The Prototyping of Star Wars

21 Nov

Death Star Canyon

Stephen Anderson provided a wonderful talk a few weeks ago at Refresh Dallas (and subsequently at Refresh06 in Orlando) on “Creating Pleasurable Interfaces: Getting from Tasks to Experiences“. He does a great job of making the squishy elements of UI design feel tangible. The truly wonderful interfaces that we use everyday are our favorites because of the intangibles that Stephen so eloquently describes in this talk. There’s a lot to learn in there and apply to any project we’re working on.

Ralph McQuarrie conceptIn this talk Stephen mentions the work of Ralph McQuarrie. When George Lucas was shopping the idea for Star Wars to different studios, he was concerned that the traditional method of providing a script to read would not do justice to the scope of setting and drama that the story would provide. He wanted something more than just words on a page to literally illustrate the characters and settings he wanted to film. So George hired artist/illustrator Ralph McQuarrie to do just that. The use of such supplemental material for movie pitches was not at all common during that time. McQuarrie later said “I understand my pictures did something to convince [20th Century] Fox to make Star Warsâ€?.

I know Walt Disney used rough sketches for storyboards in the production process, but I think George Lucas’ approach to develop such high visual fidelity illustrations was novel for selling the project. Lucas realized that there was too much room for interpretation when he only used a script; he wanted to provide more concrete examples of the vision he had for the project. That’s exactly what we do when we insist on some form of prototype to advance our project instead of relying only on a written requirements and design document.

When you’re just trying to get a project off the ground, high visual fidelity concept screens can really help make your inspiration infectious with investors and other project sponsors. Illustrating the key ideas with great visual clarity so they can get a flavor of what their investment will return.

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Posted by on November 21, 2006 in prototyping


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