With all visual products, it is important to have a clear and thought-through idea of the art direction before starting the asset production. Art Direction can include a long list of visual dogmas, but here’s a few of the important ones that I work after.
If it’s a game, the game designer is your boss. Not all agree on this, but that is how I see it. People are not playing games because of the visuals. Even awesome and unique art styles quickly become boring if nothing happens. If the art distracts the gameplay it becomes an unintended obstacle. Study the game design and look how the visuals can enhance it.
Important role of the art direction is to make the product quickly recognizable. If it succeeds, then you have a strong brand that stands out. One of the things I do is to find a handful of key shapes or patterns - and reuse them again and again. New technology can also open up for new unique styles.
Visual beacons. Select a few pieces of art that represent the end goal. Helps getting the team in on the same visual track.
The end goal for me is to line up all products and marketing elements and clearly see that they are the same brand/IP.
Art direction on the AR project The Little Mermaid was partially difficult. Many factors had to work together. The visual style needed to fit the details and moods in the story (which include sad and dark segments) and at the same time appeal to a global market. AR technology needed good tracking points from the images to work. Level design had to fit with restrictions based on user tests. All wrapped in my goal of wanting the 2D and 3D worlds to be seen as the same.