I WAS HOPING THAT YOU MIGHT GIVE ME SOME INSIGHT ON GETTING INTO CONCEPTUAL DESIGN?
Your first goal is to get into some sort of projects that need concepts like movies or computer games. Put together a portfolio of design projects,... and show everything from little pencil scribbles on up to a marker (or computer) rendering for each final product. This shows your thinking process and that's what your better companies are interested in.
For films: http://www.mandy.com/
For game companies: http://zappa.brainiac.com/spaceship/spacecompany.html
WHAT PURPOSE DOES THE AZTEC PATTERN ON FEDERATION STARSHIPS HAVE?
I'm sure you've heard that "form follows function". That's a huge part of my design philosophy and it's the 'why' something that I design looks the way it does.
I knew that the entire top & bottom halves of the Enterprise saucer could be cast in one piece but the producers surrounding Roddenberry certainly didn't/don't. And it's becoming increasingly evident that 90% of the casual viewers wouldn't get it either,... with all of the garbaged-up designs so prevalent and generally accepted in today's SF hardware. One of the arguments is that (relatively) giant Starships look like toys if you can't see the panels & plates which our 20th century eyes are used to seeing. It was necessary, therefore, to indicate a 'paneled' surface all over the ship. The gaps between those panels scaled out to some 4 inches wide and 10 inches deep on the movie Enterprise, with my Next Generation ship getting hit much worse. That ship was 12 times the mass of Enterprise-A and close to a half mile in length (actually 7.27 football fields), meaning you would have to be a mile away to comfortably view it in it's entirety. It would, at that distance, look TOTALLY smooth (check an airliner from only 50 feet and you'll see what I mean) however, after I left the show, they remodeled it with alternating panels 18 scale inches high, and more, to satisfy some need to "break up the surface" of a historically smooth ship. Imagine if they did that on the Space Shuttle for "Apollo 13", for instance. The effects people wouldn't do it because that was real and "didn't look that way". So what does that tell you about their "thinking" on the Enterprise and other hardware? You see, another part of my design philosophy is that "if I think of it as real, the viewers will too"...(hopefully). Everything I design is approached as a real world design assignment. That's what I was trained to do as an Industrial Designer from Art Center, and it works.
All of this to answer your question. Well, the answer is.... it was created to indicate some sense of hull fabrication, and I designed it with (what has been called) an Aztec pattern to provide a series of interlocking edges with which to reinforce the ship's surface tensile strength.
THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH SPACE THE (Enterprise-"D") CREW HAS...
Actually, that came from Gene Roddenberry. I told Gene that the Galaxy class was designed for a normal complement of 3,600 to 3,800 with a maximum of 8,000. Gene said that the show couldn't afford the number of background extras it would take to reflect that crew number, so he simply stated for the record that there were 1,100 people aboard.
WHAT'S YOUR THINKING ON SCIENCE FICTION HARDWARE DESIGN?
Frankly, I'm tired of unbelievable space ships. Look at those Vipers from BSG, with their square, flat-front wings that are too short to support the extend nose. And that nose intake? What does it feed,... the pilot's feet? And don't even get me started on the 'Flying Sub'! 'Dark Star' was made for a total budget of $60,000. It had a nice exterior shape but it was a comedy. People laughed when they saw the cockpit because it was UNbelievable. The rest of the rooms were rectangular, not addressing the exterior shape at all.
As much as I love the series 'Firefly', do I think that Serenity is a good design? Not especially, but it is a "fun" design. Then again, studying an interior diagram of the ship, I very much like the way the rooms & other spaces are all laid out. What I really like about Firefly series, however, is the people and the way they interact along with the stories they play out. The one visual thing that I love about Serenity interior is it's dining-kitchen-common area and the funny wonderful little personal touches provided by Kaylee, her flower-vines painted on the walls and the way she dressed up the entry to her quarters. As visually interesting as I think the ship is, overall, I don't believe that silly whirly engine generates the power a Firefly would need, I don't believe the way they use a ladder/hatch to enter & exit their quarters, and there's no way in Hell that that Firefly shape could ever make it through an atmosphere in one unmelted piece.
That was my major problem with the girder-truss design Eagle "space" ships on the TV series: "Space: 1999",... the way they landed and took off from full atmosphered planets. How? Everyone's good wishes? In Alien, the Nostromo cockpit was fairly believable but the exterior drove me crazy because of all those antenna sticking out all over, which would have been burned off before landing. And, while the "Aliens" ship didn't land, their "drop ship" would have ripped it's wings off, the moment they unwrapped... and during that process, they would have sent the thing into a fatal spin,... with it's one wing coming out at a time like they did.
Now, while I'm a big (original) Star Wars fan, the square-front wings on the X-Wing fighters not being true airfoils made me wonder how they flew, but then again, there were those 'Y'-wings,... making me wonder what got them in and out of an atmosphere? And then there's Lucas's pod racers with their insanely huge engines... where the Hell does he think they would store all the FUEL to feed those things???
Step back, now, and compare all of that to "2001: A Space Odyssey",... TOTALLY believable in it's hardware. The Pan-Am passenger shuttle actually looked like an atmosphere flyer. While the wings seemed a bit undersized, to me, they had an airfoil shape contributing to a graceful overall shape,... not a bunch of box-shapes all stuck together. The Aries Moon Transport looked like it should have, from it's 'reaction control nozzles' through it's common window seating area, presuming that sleeping quarters would be available on another deck. The lunar surface transport, along with every other piece of human-occupied hardware, is still the benchmark of optimistic technology.
Therefore, in my opinion, what provides good Science Fiction is believability. If you can believe what you're seeing could really do what it's supposed to, then you're on your way. Consistency is right behind that,... all held together with interesting characters and great stories.
What I hope I'm known for is providing concepts which are fairly believable. My thinking is that if I can approach a design as a real product, then the results should feel real, because I do take all the necessary elements into account. I consider the command/control spaces, their electronics, life support systems, supplies, food, sleep, waist, hygiene, rest, recreation, lighting, entry/exit, emergency-exiting. And that doesn't even cover weapons or auxiliary craft like shuttles & their storage-fuel-supplies-servicing, etc. And if all this is for a film, then other matters come into focus like how people interact with each other, their head levels, the lighting, and, especially, the geography of the space, so audiences will quickly understand what direction they're looking, or what room they're in.
If I think of it as real, the audience will think of it as real.