Vaughan Ling is a professional concept designer working in the entertainment industry. Vaughan is currently working as a vehicle/prop designer and modeler. He gives us an inside look into the industry, from automobiles to TV and film. Read below for the full interview…
How would you describe your beginnings as a designer?
I used to love playing with legos, I think that got my head started with vehicles, robots and all that. I wanted to become a mechanical engineer until I found out how hard math was. I studied Product and Transportation design throughout school. I was absolutely obsessed with cars (and still love them) After interning at Honda, I found designing cars wasn’t for me. Soon after I got my first real design job at Hotwheels with Mattel, which was still cars, but much more freedom than designing a real car. After my experience at Mattel I knew I wanted to get into entertainment design.
I thought maybe you could offer some insight about the automotive industry. Why concept cars closeness to production never quite match up and the increasingly level of difficulty for auto designers to accomplish that —even under the loose restraints of concept design. Your thoughts?
I had a small opportunity to witness the auto industry first hand in an internship at Honda. I found that designers are usually given an engineering package to sketch over without much freedom to change the existing shape. Designers are fighting for inches, even mm. So from my limited experience, it’s a matter of government safety regulations, getting optimum storage, headroom, fuel economy numbers etc before design is even considered. This is only one company though, I’m sure others might have different processes. Some concept cars do make it unscathed to production though, good examples I think are the FJ cruiser, 350z, even the Murano/FX35, Ford GT. The Izuzu Vehicross still looks like it came straight off an alien planet although it’s almost 20 years old.
How hard was it for you to improve your line work? Is it about drawing mileage or is it more about building confidence in yourself as an artist?
To be honest I don’t consider myself a great draftsman. There are students that can draw better than me. Of course I try to keep up by doing figure drawing regularly and just doodling in general. For confidence, I know alot of artists can by shy and have a self defeating attitude, myself included. One great piece of advice that has helped me with art is to simply say thank you, whenever someone compliments your work. An artist should be genuinely open to both criticism and praise.
Looking at your concepts and your work on TRON, you are quite proficient at creating concepts of the future. If you had to somehow work on a project that was set in a fictional world in the 1960’s, how would you approach building designs for vehicles and props in that era?
I would go to Movie World in Burbank and grab some old picture books/magazines from the era, and probably read a bit and do some sketch studies to get a feel for the time. Maybe go to a car museum or classic car show. Google. I guess it’s like being an actor, you have to become the part. Another thing I like to do is take an object and rearrange it into something completely different. If you’re doing say a spaceship from the 50s, you can take a kitchenaid and rearrange the parts to look like a spaceship. This will give the audience the feeling of that era, but in a new and weird way.
How will the aid of 3-D Printing and the accompanying technology affect your work?
The nice thing about 3d printing is the low investment to test out ideas. I make alot of 3d computer models which can look nice and polished published on the web or in print, but a 3D sculpture is just so much more powerful. When people can hold something in their hands it automatically makes a stronger connection. I have a 3d print sitting on my desk right now called BunnyBot which I started producing last year. You can check it out at www.heavypoly.com. 2014 is going the be a great year for 3D printing.
As an instructor, what is the golden rule you try to instill in your 3D modeling students?
I don’t have a golden rule. Maybe do your damn homework!?
Do beginners need design schools or maybe they can learn everything by themselves?
Private Design school is a great luxury but I think it’s possible to learn a ton on your own especially with all the online videos and smaller design schools lately. 90% of what you learn even in a Design school is from working with your peers into the morning hours. Anyway, if you want to be a designer you will be constantly learning for the rest of your life. School is just the beginning.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Animation, the classics, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, also Tekkonkinkreet for sheer beauty and Aachi and Ssipak for nastiness. Chungking Express, Battle Royale, Drunken Master, Ong Bak, Kung Fu Hustle. Honestly I haven’t seen many Asian films aside from anime and Kung Fu. Any recommendations?
What is ahead for you in 2014? Any projects you could tell us about?
For 2014, I’ll be pushing ahead with www.Heavypoly.com , making models and posters and hopefully more 3d prints. There are a few side projects I’m working on with Ash Thorp, Maxim Zhestkov Ben Mauro and Lorin Wood that will hopefully come out this year. I’m excited for it!
What advice could you give for people that would like to become successful in CG?
In the words of Arnold…
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