Artwork by Carmen Cianelli

The other morning, I was chatting it up with a few or the regulars on the ArtOrder chat, and the subject of reference came up. I'm not going to argue the merit of reference in illustration. In fact I'm going to skip right past that subject. In the midst of our reference discussion a glancing comment about Anita Olsen's posts about her university illustration project and mood boards. Love 'em or hate 'em, mood boards often step beyond the idea of reference material and enter the realm of research. It doesn't matter which of my hats I'm wearing at the moment - illustrator, designer, photographer, art director... I find the research phase of creative development to be the most intensive and rewarding portion of the entire creative process. Just yesterday, I pulled together a concepting team to start the research phase for a new product line we are developing over at Wizards of the Coast. I'd like to take a minute and talk about research, an how it can be useful and helpful for the creative process.