Inside The Enterprise Project

The Sacrifice of Color
March 13, 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Design and Artwork

I have always loved plans, any kind actually. I have dozens of house plan books floating around the house. I have books on skyscrapers, airplanes and ships. I think I even have one on trains. But the most fascinating plans for me have always been starship plans. I remember a project we did in the fourth grade where we mapped out the internal layout of the space shuttle in the school parking lot with string and masking tape. It was completely and utterly fascinating. I have been hooked ever since. I even saved my allowance for weeks to buy a book on the space shuttle so I could learn more about how she worked and was built. Then in 1990 the Holy Grail came along… the TNG Technical Manual… and I was totally hooked. After that, my love of space ships went through the roof. I wanted to know… everything. But since that well has dried up in the last few years, I have been forced to start filling in my own blanks when it comes to Trek ships. The birth of The Enterprise Project is the result of that “need to know”.

Creating these plans has given me countless hours of enjoyment and frustration. It has made me appreciate the work of all the predecessors so much more too. When you flip through the pages of one of those fabulous technical manuals, one usually doesn’t realize how much work goes into something like that until they experience it for themselves. At times it is arduous, especially when you are trying to fit everything in, follow “canon” and satisfy basic engineering. I can deal with those variables. The one thing that has just about driven to distraction has been my decision to do them in color. When I began, I knew that I wanted to set my plans apart from the other schematics by giving mine a rich pallet of color. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It is hard to believe that something so simple would end up being such a giant big pain in the ass.

As a designer, I have to follow a few rules when creating anything. One of the most important is the “30 Second Rule”. It basically states that a design is no good if it takes more than thirty seconds for your audience or viewer to understand it. If it takes longer than that, your viewer has more than likely moved on to something else and you have failed in your design. So the biggest problem with introducing color into the deck plans was keeping things simple enough for someone to comprehend what was going on. But the color just screwed up the contrasts between the spaces and the bulkheads. Everything just ran together. So I went several rounds trying to keep things clean and clear. I tried about a dozen color combinations and shades before deciding on the colors I actually used. But now, after two years, I am already running into the same problem all over again while trying to redo the plans. I can’t get the doors to show up against all of the color fields making some of the details murky. I am basically back at square one. I may even have to increase the size of the original full deck plans to make it work. But I will make it work, count on it.

But the one good thing about introducing color is the fact that it forced me to produce the detail plans with a more three dimensional look. I was forced to add all of the shading to help separate the floors from the walls and equipment. The choice of color did have its good points and in the long run did make things better.

More to come. Stay tuned.


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