EA Series: “Outside In”

| January 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

You may remember from my first article that I talked about relationships between the elements of a design. The buzz word for that concept is UNITY, and it’s an important one. In order for a design to be considered successful, all the parts need to come together in such a way that it works as a single cohesive package.

Now – here’s the tricky part – there are virtually limitless numbers of ways to achieve that. It’s up to you as the designer to figure out the best combination of elements to make your design say what you want it to say.

Repetition is probably the most commonly used and easily understood, so we’ll start there.

You can repeat colors, shapes, sounds, motion, or any other element of the show. Now I’m not talking about doing the same thing over and over.  Although that would certainly create UNITY, it would also be pretty boring. Instead, look for different ways to interpret a single idea. If you want to use squares, for example, they can appear on the floor, on silks or costumes and in drill forms. If you want to base your show on the color red, it can appear in different places throughout the show.

There are a couple approaches that are popular (and maybe overdone).

  • One is to end the show in the same form you begin in. We often call that “bookending” the show. It works, but it can often be obvious, overly simple, and therefore, uninteresting. If you choose to use bookending, first find a way to build into the ending set that is logical. (I’ve seen some guards do really horrible transitions to get back to that opening set.) Another is to make it interesting and, if possible, not obvious. Once I figure out where you’re headed I’m done. Intrigue me all the way to the end.
  • The other idea is to use a single flag design in different colors throughout the show. If you go this route, why not vary the actual design, but repeat important elements of the design along with different colors.

So, how do you make sure that your design has UNITY? Here’s a technique that I call working from the outside in.

  • Decide what the overall concept of your show is going to be. What’s the biggest idea? Write down a simple explanation of your concept. (If it takes more than one sentence, your idea may be too complex to convey in a guard show. Try to simplify it.)
  • The second step is to make a list of every possible idea you could use that SUPPORTS YOUR CONCEPT. At this point, you’re brainstorming so don’t limit yourself and don’t rule anything out. Include everything from musical selections to costumes to choreography.
  • Third: Edit. Here you’re going to look at practical concerns like budget, talent, and other resources. But, more importantly in terms of this discussion, how does each idea support the concept and do your ideas work together? Does the costume you want to wear make sense with the style of choreography you envision. If your show is about water and you decide to reuse a set of silks with blue rectangles to save money, you might have trouble convincing me that those rectangles represent water.

This is where many falter, because they either don’t take the time go through the process of making the right choices, or they lie to themselves and say “it won’t be that bad”.

WARNING: It might. Of course, with some creativity, you can work around obstacles and create something that not only works, but may be pretty unique.

Here’s a story from my own experience.

I had found some western–themed music that I wanted to use, but the group I was teaching had a solid gray floor that they couldn’t afford to replace and they didn’t want to paint it. I had no idea how to do a gray western show until I was driving one morning and noticed some mountains in the distance that appeared as silhouettes in shades of gray against a fairly hazy gray sky. That was the solution. Those mountains became our backdrops. The guard was costumed in all black and white, using cowprint fabric, fringe and white cowboy hats. The only colors appeared on the silks and created a nice contrast. We ended up with something that worked pretty well, with a color palette I never would have thought of on my own.

So, as you put your show together, keep asking

1) how does this relate to my concept and

2) how will work in combination with the other elements that are already in the show?

If you do that consistently, you greatly increase the chance of creating a show that really works.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Adjudication, Costumes, Design, Drill & Staging, Ensemble Analysis, Equipment, Floors & Props, General, Joe Paul: Ensemble Analysis, Performance, Professional Development, Regular Blog Features

About the Author (Author Profile)

Joe Paul has had a long and varied engagement with the “marching arts” as a designer, instructor, director and judge. He was both a performing member and instructor for Avatar Winter Guard from Southern California and The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps from Rosemont, IL. More recently he has taught a number of high school color guards, as well as Allusion Winter Guard from Thousand Oaks, CA. He has been a judge for the SCSBOA, WBA, WGASC, UWGA, WTCGA & CIPA. He is currently the drill writer for Valencia High School in Valencia, Ca, staging designer for the Chino High School Winter Guards and tour manager for The Cavaliers.

Joe holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from California State University, Northridge and lives and works in Los Angeles as a freelance graphic designer.

Leave a Reply