Artistry in Games assassinscreed_artistrygames_feature Concept Art: What Is Concept Art And Why Is It Important? Opinion

What is concept art? Concept art, often referred to as visual development, is the initial design used to develop the look and feel of a project. The project can be anything from animated films to, in our case, video games. Visual development artists will use the story and characters to build a basic concept that is used as a guideline for an entire project. Most of the time a concept artist will make a rough sketch, and after given the okay by the project manager, will move onto a 3D modeler or illustrator to turn into an even more accurate visual representation. Not only do the concept artists take the story to create a model of interpretation for the game, often the concept art relates such a strong feeling of the world that some story elements are created based off the art itself.

The picture to the right is concept art from Assassins Creed. If you have played Assassins Creed you will recognize this hidden blade which is a common weapon the character uses. This is a perfect example of how important visual development is to the final project. It accomplishes many things with this simple graphic. It gives the feel for the time period or world, it shows how the weapon is deployed, and it gives a perfect guideline for the next phase of development to know exactly what they are creating.

Some concept artists will make a sketch and pass it off to a modeler, while others are involved in almost every step of the design. A well-rounded visual developer will take the approved sketch he made, turn it into a 3D model, and sometimes even follow it to the full-production phases. When an art director for a video game searches for concept art, they will usually hire multiple artists to produce concepts, so they have a variety of options to choose from when designing the final feel of the game.

Concept art is very important for video game production for many reasons. As stated before, it gives a guide to create the rest of the world off of. Let’s just say you were making a game and decided not to employ the use of concept art. First, you pass off different tasks to all your modelers, animators, and illustrators. A week or two later you get a rough draft from everybody, so you grab a coffee, sit with your superiors and you guys rifle through your options. Because you have great members of your team, all the designs are polished and looking great. What’s the problem? Every design has a different feel to it. While Bob decided to design the Assassin with a 3-foot long sword to deploy for his hidden weapon, James decided the hidden weapon was a pocket knife size dagger. The guys who made your environment are on different pages, too. Steve made a grassy flatland while Billy decided the terrain should be a snow-covered, mountainous landscape. Without using concept art and deciding on a direction for your project, you are now out of a lot of money in your precious budget. Concept art is a must!

Concept art has taken off as a field of its own. Online you will find forums, websites, and blogs dedicated to the aspect of visual development. A quick Google search for ‘concept art’ will employ over 265 million web pages related to this keyword. Concept art has been embraced so much that there are fandom sites of people who create concepts for games that have been out for years. While these fan-made designs are obviously pointless to the game developer, it shows how the area of visual development is an integral part of video games and how much fans respect the craft.

While searching for concept art, you will notice some images will come up of a super polished, breath-taking image. This is where the confusion is: illustration and concept art are not equal to each other. Concept artists will use quick sketches to explore ideas used to communicate the look of a world, and an illustrator will take the concept and create an amazing looking, elaborate picture. Sometimes a concept artist and an illustrator will be the same person, but to keep the definition of concept art true, they are different. With that being said, it is visually appealing to look at concept art and illustration next to each other, to see a complete process of start to finish for the graphic design of a game.

Many of us have a favorite game or a set of favorite games, and I would like you to take a second to think about if that game has a distinct mood to it. I bet it does. Most great games have an individualized mood, whether it’s a gloomy Batman game or light-hearted Mario. These moods, or feels, are the key focus of what a concept artist is trying to convey with his/her work. We have been talking mostly about video game concept art, but this is by no means the only avenue for the field. A movie will almost always use a storyboard chalked full of concept images during pre-production and after. Comics, cartoons, and almost any sort of visual entertainment utilize concept art. The world of video games that we all love so much would not be possible without concept art. Next time you’re bored, take some time and look up concept art from your favorite game. Who knows, you might be the next person creating fan-made concepts in your free time. H***, you might end up creating concept art for the next amazing video game. If you do, I would like to say thanks; without concept art a video game would be a sloppy, unorganized mess.

By Jon Raymond

Jon Raymond is a freelance writer and blog author at He is a gamer, reader, cook, and closet nerd. You can contact him at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.