At first glance, insectOrama might simply seem like a cute, quirky idea. And while it is true that the drawing templates are cute and somewhat quirky, insectOrama has also proven to be a way for people of all ages to let their imaginations run free. On his website, Belgian graphic designer Stefan de Pauw makes available sets of templates that he designed featuring parts of insects, people, and animals from land, air, and water. From Stefan's point of view, the templates are not "products" but are intended to be starting points—source material—for people to take their creativity in new directions.
Like many children, Stefan loved to draw. In fact, he can't remember a time when he wasn't drawing, and aspired to become a cartoonist in his youth. In high school, he further honed his interests and developed a passion for photography, eventually pursuing a degree in photography at the art school Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussel. But as he was completing his studies, his passion for drawing was reignited and he was again drawn to the expression and impact achievable through graphic design and illustration.
Artwork by Sam de Buysscher / Toy Factory
A friend from school had a scanner, color printer, and an early version of Photoshop and invited Stefan to experiment with the software and tools. That was back in 1993 when those things were not common at all. Stefan was instantly excited by the power of technology to take creativity to entirely new places.
In his first job as a video conference technician, Stefan convinced his boss to let him make the company's posters and brochures. With better hardware and more Adobe creative applications at his disposal, his exploration of graphic design deepened and his desired career path became clear. His next step was to secure a full-time job as a graphic designer, while continuing to freelance and experiment with new ideas and the latest tools in his spare time. Drawing remained a constant throughout his professional growth and he kept a sketch book for each creative period.
A colleague's fascination with product design introduced Stefan to Ponoko.com, a site where you can upload illustrations as vector graphics and get them back as lasercut objects. To Stefan, it was like opening up a new world of creative opportunity and expression. The colleague ordered a sample kit with materials and Stefan bought a book with vector silhouettes. He was intrigued, but wasn't entirely sure what direction he wanted to take it.
Then one day, a graffiti sticker of a man with a crab head intrigued him and inspired him to slice his graphic silhouettes into pieces and have them lasercut. Not to use the pieces but instead the remaining frames. His goal was to make templates that enabled people to draw, not with full silhouettes, but by using parts that they could combine in fun, imaginative ways. He created his first prototype of the templates with Ponoko and decided to let his friends and their children play with it while they were all vacationing together. Up until then, Stefan had only combined the parts together on screen to make sure they fit and worked how he intended. The ever-inventive kids, however, uncovered things that Stefan had never even imagined. He watched in awe as they combined the parts, making entirely new creatures, and then bringing them to life with color.
Stefan named his pet project insectOrama and immediately set out to get feedback from the design community. His participation in De Invasie, a Belgian platform that promotes emerging talent, was an instant success. He set up his booth as a large drawing table and watched it buzz with excitement and creativity as visitors took the templates and combined them to interpret the parts in new ways.
While Stefan loves to see how professional designers reinterpret the templates he is equally impressed by the unique, fresh perspective that children bring to their projects. Previously, his friends who teach a class on fantasy creatures commented about how children's designs were often very similar. That was, until they introduced the insectOrama templates, which freed the children to be more creative and take more chances.
With the popularity of the insectOrama site on the rise, Stefan now produces small batches of templates at a time and makes them available online and at events. He also continues to focus on other creative endeavors, taking his design career in new directions. Today, he collects ideas digitally so he can more immediately jump into Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and CINEMA 4D and start experimenting. Of course, regardless of his approach, he never loses sight of the importance of basic drawing and illustration to the creative process. His insectOrama templates serve as a reminder that, like with most things in life, what you get creatively depends on what you put into it.
Visit Stefan's personal site at www.fusion.be.
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