Updated: Jul 10, 2019
The term visual library is used quite often in the concept art and industrial design world. It refers to the intangible collection of images held within an artist’s memory that may consist of patterns, objects, photos, pictures, paintings, people and other things the artist has seen and visually studied over their lifetime.
As students of the arts, it is imperative that you build your visual library, and here are three major reasons why you should do so:
As an artist your job is to communicate information and ideas visually. So, if you were designing a character, what visual cues would give away their job, their past, and where they are from? For example, take a beefeater. Once you see a person has a large fluffy black hat on, we make that connection straight away, and link that visual cue to royal guards. And so, if we were to see that hat appear on a character in a game, we would straight away connect that individual with the guarding of an important person or place - you now have that as an option in your library if you are ever asked to design a character fitting that role.
2. Variety in your work
It can be very easy to use the same formula to create the same sort of characters over, and over again without realising. This is why it is important for you to take the time to expose yourself to different visual languages so that you can produce a large variety of designs that keep your work fresh and varied. It also allows you to create work which won’t offend or rely too heavily on stereotypes, such as large horns on the helmets of Vikings.
Although there are some people who are employed because they do one thing very, very well, there are also employers in several different industries increasingly looking for employees who have a variety of skills. Can you design cute chibi kids as well as highly detailed monstrosities? Can you design and illustrate? Can you paint and 3D model? teach art and textiles? The more numerous your skills, the more useful you become to your employer, and therefore the more valuable you are as an employee. Having a breadth of knowledge, being able to work in a variety of styles, and being able to understand the visual language of different cultures, time periods, and industries could be your key to a sustainable future in art.
These are just three reasons why feeding your visual library is such an important aspect of being an artist. But wouldn’t you like to know where you can find the data to fill it with? Watch this space, soon we’ll be releasing an article on some of the best places to visit online and in real life to really get that library going.