3 Key Lessons for Creative Entrepreneurs from Pixar

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Art and design remain among the most sought after skills in the Pakistani market, which is experiencing a boom in sectors such as media, animation and gaming. We.R.Play in Islamabad and Mindstorm Studios in Lahore are examples of successful startups which employ large teams of artists including concept designers, illustrators, renderers and UI specialists to build their gaming titles.

But as anyone in this space in Pakistan will tell you, hiring and grooming artists to work on designing games and applications is an incredible challenge. The pipeline connecting art graduates to the industry is not refined and there are few professionals in the local industry who take on the onerous task of training and managing teams of artists in a structured environment.

The documentary “The Pixar Story,” is one movie that may provide a blueprint for uniting art and industry. As it explains the origins and culture at of Pixar, a prominent animation company based in the San Francisco bay area, it offers lessons for the many startups around Pakistan looking to make an impact in the animation and graphics space.  

Animation is both art and science

“The Pixar Movie” does a great job of illustrating how successful graphic artists have an appreciation for both the aesthetics and technicalities of graphic design and are often a product of a dynamic educational system that encourages cross-pollination between schools of art and schools of engineering.

In Pakistan, a lack of connection between arts and science is probably the biggest reason that the native animation sector is lagging in producing a critical mass of skilled graduates. On the one hand, we have prestigious art schools like National College of Arts (NCA) and the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) that do an excellent job of providing art training but have shown a limited interest in merging this skill with technology. On the other hand, graduates at  NUCES (National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences) and LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) who are technically proficient but get few opportunities to enhance their skills in the artistic domain.

It is the rare individual who is equally competent in both domains, and today, this typically takes personal initiative. But there is no reason that industry and academia in Pakistan cannot collaborate to groom the right kind of graduates at the school level.

Artists need to collaborate  

Most managers in the gaming and animation space tend to come from an engineering background and have a tendency to outsource well-defined tasks to art teams that execute independently, without a lot of collaboration. In “The Pixar Story,” the star team is comprised of multi-disciplinary individuals who are extremely involved in defining the nature and scope of complete films. Most artists working in game and application development develop a deep interest in the field and have many creative ideas about how to make them look and feel better. The sooner we move beyond seeing them as assembly lines churning out sprite sheets and instead involve them in the entire process of defining a product and its features, the faster we will get to see their full potential.

According to Pixar, the secret sauce for successful creative development is designing products that you yourself would enjoy using. The best way to make that happen is to involve artists and users in the design process.

Great ideas come through observation

The film also reveals the power of observation. Pixar movie “A Bug’s Life” was inspired by observations of bugs in an adjoining garden. “Finding Nemo” was conceived upon a journey through a glass tunnel filled with marine life. The message is that creative teams can draw from observation of their surroundings to come up with themes for their next great product. Game and application companies should do the same, giving their design teams the opportunity to brainstorm new products and relate them to their own observations. At mobile publisher Tintash, for example, we derive inspiration from playing board games to understand what makes them fun. The time spent on exercises that get the creative juices flowing is a critical part of the planning cycle and well worth the investment.  

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