Interview with Davison Carvalho
Davison Carvalho designs fictional user interfaces (FUI), and concept art for games and movies. Throughout his career, he’s been involved innumerable other creative disciplines, ranging from web design to set dressing.
We first encountered Davison’s work following the release of the award-winning 2017 VR game ‘Lone Echo’. Design for virtual reality was, and still is uncharted territory, so we caught up with Davison to find out more.
You can see lots more projects from Davison Carvalho on his website.
Your work spans multiple disciplines (design, illustration, concept art, user interfaces), but which came first, and how did the rest fall into place?
I started with Graphic Design, at local advertisement agency in Brazil when I was 15 years old. They gave me an art test, and I passed; I remained employed there for seven years learning graphic design on the go. It was awesome!
I got into web design shortly after working for an education organization where I was leading all web effort; while there I felt like I was missing the creative drawing and illustration part I always enjoyed. So, I pursued a career in the illustration and manga (Japanese comics industry), in which I was successful and published in Japan for years under an artistic name, but they paid badly and contract blocked me severely in terms of art and promotion.
I quit and years later I won an art contest in a Fashion Week event in Brazil, which generated a lot of offers from the fashion industry. I worked for a big brand there which brought me the knowledge of mixing graphic design, illustration, product design and a lot of storefront designs, set dressing and catwalk design.
This was a unique professional experience that opened doors both professionally and mentally. It motivated me to open my own design business, a studio called FOMA. There I made all kinds of art and design and the studio remained in operations for 8.5 years, mostly doing motion work for TV and Brands all over the world. That brought me close again to passions I never got a chance to pursue which was making art for games and movies, medias in motion.
The last two years of the studio we shifted business and became an independent game studio, that experience brought me to where I am making Ui for the game industry.
I live in the USA for many years now and worked for many game studios like Epic Games, Ready at Dawn and 343 industries where I was dedicated on User Interface related roles. In parallel I developed a steady freelancing career working on movies – mostly Marvel stuff, and on those I bridged all kinds of art together, in fact they told me I was a Visual Development Artist which I highly identify with as it is a mix of concept art, graphic design, branding, motion, everything to create the worlds we see on those movies.
Recently I’ve been invited to shadow film crews and help out the art departments, mostly with production design, set dressing and prop making, so I’m always trying to expand my artistic reach, not easy but very rewarding to have a bit of range artistically. I feel like a colorblind chameleon, but I don’t eat flies!
In your opinion, what are the advantages of being a self-taught creative?
Based on experience, I think the two main advantages would be the creative thinking process since it’s slightly independent of rules and conventions, and the second will be the artistic range that may come from it. To explain better, when you’re trying to acquire knowledge by yourself, most of the time it’s a discovery process where one piece of information leads to a new door and so on, this helped me to see how different creative people in different fields think and what their processes are.
This made me develop my own process according to specific project goals; it may not be ideal or better but gave me flexibility that, based on experiences, resulted in different and sometimes unique results that stood apart in comparison with some folks doing specialized work competing for the same projects.
The bad side is that it is harder to work with creative constraints or in a specialized manner. Usually, self-taught individuals tend to be more on the generalist side, luckily for me I do it well because of my general knowledge and years of experience but it was not easy; a lot of learning by trying which can be professionally risky. Also, one major downside is not having academic specialized guidance and not having the opportunity to socially exchange with other students.
The 160th 366 Award goes to Davison Carvalho for his outstanding creative work.
Let’s talk about Lone Echo. What were the challenges of creating a user interface for virtual reality?
Many challenges. At the time VR was still new grounds, unknown rules and no usability conventions or guidelines yet, resulting in constantly evolving work for us.
Learning, testing, experimenting and collecting data to drive our decisions was the regular process and the team was amazing there, they designed things and mechanics that are now widely used in VR games out there and we were the first effectively using those things, which in my case for User Interface purposes was gold, and helped to solve many User experience challenges.
At the time I was the Lead UI Artist, making a lot of concept art for UI and HUD (heads up display) but also in-game environment UIs or FUI (Fictional user interfaces), that was fun and challenging. We also had 2 amazing talents helping out- on the art side Ash Thorp making beautiful mood concepts, and Shaheed Khan building things and making it work. Unfortunately, a lot of Ash’s concepts didn’t work from a UX perspective just because we were still figuring out the VR possibilities itself. That is how challenging it was, but after we found solutions that worked, where players felt comfortable and the gameplay was fluid, it was a smooth run and a lot of good art was done. I left before the project was finished but this is a project I feel particularly proud to have been part of. Challenging and fun!
Are there any specific movies, or TV shows from your childhood which have strongly influenced your work as an adult?
I believe this is now almost a standard answer, but definitely Star Wars. Some people take for granted some science fiction things from today, almost seeing them as tropes, but it was truly an art revolution on the entertainment industry and also on the marketing industry.
As a kid I was mind-blown when I saw what Ralph Mcquarrie, Dennis Murren and Joe Johnston did. Their work was a major influence on me. I was lucky when I was a kid that a friend of my father’s had an art book made in 1979 featuring concepts and blueprints from the movie, and that opened my eyes to the fact that drawings are actually used on films. My brother bought me a lot of art magazines and books as well. Later I saw, Alien, Akira, 2001 A space Odyssey and Disney stuff, and I knew what I wanted to do! haha.
Fun fact, years later that 1979 Star Wars book was given to me, it’s a 1st edition and I keep it like when Gollum had the one ring!
As someone who works in a very visual role, how has your colour blindness affected your process?
It has affected me, but honestly growing up with colorblindness makes you develop processes that become like motor functions to our brains. I do it without thinking about it. I have Tritanomaly, which makes me see blues, greens and greys in a similar way, but on radiant monitor colors it is easy to see differentiation. Real-life colors are less saturated so that sometimes plays some tricks on me.
The only aspect that colorblindness that affected my process is that the color picker and numbers became my best friends, in order to prove-validate colors. But again, since I was born with this, my brain is trained to perceive a wider range of tones in the few colors I see, so in a way, it’s almost like I have HDR vision, I really do see a wider range of monochromatic colors, which has proven to be almost bulletproof to keep color mistakes away.
And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
1979 – The Smashing Pumpkins