advanced photoshop

Interview with creative director Dann Petty

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General, by Anna-lisa Saywell

We focus our attention to creative director and Photoshop pro Dann Petty, about a successful website commission for the Hollywood film Transformers 3

Dann Petty’s opportunity for unleashing his love for sci-fi visuals came from a one-off blog post. Design agency MRM Worldwide discovered his desire for a big project, and as luck would have it, made first contact.

To complement the film Transformers 3, the Find The One web-based game was launched and Dann was at the helm to bring this to life.

Interview with creative director Dann Petty

Artist: Dann Petty /

AP: How did this commission come about?

Dann Petty: About four months prior to getting that first email from the client, MRM Worldwide, I wrote a blog post about my passion for sci-fi user interfaces and how badly I wanted to create one. I’ve drooled over them in movies ever since the old days of Minority Report. I got the first email from the client asking if I was down with Transformers. This project was literally a dream come true.

AP: What were your initial ideas for the look and feel of the interface?

Dann Petty: For Transformers, I really wanted to create something unique. Having the luxury of getting to use crazy textures from the actual 3D models of the characters was pretty helpful. I ultimately just stared at the models for a while. I could see mini interfaces in the metalwork everywhere I looked. There’s just so much detail in each Transformer. I just began cutting up the metal and just laying things out in Photoshop.

Interview with creative director Dann Petty

AP: How did you transfer the style and character of the movie to the website?

Dann Petty: I really wanted to make it feel as if you were looking down on earth from space through the eyes of a mothership, or something from the Decepticons. Have you noticed how the Transformers are always dirty and scratched up? Using a lot of distress brushes and textures helped bring that to my designs. My first comps had a lot of actual parts from the characters, and their guns were like module headers, etc. Through all the rounds of revisions though, we decided to tone it back and make a more flat interface and really let the content speak for itself.

AP: Tell us about the Find The One project and how it had evolved from an initial concept to what it finally became?

Dann Petty: Find The One really didn’t evolve much conceptually from when I came aboard. MRM did a great job coming up with the game concept, and I basically just turned that into an interface. At first, they weren’t necessarily looking for that sci-fi interface I was dying to create, but after I did two other comps, we all agreed we had to make this sci-fi interface style. It just felt right. I basically just had a list of items that needed to be on the page, so I guess I helped evolve the flow of the game through the UI.

Interview with creative director Dann Petty

AP: Tell us about Photoshop’s role in the creation process of the interface?

Dann Petty: Photoshop was the primary tool I used. I did tons of photomanipulation for this. The background image alone is at least ten different images. Especially on the earlier comps, it was just over and over, trial and error through layer styles, painting and rearranging cut-up assets from the 3D models. Without Photoshop, this site would be nearly impossible. There’s just too much need for awesome tools like layer transparency, the Pen tool (my best friend) and just the endless photo-editing possibilities. I always draw a vector object, then use it as a vector mask for the cutout. I also like to just get crazy with brushes.

Interview with creative director Dann Petty

AP: Describe any design challenges met on this project and how they were overcome

Dann Petty: The biggest challenge with this project, as for most, is knowing exactly when to stop. I’m one of those creatives that can go all day long just creating and innovating. With a site like this that begs for tons of lighting and textures, it’s ridiculously hard. I mean, look at how much detail goes into each character in the movie. Sometimes simpler is better. With all the widgets and stuff we had going on here, we had to keep it simple in our own way. That was a major challenge for me.

AP: If you could look back and change anything about the project, what would it be?

Dann Petty: If I had to go back based on the same timeline and rules with the client, I definitely would have spent more time on the sci-fi look and not those extra days for the other looks I played with. I knew this was the look we wanted, so I just felt like it was a waste of time doing the others. I really wanted a hidden nav on this. It just calls for it. A lot of detail was missed due to time constraints.