Did you notice the detail in the Master Chief’s suit when you last played Halo? Or thought about how the engineers lay out electrical wiring for 70 story skyscrapers without getting confused?
The tool you need to do that type of work is Computer Aided Design (CAD). CAD has been around since the 1970s and almost everything we encounter in our daily lives has been impacted by CAD. Our coffee tables, microwaves, shampoo bottles, and cars are all designed with CAD.
Tony Gale, an expert in CAD, had a rocky start at his school. He was good at grasping math but never really liked going to school. “The teachers were bad and the classes were in total chaos” he remembers. Due to bad grades in his freshman and sophomore years, he had to leave his school and get a GED instead.
After getting his GED, he went back to school and took two years of Electrical Engineering. Computer Aided Design was part of the course work, along with learning blueprints and schematics.
While reading blueprints wasn’t something new for him, since his dad, an architect, had taught him that when he was younger, the introduction to CAD really opened up a new world for him. “CAD is used to design a lot of the items you see today. [You can use it as a hobby too.] You can design beautiful patterns in plywood and take it to a CNC Machine shop and what would have taken someone days to produce can be done in minutes” he explains.
Tony worked on various projects to gain experience and learn advanced techniques in CAD until he became extremely proficient with it. In 1998, he landed his first game developer job, contracting with Microsoft to develop Flight Simulator games. He is currently using CAD to architect hybrid cloud networking solutions as the Data Center Manager for Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Center (the face of Microsoft to the World). His company, Studio Orb does VPN and Network security, CAD documentation and Event management.
I asked Tony for any advice he might have for people who are hoping to become a game developer like him.
“I had been interested in games so I started with game development (programming) but didn’t pay any attention to drawing. I wouldn’t recommend that path unless you’re into the programming side of it”
“You need four years of math” he advises.
“On the artistic side, the best way to start is with a pencil, sketching out 3D people in black and white. Learning that is really good because once you can do it on paper you can do it over a printout of a 3D model” he continues.
He ended up getting a minor in Fine Arts during college and it helped him with the drawing. Learning the design aspect of gaming can be an arduous process, but Tony suggests programs like Maya can help you along the way.
Some tools are easier to use with modern tablets that allow you to design easily with a stylus. But, even with all those tools to help you along the way, “you should be able to communicate with drawings” he says.
Tony recommends anyone who’s interested in a CAD career should take electrical engineering courses since it provides the greatest latitude. Of course, if your interests lie in game development, it would help to take some courses in both math and drawing.
Game Development is not the only CAD job with an artistic emphasis. Industrial manufacturing is another field that needs artists who know how to use CAD.
For example, one job might be designing tennis shoes. They may have nine layers requiring the CAD specialist to understand all nine of them in order to come up with great ideas on how to make a new tennis shoe and that “is an industrial art form.”
Tony is a founder of the primary Old Rainier Brewery (ORB) Artist Cooperative: Sabaki which resides in the historic SoDo landmark. His family and the financial backers preserved and populated the set of 35 buildings in SoDo.
The use of CAD was absolutely essential for the Historic Building Preservation and Construction, Site and Project management plus attaining each and every Building Code certification with the City of Seattle.
One of his recent projects was assisting in the design of marine electrical systems for the Uncruise company, exemplifying the wide ranges of CAD’s application.
Learn more about being a CAD drafter at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm or a multimedia artist at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm