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Text: Carolin Blöink

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin

In times of computer-generated imagery (CGI), perfect surfaces, symmetrical figures, and clean edges are anything but a problem – in stark contrast to real life, where perfect execution is almost impossible.

It is equally challenging to realistically represent natural imperfection within renderings and imbue the figures or objects that have been created with something characteristic without seeming too blatant. The first 3D film characters with distinctive characteristics were created using stop motion in the 1950s, during the heyday of clay animation. What is of particular interest nowadays is the interplay between the analogue and digital craft that this context creates, often resulting in the originally used technology being barely detectable. To present characterful illustrations, the following designers have found their own strategies, lying anywhere between manual moulding and imitation of manual techniques.


Hudson Christie


With some of the illustrative works by Hudson Christie it is difficult to be sure if you can trust your eyes, whether the motif in question is a photograph of a sculpture or perhaps just a digital mock-up. In fact, the Canadian visual artist has made all of the illustrations manually in the form of miniature dioramas. Christie makes use of digital tools only in their planning and post-processing. Since his third year of studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, he has been engaged with the construction of real models. But it was not until his final year in 2014 that he found the right approach that suited him for transferring sculptural elements into 2D visualisations. Although the technology facilitates his work considerably, Christie does not see himself creating all of his illustrative worlds in an exclusively digital form in the future either. For Christie, it is the “mistakes”, albeit small, that arise in handling foam, paper, and polymer clay – which in his view allows recognition of exactly the right amount of brushstroke definition when painted – that make up the charm of his built narrative landscapes.


Charlotte Mei


Illustrator Charlotte Mei, who hails from Bristol, took part in an evening course in ceramics during her studies at the Camberwell University of the Arts in London, which since then has remained a passion of hers. While refining her own illustration and animation style, working with clay helped her to think more in terms of structures and gestures. Meanwhile, her rather coarse-looking visual objects manage to elicit empathy in the viewer despite, or maybe due to, their simple construction. The gestural treatment of the figures and the way they are coloured with the brush both stay visible in the resulting designs and thus also remain part of their creator. Mei compares this positive phenomenon with the discovery of an old clay pot with a thousand-year-old thumbprint on it, which certainly gives it far more of a story to tell than an immaculate mass-produced bowl.


Benjamin Lemoine


At the time that Benjamin Lemoine was studying at the École Émile Cohlin Lyon, drawing and painting were among his primary forms of expression – until, due to a lack of space and his desire to work in a clean, empty room, Lemoine discarded blocks and canvases to continue his work mainly in the digital world. However, to instil his figures with more life, which he describes as cartoon-like and naive, he began to attach greater prominence to the glorification of imperfection – also in his everyday life. Lemoine draws many of his ideas based on visual memories from his childhood, which have remained physically very vivid for him. Experimenting with Houdini software is for him the best way to digitally translate the impetus for his thoughts. Instead of him investing a lot of time in modelling figures, this programme allows him to define his own procedures, and by shifting parameters, he is able to create countless variations, thus allowing chance to play a part in the design. For example, this is how his so-called Playdoh series came into being, in which the rendering is not even detectable at first glance. Its implementation allowed the creation of a more plastic-like surface with many indentations, combined with the right colour range and a tool that also allowed the simulation of irregularities.



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Women and Design

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