Monday, December 24, 2007

Exterior Referb - Part 2

Creating a unique paint scheme is one of the most rewarding aircraft reiteration steps you can take. A good design can instantly transform a non-descript airplane into the center of attention every time you go anywhere. Nailing down a one-of-a-kind masterpiece you are proud of, however, takes time and commitment up front to get it right.

Creating the design is not something that you want to rush. The planning should start months before the aircraft is scheduled to be painted. In fact, 36G's design sessions with Scheme Designers started in May 2007 and the first renderings were posted on June 20, 2007. We finalized the design early December, which worked out to 7 months of daily/weekly phone calls & emails to complete.

N252Q Design Process
The secret of a good design is to do your homework and be prepared to spend time reviewing each rendering carefully. If you want something truly unique you have to guide the design team through the process. The more time you spend with them the better the outcome. I chose to use Scheme Designers because they have the industry expertise and know what works and what doesn't; however, it was up to me to guide them through creating what I wanted. If they are good, they are busy. They will not spend a lot of time on your project unless you stay on top of them.

It took about a month of emails and a couple of conference calls to convey my ideas about 36G to the design team. They then created the initial renderings and posted them on their website:

The first batch of designs are intended to gage what you are going for. They are typically radically different approaches. We reviewed the first designs and I liked some of the colors and concepts, but the flow wasn't quite right. We then combined elements from each rendering that I liked in order to generate the next series:

As you can see form the above photos, the lines started to flow, the Mooney logo was incorporated into the design, the tail became more dominant, etc., but it still wasn't quite right. The logo was too big and didn't fit properly on the tail. The lines didn't balance well from front to back...

Keeping it Simple
The design process can be daunting -- especially if you haven't done this before. What I found helpful is to initially look at the renderings as a whole form a distance and answer some basic questions. Does it look right? If not, then what doesn't? Do you like the colors? Does the design seem to balance? Does the N-Number placement fit into the design? etc...

NOTE: What I do is print the designs on a large-format printer and hang them on a wall in my office. I also pick the rendering I like the most and set it as my computer wallpaper. Looking at these every day guarantees that I spend quality time with each design without having to intentionally stop everything to review them.

After you get things balancing from a distance then zero in on each section ignoring everything else. On 36G, I started from the tail and worked in small sections until getting to the nose.During each iteration, I jotted down my thoughts and sent a bulleted list to the Scheme Designers team. I then scheduled a phone call so I could guide them through my list. Graphic artist tend to be more visual, so a follow-up phone call typically makes the process smoother. All you do is repeat these steps until the side is done. Then roll to the top of the fuselage and finally the prop, belly, placards, etc. Be careful about making a lot of changes at once. I've found that small precise changes are more effective.

Design Examples
The following links are good examples of completed Scheme Designer aircraft designs. Stepping through from top to bottom will give you a good idea of how a design comes together. Pay particular attention to how some designs have many iterations and others are fairly simple. It is clearly up to the owner to drive the process.
This is just a sample of all we went through. The entire design process took 7 months. You will have to stay tuned to see the final version after 36G is painted. I don't want to spoil the final reveal.

Next time, I will discuss the process of selecting a paint shop and key things to take into consideration before signing on the dotted line.

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