What is Visual Development, Anyway?

The broad term “visual development” appears in a wide variety of contexts. This means that, like many people, you might be confused about what visual development actually is. Put simply, visual development is a building block for any type of visual art, from concept art to graphic design, illustration, animation, and video gaming.

The scope of a visual development artist’s work gives them a level of professional creative control that can be rare. This comes from the versatility of their work being applicable to a wide variety of media formats. Here are some important things you should know to get started in this unique industry.

What Does a Visual Development Artist Do? 

A visual development artist is responsible for creating the mood, tone, and color palette of the myriad imaginary worlds created through film, photo, and video gaming. No task or element is too large or small; as a visual development artist, you can design sets, environments, characters, clothing, props, furniture, lighting, and just about everything else that appears in (or illuminates) the background of a visual work.

Even subtle touches can set the stage for character development and storytelling. In fact, many movies rely on changes in background color or lighting to drive the story. For example, cool blues or greens shift to a warm orange or red when the action heats up.

Some time-tested retellings of classic stories would be entirely different without their costume, lighting, and set design choices. For example, Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet relied heavily on
visual development artists to structured and color each scene . With their work, the film became a box-office smash. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to imagine how a film narrated entirely in iambic pentameter could generate enough mass appeal.

What Skills Does a Visual Development Artist Need? 

Most visual development artists use their animation, illustration, drawing, painting, and graphic design skills to help bring their vision to life. Other useful skills for this career include videogame and programming knowledge. You’ll also work a lot with 2D or 3D, and rely on programs like Photoshop and Maya to generate drafts and tweak designs.

How is Visual Development Used in the “Real World”?

Employment opportunities are plenty in animation studios, film and video production outfits, and web design and public relations firms. You may also work as (or with) game designers and developers, graphic designers, and comic writers.

Other possible projects include advertisements, website themes, and glossy magazine photos, as well as product layouts and design. Meanwhile, you can also work with app developers to ensure a seamless UI/ UX design.

Where Can You Begin Your Visual Development Career? 

The visual development field is a highly competitive one, true. However, you can still rest assured that your career trajectory is limited only by your imagination. Most aspiring artists will pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and then will use an internship to launch their first job.

Visit the Academy of Art University’s website to learn more about the degree programs and the learning experience that the School of Visual Development has to offer.