This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Vectors, and the importance of understanding geometry for computer animation

I often tell people not to ask me math questions, as I only have a Fine Arts Degree. And really, I don't consider myself very good at math. The highest I ever got was Geometry, which is just one step above Algebra. I never studied Trigonometry, or Calculus, or anything like that. People who can do THAT stuff I consider real good at math!

But I have made my living as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. And I hadn't realized that my, at least casual, acquaintance with Geometry has helped me, especially understanding three-dimensional shapes, and in particular vectors.

It's not a question of memorizing stuff, it's a question of picturing how objects are formed in a geometric way. And when I started teaching at The Art Institute of Phoenix, I found that many people, unfortunately, couldn't *wrap their head around* vectors. Luckily, it wasn't the Computer Animation students, they understood.

Wireframe (left) and rendered (right)
Vectors are at the basis of all computer animations. In their simplest form, they create the shapes in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, which is my specialty (and that's not really an animation program, it's just a drawing program). At the highest level of complexity, they create the wireframe shape used in Computer Animation.

So, if you want to work in the Computer Animation field, you will have to understand, at least conceptually, some basic Geometry. And unless things have changed since I went to school, the prerequisite for Geometry is Algebra.

No, no one is going to ask you to wear a pocket protector, or be a *math nerd* if you want to be in the world of Computer Animation. But they will ask you to understand a bit of Geometry. So go sign up for that class, and learn as much Geometry as you can - it may not make sense now, but it will in the future.

By the way, the character at the top is from the animation *Despicable Me*, and was named *Vector* - a smile and a wink to everyone in the Computer Animation industry, who understand. They could have called him Geometry, but it probably didn't sound right.