Saturday, December 01, 2007

Project Toy Chest?

I heart Project Runway, especially now, because every week of Toy Design school feels like a Project Runway episode. They start w/ 16 contestants, and there are 15 students in my class. My concept teacher is like a cuter, nicer version of Michael Kors, and we have to crank out some kind of original toy concept every week based on a specific toy genre. On the day we present our design boards, our version of Michael Kors leads us through a class critique. And someone gets kicked out.

Just kidding! Nobody gets kicked off. But I bet we have all considered kicking ourselves out. (And there is one obnoxious student that we wish would get kicked out.) As the weeks have gone by, we've gotten to know each other's work really well, so by now we know each others' strengths and weaknesses, like you get to know the characters on Project Runway.

One classmate is a pro at girly toys and drawing sparkles and gems, and her palette veers toward 80s colors, like purple, teal, and pink. She's very in touch with her audience (She's the one who loves Hannah Montana). Another is a flawless marker-renderer, but her brand names tend to be misunderstood (unfortunately, English is not her first language).

One of the younger dorm guys comes up with really hilarious concepts, like a cow-tipping game. The 2nd oldest guy in class always draws amazing detail and veers toward creative play (where a child creates something new), like a marshmallow-headed, monster-making set. The youngest student has strong time management and consistently draws his beauty shots (the main, full-color glorious drawing of the toy) nice and large, but the teachers finally had to tell him to stop putting the same Mr. Bucket face on all his toys.

The super-stylish (gay) guy who sits next to me, draws richly-colored, gorgeous beauty shots but rarely has time for vignettes. One reclusive designer (perpetually seen in headphones) surprises us with funny and wacky designs sometimes, that are perhaps Asian-culture inspired or a bit more offbeat. And recently in presentations, she began wearing outfits that matched her toy! Like one week, she made this nerd doll, so she put on nerd glasses!

A mohawked guy, who looks like Bowser from Super Mario, also makes offbeat and original designs, but when they go as far as missing the mark of its audience, he maybe gets a little defensive about the critique. His oral presentations are really wacky and entertaining, but at times his delivery comes off a little bit facetious.

I think my strength is that I can fairly draw well, even if it's the night before, and that I don't let myself stress about it. My palette tends toward bright green, light blue, and orange, I think because I like happy, vivid colors that are okay for both genders. I can design logos quickly, and that I'm versatile at concepts for different styles and genres. I am good at styling for cute and funny, but maybe not as strong at details for older boys' toys. I always crank out the whole drawing the night before, because there is just too much going on the rest of the week. But I always make sure I get a good night's rest two nights before the presentation is due.

My weakness was that I used to leave the outlines until last, and sometimes I didn't even have time to outline. Also I never had time to plan out the layout well. I was happy just to get the whole drawing on the board in time for presentation. And my beauty shot was usually a bit small, because I was trying to leave room for all the other stuff. But now I do plan out the layout before I draw, and I start with the outline instead of color. And I started to draw the beauty shots really large. So I've listened to feedback and improved!

Some weeks ago, a classmate asked our concept teacher if our clinic (where they reviewed and advised us on all of our work so far) would be like American Idol. He said, "Ohh no, it's not like that, don't worry so much. We're really just trying to help you." --to which we sighed with relief. And then he said, "It's more like Weakest Link! Ahahaha! Just kidding!"

Um. Not so funny to the rest of us, Mr. Kors.

My heart goes out to the Project Runway contestants, because I don't know how they can design AND sew a well-fitted, cleanly-sewn outfit every week! When I saw this last episode where they all struggled to do the menswear in time, it reminded me of my class's last week of toy concept submissions.

Our last concept assignment for the semester was for the "Tween" genre. This is the 8-12 age range, where kids are growing a bit out of toys, but still are drawn to them. At this point, we were all so exhausted from 9 weeks of intense schoolwork, that we all struggled to come up with concepts. One student who worked as a part-time babysitter, pointed out that she just hated tweens anyway, because they're the most annoying kids to deal with!

When I tried to come up with concepts for tweens, I could only come up with horribly stupid, clich├ęd tween ideas, like cupcake-boxed lipgloss. It seemed like any secret-message-swapping concepts I thought of were no longer relevant, since kids all have cellphones now. My concept teacher was not impressed, and neither was I. He tried to guide me toward some Tween themes, like lunchtime and fortune-telling products, but I wasn't excited by any of it. I told him I'd get back to him with something better later.

The next day, in the middle of sewing class, as I chatted about earmuffs and winter hats with a classmate, I remembered that I had always wanted to design earmuffs with headphones built-in. So I emailed my teacher about it, and he loved the idea. I also suggested I'd design ones that were Daft Punk-inspired, for boys. I noted that they were an electronica band, just in case he didn't know. He replied, "Yes, I know who Daft Punk is." Whoops!! :)

But now that my teacher loved the idea so much, I had to live up to the expectation! By this week, the class was strained to the limit from all the work we have to do, and so by presentation time, I was one of maybe 3 students who fully completed our boards in time. (--Quite an improvement from my first week, when I didn't even have time to color the damned thing!) Each board needs a beauty shot, a logo, and smaller vignettes and text captions that show details of how the toy works. Most students were only able to complete a beauty shot and not much else. So I guess if this really were a tv show, I think I'd make it to the finals. :)

If I had to pick the students that would make the finals (other than me), I would pick:
  • the guy who draws detail well and tends toward creative play
    (--who we've nicknamed the Wizard, Wise One, or Papa Smurf, because he does so well and yet is so humble about it. He's also a part-time Masseur and the one that people think is the oldest in the class.)
  • The girly-toy designer
    (my bff in class, though I am not biased, really! I would hire her.)
  • Mr. Bucket Head-face
    (the youngest one, from Staten Island, aka teacher's pet and is at FIT on a scholarship)
Or... maybe the reclusive headphone girl instead of Mr. Bucket Head. That would be a toss-up between consistency vs. originality.

Of course, I'm behind in my other classes. But so are a lot of my classmates. We all prioritize our concept class, because that's the stuff that goes into our final portfolio for eventually applying to our summer internship. And apparently we'll be redoing all of our concept boards anyway, during the 3-week intensive Winterim, after we come back from Winter break. I've heard from the senior class, that basically we will be living in that classroom, day and night during Winterim. I'm afraid. Very afraid.

Anyway, who do you like on the new season of Project Runway? I think my favorite right now is Kit. I really like Sweet P, as a person, and for putting up with crazy Elisa so well. Elisa is definitely kookoo, but at least she's somewhat interesting. I am curious to see what she comes up with, but I also wouldn't mind if she gets kicked off halfway through the season. Ricky's hat annoys me, and I think he should be booted next.

I don't think Chris is strong enough to get to through the season, but I am curious to see what kind of wackiness he comes up with, given his costuming background. Steven reminds me of Emmett from Season 2, because I think they're both really cute and tasteful, but their styles are probably too boring and conservative to win. Christian is the cocky young guy of course, but I do think his designs are fun, and it's apparent that he is skilled. I'm still sorting out Jillian, Kevin, and Jack, who all seem okay and consistent. I don't see their personalities coming out strongly yet. If I had to choose the final four now, I would pick Christian, Rami, Victorya, and Kit.

Okay, enough procrastinatin', I think I'm finally rested enough to finish my crazy weekend work!

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Anonymous brian said...

Hi June! Though I should be studying, I stumbled across one of my favorite games, which also reminded me of you, which is how I ended up here...

Also, I don't know if you've come across hypemachine - - but it currently links to some hella wicked daft punk remixes....

10:49 PM  

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