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World-Building with Visual Development Artist Armand Serrano
Updated 2021-06-09

The first speaker to kick off the Virtual International Design & Creative Masterclass that ran from April through May was Armand Serrano, a visual development artist, art director and production designer for animated feature films and games. In his sharing titled “Visual Development and Production Design for Animated Films & Games”, he presented on his working process, philosophies, several of his past projects and designing methods, to much awe from the audience.

During his expansive career, he has worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Blur Studio, Niantic, and currently for Skydance Animation. Some of his well-known credits include for animated feature films such as Mulan, Surf’s Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Raya and the Last Dragon, and the upcoming Marvel Studio’s television series What If…?, just to name a few. He had also done work for games such as World of Warcraft, League of Legends and Hearthstone.

In animation where specialization splits between character design and environment design, Armand Serrano specializes in visual development for environment, also known as a world-builder who builds the world that the characters live in. He said that there are two things a world-builder should simultaneously be – a designer and a storyteller – the designs have to make sense and the story has to be believable. He also pointed out that the three factors of a successful animated film are: a compelling story, appealing characters and a believable world.

“Research is just whatever is the most effective way of learning the subject that you are going to tell the story of,” said Armand, who supplied that an environment designer has to wear different hats, such as a painter, architect, engineer and interior decorator.

“The best thing that I would always suggest to students to be able to create a solid portfolio is to create a story and make visual development from there. Find a story that would inspire you. It’s important to have a story because it will give you a clearer picture of what you have to do. If you don’t do research, it shows in your artwork,” he reiterated.

He also showcased the 3D workflow and his working process of using Adobe Photoshop as a staple tool to draw and paint by hand. To help him visualise other worlds and places, he uses the Virtual Reality Oculus Medium that allows him to be practically inside the virtual world, to gauge the scale as if in a real set. He then uses the Blender software to manipulate the lighting to create many facets of a scene.

“Talent alone is not enough, but discipline and hard work are important too. I call it the 4P’s, you have to practice, have perseverance, patience and lastly, it takes a lot of prayers, to get in and also stay in the industry,” advised Armand lastly. The session ended with a Q&A session with the audience, where Armand responded to their queries from a professional animator’s standpoint as well as giving helpful pointers and advice to aspiring animators.

[The One Academy of Communication Design was established in 1991 with the aim of promoting the region as the world’s center of creative reference. Strategically located in the thriving creative hub of Bandar Sunway, Selangor, with a branch in Georgetown, Penang, The One Academy is today a top notch leading international institute in art, design and creative multimedia, renowned with graduates who steer successful careers in creative capitals worldwide. The courses offered are Digital Media Design, Digital Animation with Game Development, Film Visual Effects, Illustration, Movie & Game Art, Advertising & Graphic Design, Interior Design, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making and Fine Arts.]