookers and pee smells might cause the Hollywood in your mind to lose it’s charm. So sometimes a copy of a place isn’t what you want… but the essence of a place is. Most of the time the essence of a places is what makes it feel authentic, and not how “real” you make it. That’s research and that is design. I always like to remember something Imagineering legend Joe Rohde said to me: “Our goal as designers is to make it look like there was no designer.” Which basically means in a nut shell, the place should feel so real that you forget you’re in a themepark and that you shouldn’t see the hand of an artist crafting anything. It’s just real place. I think this is best displayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Just like taking notes helps you remember a subject in class, so does sketching on location. The details in architecture, landscape and materials in a place describe where it is… it all contributes to making something authentic. When you draw, details are programed into your mind differently then if you took a photo. A photo is so fast that there is no time to reflect upon shapes like you would in a drawing or painting. As you can see in this sketch I was focused on the details and influences of what makes Mexican architecture… well, Mexican. Most things have a history and it’s very easy to see the graphic geometries of the late Maya and Aztec cultures merging with spanish colonialism. It’s what gives this particular place (Campeche) it’s character. Light, color, shape and sound are all things an artist takes from a research trip and distills them down into an experience. It’s an incredibly valuable and indispensable process for great design. Unfortunately research is disregarded more and more by companies that do creative work, perhaps not understanding that the research and experiential phase if design is the most important. Creativity is an extremely exhausting, analytical, logical and laborious process. Creativity is a language born of knowledge, deduction, problem solving and skill. It really does deserve a LOT of respect as it doesn’t just fall out of someones brain without a lot of work.