5 Rules for Designing a ‘Star Wars’ Character

One of the people most directly responsible for the design of the “Star Wars” prequel is Doug Chiang, so it seemed only fitting that I would hop on the phone with him to discuss “Star Wars: The Digital Collection” the morning after the announcement was made.

Before we spoke, Fox sent over a clip from the extras on the “Digital Collection,” and in it, Doug talks about lessons he learned from George Lucas about design, lessons that Disney summed up for me in the following bullet points:

As a designer, you can get bogged down in the minutiae of perfect form and proportions. Doug had to learn to think and draw like a kid again. Don”t worry about the details; they don”t define a design.

When the audience sees something new on screen, they have to immediately connect with this new item. They have to understand what it is within two or three seconds. If the design doesn”t tell you what it is within three seconds, then it doesn”t work.

George Lucas loved creating designs with personality, but this principle doesn”t just relate to the characters of Star Wars; it also applies to vehicles and sets. Everything in the Star Wars movies has to have a personality to convey to the audience.

Doug Chiang had to ensure that all his designs had a level of believability so that the audience wouldn”t be distracted or taken away from the movie experience.

This design principle refers to the extra factor that gives the design flair. It”s the extra element that makes kids want to play with the new design and make it “extra cool”!

On Tuesday morning of last week, just after the big announcement, Doug called my house, and we had the following short, but interesting, conversation.

DREW MCWEENY:  Hi, Doug. How are you sir?

DOUG CHIANG:  Good. How are you?

Big fan of your work. I find it fascinating right now, as we're gearing up for what will be the first time I get to take my kids to an original Star Wars film in the theater, that  I thought I was beyond this excitement. I thought I was beyond that moment of the anticipation that I felt in '99, but I guess I'm not, and this time it comes from the sharing. For you guys, that countdown in '99 had to be maybe the strangest moment you will ever have as a designer, because you guys were responsible for bringing back a world that meant so much to so many people. Can you talk about the process of becoming involved with that, and then watching as people started to react to what you guys were doing?