Four lessons from Pixar’s design team

Published:  October 7, 2015

A new exhibition, that will kickoff on 8 October at New York City’s Cooper Hewitt, explores the design principals and tools that go into the creative processes of Pixar’s films. And more interestingly, this exhibition Pixar: The Design of Story will also feature the habits of the team behind the movies we all love.

Fast Co. Design spoke with Kim Robeldo-Diga, the deputy director of education and interpretation at Cooper Hewitt, to find out the four main habits that designers (and everyone, too) can learn from the Pixar team.


Tia W. Kratter, Ornament Valley, Cars, 2006. Acrylic on board.

1. Do your research

Did you know that the group of designers behind Cars, took a road trip down Route 66 as part of their research for the movie? Before they even started looking at car designs, their initial research consisted of taking a trip down Route 66 together.

“They actually took the road trip that they do in the film,” says Robledo-Diga. “They gathered soil. They ate at classic diners. They purchased funky, touristy postcards. They really tried to absorb the feeling of Route 66 and how it could inform the landscape of the film.”


Jay Shuster, WALL-E Arm Option, WALL-E, 2008. Correction fluid, ink and marker on paper.

2. Collaborate within and between teams

Sketches are usually passed across teams and each member make notes on improvements. It could be the tiniest detail or something really specific like, “how to make the brick more realistic or how the pipes should look in the bottom of the house.”

3. Keeping it simple

One of Pixar’s in-house strategies is a concept they call ‘Simplexity’, or a way of “simplifying an image down to its essence,” says Robledo-Diga.

4. The details matter

Pixar designers zero in on two things when they’re doing a story. The first is the appeal or how they can get audience connect and feel for a character and the second is believability.

“Their attention to detail is what makes their films so fantastic and believable. When the old man lost his wife in Up – I don’t believe that anyone left that film without crying in the first 20 minutes,” Robledo-Diga tells Fast Co. Design.

Were the above helpful? Do you have any other tips to add on?


Read the original article here.
Featured image: Bud Luckey, color by Ralph Eggleston, Woody, Toy Story, 1995. Mixed media on paper. DISNEY/PIXAR

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