Interviewing Anya Radzevych on Entertainment Design & Studying At ArtCenter
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Anya is an incredibly talented artist with quite a few big projects under her belt. She graduated from ArtCenter with a focus on Entertainment Design, yet her work proves she can deliver a lot more than just traditional entertainment designs.
In this interview she shares her journey getting into the world of entertainment & industrial design, along with sharing her experiences studying at ArtCenter College of Design.
Prospective students interested in Entertainment Design at ArtCenter are sure to pick up a few golden nuggets here!
What’s your history with art & what got you interested to pursue art as a career?
I had quite a winding path in art and design. I started by studying art history in my hometown of Kyiv, Ukraine.
As a student, I was turning all my academic papers into opportunities to travel and experience the original artworks in person.
Forty countries and countless museums later, I realized that exhibition design is what truly fascinates me – the thoughts and skills that go into crafting a viewing experience.
Following my newly discovered fascination, I went on to study exhibition design in London’s Central Saint Martins, and afterward moved to Los Angeles to work on my skills in interior and industrial design at ArtCenter College of Design.
Being in Los Angeles – a capital of entertainment design – influenced me to pick up interest in environment design for video games.
Now I work between Entertainment and Industrial design. I’m always taking opportunities to imagine future scenarios and innovate.
I was very fortunate to design the future of the third-place at Starbucks, envision the future of play for Adidas, design the future of workspace at Haworth, and imagine the future of travel at Royal Caribbean Cruises.
When you first started at ArtCenter, what was your initial impression of the curriculum? Did you feel the early classes were a great fit from the beginning?
I will be very honest here, I created my entrance portfolio for ArtCenter in three months with no prior experience in concept art, and very sparse knowledge of perspective and anatomy.
I learned as much as I could that summer, taking classes with Art Center’s instructor Will Weston at Nucleus gallery, Intro to Concept design with Eric Ng at ArtCenter at Night, and Intro to Anatomy with Kevin Chen at Concept Design Academy.
Although I stepped up quite a bit and got my spot in the class – Entertainment design, Concept track – coming to the first class in my first term I felt incredibly unprepared.
My classmates (some of them already had professional experience) were way better than myself in practically every class.
However, the curriculum (especially for the first term) is designed in a way that made all of us almost equal.
The approach (no matter the class – Model Shop Fundamentals or Character Design) is to give students so much work that without learning shortcuts, doing the hard 20% of the work first, and prioritizing quantity over quality – it would be impossible to finish the term.
It was a very humbling experience for all of us.
It made us realize that although we might have intricate & genius concepts, without high-quality execution they aren’t worth much.
In this sense, early classes at ArtCenter are great at preparing students for work in the highly demanding fast-paced entertainment industry.
This goes without saying that the entertainment design curriculum is constantly evolving (under the guidance of DreamWorks veteran & Department chair Guillaume Aretos) to represent as closely as possible the real work environment of the Entertainment industry, and prepare students for the smooth transition into the professional world.
For anyone curious about an Entertainment Arts degree, can you explain more about what you’re studying? What kind of work are you doing as an entertainment artist?
There are two Entertainment related tracks at ArtCenter: Entertainment Design and Entertainment Arts.
Entertainment Design prepares students for a career in the video game and film industry.
Entertainment Arts is focused on concept art for animated series and animated features.
It’s not uncommon for students to switch between the programs along the way, or for an Entertainment design graduate, for example, to work on an animated feature.
So the first couple of terms, all students will be taking classes in perspective drawing, anatomy, digital painting, character design & environment design.
After students pass the 3rd term review – to prove that they have a firm grasp of the basics and are ready for professional internships – they may craft their curriculum to develop a particular strength of theirs.
For Entertainment design students, that can mean taking 3D modeling classes to learn modeling creatures, props, or complex environments.
For Entertainment art students, that can be focusing on a particular drawing style (Disney and Adult Swim being the most popular).
It would be fair to say that no matter the program or particular strength, any project would start with the rough outline of the story, a lot of variations sketches, and end with the grand piece: keyframe painting or a photobashed action scene.
Aside from drawing a lot, what do you recommend that students do while they’re in school to prepare them to land work after graduation?
I’d recommend walking around the campus and paying close attention to the posters on the walls. No kidding.
I got my first couple of side gigs doing storyboards and concept drawings from an ad on the wall.
Also from those posters, I learned about DesignStorms. DesignStorms are a quite unique opportunity to ArtCenter students, to collaborate with an actual company (Disney, Microsoft, Adidas, Vans, to name a few from the past) that ask students to solve a real-life design challenge.
Students work on campus or at the HQ of the company, get paid for several days of (non-stop) work, and present their ideas to stake holders and designers of the company. I know several students that landed interviews, and subsequently jobs because of their successful final DesignStorm presentation.
Unfortunately, entertainment students rarely participate in DesignStorms. However that makes them even more desirable as team members.
Paired with Product or Graphics design students, they bring unique views and an invaluable design skillset.
Can you share any details about some of your initial client work? What were those projects like & what kind of things have you learned from working with larger brands?
I always believed that the viewpoint and skillset of entertainment students can bring value to projects & companies, even those not directly related to Entertainment design.
For example, for my first internship I chose to work for Starbucks where I was designing environments for their future concept stores.
In its essence, the same workflow we exercise in Entertainment design applies to the design of commercial spaces. It’s about defining the story that you’re trying to convey to customers, developing variations of layouts based on certain real-life limitations, and diving deep into details and execution.
How is designing a real cafe different from designing a cafe for a video game? The principle stays the same.
From my internship experience, I’ve learned that the skillset of Entertainment designers is in demand in other industries.
I’ve made it a point to diverge from strictly an entertainment design career, and choose companies and projects where my perspective would be unique and valuable.
When you’re given a new project brief, how do you typically approach it from start to finish?
One great piece of advice I got from my German instructor (read: time management master) on a two-day DesignStorm at Adidas HQ in Portland: “Always plan from the deadline”.
Understanding (and visualizing) how much time you have on hands for the project will help to eliminate unnecessary work.
It will also help you get a grasp of how much time & effort you can spend on each stage of the project – how many days on brainstorming/concept development, how many days on sketching, how many hours of rehearsing the presentation.
I always try to plan to deliver three solid variations based on the brief, along with a thorough explanation of every design choice I’ve made.
More often than not, a couple of great images presented with a logical coherent story will go a longer way than hundreds of sketches (even amazingly executed) that aren’t fitted well together.
Aside from raw artistic skill, what do you think are some other traits that artists need to develop for a long-term career in entertainment art?
I very much share the same view as Art Center alum Maximus Julius Pauson (Rick and Morty, Disenchantment) who I had a chance to talk to on campus.
To become pretty much indispensable in any job, you should have at least two of these three traits:
Be an amazing artist
Be very friendly, light up the moods of people around you
Deliver on time or before deadlines, like a clock, no exceptions, ever
So basically, being great to work with or delivering on time is just as important as producing great designs.
ArtCenter is cultivating the mindset of time management and attention to work quality.
Being friendly goes beyond competition and grades. It’s something that everyone has to figure out on their own.
As a recent grad, I had about a dozen freelance projects.
Now that I have a full-time job I pass them first and foremost to my classmates that became my friends and proved to be reliable.
Treating your studies at ArtCenter as if they’re actual professional projects, in every sense, is a wise approach.
On a more personal note, are there any personal projects you’re working on currently? Or any ideas for projects you’d love to work on in the future?
This is a great piece of software to create fully-functioning video game mockups with interactive elements and photorealistic materials.
Now I’m expending my knowledge of the program and tinkering on designs for a fictional museum à la The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, where animals on display are actually fantastical creatures like griffins, Centaurus, and phoenixes.
I’m working on the designs with my ex classmate who is my husband now.
What final parting advice could share with other aspiring entertainment artists?
I loved my experience at ArtCenter.
There I learned the skills that landed me a job & career, and now those skills help me to realize ideas that I’ve dreamed of since childhood.
However, I should say: apply to ArtCenter when you’re truly prepared. Meaning you know your basics in digital painting, sketching in perspective, human & animal anatomy. When you’re comfortable in your skillset you’ll learn much faster, and specifically the things that ArtCenter is truly great at teaching: design thinking and concept development.
I’d strongly advise taking a couple summer’s worth of classes in online courses like Gnomon, CGMA, or actual studios like Brainstorm or Concept Design Academy first.
These classes will help you to get the basics down first, and help you make the most out of the limited time you’ll have at ArtCenter (trust me, eight terms will fly by).
Special thanks to Anya for making time for this interview. It’s a really interesting perspective into the before & after of breaking into the space as a professional artist, especially in the entertainment design world.
If you want to check out more of her work or learn more about what she does, definitely have a look at her Instagram profile @radzevych.anya.