The term „design“ is not used for technical work only. It can comprise all kinds of human work and also include the aesthetical efforts of “giving shape” in the widest sense. So this story isn’t meant to explain how aerodynamic laws can be squeezed into a lovely shape. There will be no mention about technical aspects. Instead I’ll try to describe the process of how to find an appropriate design idea, blend it with basic formation rules, add some suitable details, and finally work out the final solution.
By the way – technical requirements and aesthetic considerations do not necessarily exclude each other. Quite the contrary - they can go hand in hand and even influence and enhance each other. Long ago I have offered an article about design to Stunt News, and it was published in the March/ April/ May/ June 1997 issue. I cannot repeat it here ( it’s beyond the scope of this story and would probably burst my server !). So here I’ll try to limit the explanations to the colour design of one particular airplane.

For once in a way I wanted to realize a change from the typical trapezoid wing shape and produce a look a little more roundish. My building skills do not exactly suggest an elliptical planform, but some half-elliptical shape doesn’t look that bad either. The “Thunderbird” wing can easily prove this statement , and there are many more airplanes which will confirm this. Also I found the “Grondal Nobler” a very pretty airplane ( and a good flyer, at that ). So it was decided to copy this outline. It didn’t work out to be exactly what had been planned in the first place. To make construction a little easier the shape was somewhat modified. But I came close to what I had had in mind.

had to be found. For some people this task seems to be a problem. The solution is surprisingly simple. Most of us have some interest in areas outside of this modelling hobby. Be it some other sport, game, art, past time activity, whatever - there must be some things = names which we can identify with. The choice is endless but as an example let’s take music. There can be no human being who doesn’t like to hear music. And this music world is full of terms, words, names, titles - you name( ! ) it . It’s just impossible to not find a suitable word which an airplane can be christened with. We can even select a word which fits the size, shape, colour, appearance, and image of our airplane ( and until now I have only mentioned ONE area - music !!! ). I have used music titles before and I did it again here.
Now a name was needed for the new airplane which so far existed in my mind only. It always helps to do some brainstorming. What associations come to our mind when trying to imagine such an airplane shape with rounded lines? Let’s see: soft, smooth, elegant, gentle, mild, etc. What associations come with “aerobatics”? Pretty much the same, plus: elegance, beauty, finesse, harmony, rhythm, dance - hey! Dance, that’s it ! Now it was only a matter of finding the kind of music which fits all these terms. What better way than to remember the Swing Era with its smooth, full orchestra dancing music. Now the choice narrows. From here it was only a small step to find Glenn Miller and - you’ve guessed it - MOONLIGHT SERENADE. Easy, wasn’t it !

decision was even much easier. For this title there just is NO other choice to describe this BLUE feeling than to use blue. How much blue is up to one’s own preference. I do not consider one colour only a good method. There should at least be some white spots ( the artists call it the “lights” ). And some narrow areas or lines in black colour won’t hurt either, in order to give some contrast. I was never tempted to add another colour, but I decided on two tones of blue. The ideal solution would have been the same tone but in two different shades, one dark and one light version. Since I do the colour spraying with those automotive spray cans I depend on what I can get. And since ordering is highly unreliable and can take months, I just bought what was available. But I was lucky - the combination can meet my demands. Black was used for a narrow stripe only, for the name, for some details, and for some decent ink lines ( of course ).

Now we finally grab the pencil - and/ or the computer. The computer isn’t really necessary, but if one is standing around we may engage it as well. At first we need a drawing of the outline of one wing half on paper ( image A ). The size doesn’t matter but the drawing must be scale in proportions. It helps if some details are added, like rear edge of wing sheeting, front edge of trailing edge sheeting, flap hinge gap, maybe ribs. If we have free choice of design we can use these edges and place area edges exactly on them. That way we can really “hide” them. At this point I’d like to add a few design rules which can help to produce a good design - or destroy it if not followed.

Depending on construction our wing already shows several lines: leading edge, trailing edge, hinge gap, and the edges mentioned above. These lines can be seen, but there’s also one which is not actually visible but has to be considered, too : a line parallel to the pitch axis. It’s not recommended to fully ignore this “imagined” line. All these lines have a direction. That’s why I prefer to talk about “directions” in a design. There can be many lines. As long as some of them run parallel to other lines it’s not a problem and they will not cause a chaos. However it’s very dangerous if not deadly to use too many directions. In most areas of design “ less is more”. I try to avoid more than one additional direction in my designs. One popular method is to add what I’d call the “arrow” shape: diagonal stripes across the wing, beginning at the wing centre and running back outwards ( B ). Before I begin the actual drawing I decide for these lines, and then I build the area layout around them. This phase can actually take several weeks, depending on mood, inspiration, and perhaps a good glass of wine. The old rules of polarity are applied here. Some long narrow areas are combined with some short wide ones, long straights with short bends. Reducing the number of directions can mean: we use many lines running parallel; like the edge of the front colour area parallel to the leading edge, the end of the colour areas parallel to the wing tip outline ( very important ), rear end of stripes parallel to trailing edge, etc. This is how the basic design evolves ( C ).
can make or break a design. Again some brainstorming will help. In this case I have decided on a music title, so a graphic abstraction from this area was needed. What association will come to our mind from the chosen name? For instance, it can be the instrument of the musician ( D ).
      For Glenn Miller it had to be the trombone ( Benny Goodman would have a clarinet, Louis Armstrong a trumpet etc. Sorry, seems I got carried away ).I made a few attempts, but I have to admit that I didn’t find a satisfying graphic solution for the trombone. So I opted for a more general motiv. Finally the shape of a music note was chosen: it’s just a black oval with some vertical line, if needed. Five note lines could have been added , parallel to the colour area. But I think I was too lazy to enclose this delicate work. The treble clef can easily be converted into a simple emblem. Also, the shape of the treble clef can easily be transferred into the the shape of the initial ( the “S” ) of the name, and those little “tails” of the “ quarter notes” could be applied to the letters of the title name.
Now it was time to draw some detailed sketches, beginning with a basic layout as shown in ( F ). At that stage motivs are added temporarily only to allow an overview of how and where elements can be arranged, and what size they should have. Many more drawings are made now until the final version can please our eyes ( G, H ).  
I have to add another basic rule here. If areas ( or letters, numbers, motivs, etc. ) are laid “over” another area there should be at least a little brim ( small distance ) to the underlying area; this is usually the base colour ( this method will also simulate some “depth” to a graphic design ). If there is no visible border between areas, they will merge into one unrecognizable shape. After deciding on the final shape of the name, the font style and size, and the “notes” size, some “oversize” templates ( including the brim ) were cut to serve as masks for the spray work ( J, K ).
Since my computer didn’t offer me a satisfying font I chose a suitable one and modified it with Corel Draw. The “S” was enlarged separately and further modified to include the above mentioned “tails”. The complete name was printed on paper and modified by hand. Together with a few ellipses ( for the notes ) all was printed on paper to serve as template for the plotter ( L ).
What I didn’t know: the sign shop needs vector files !! to cut spray templates, and my letters were pixels ( drawn on paper and then scanned in ). They charged me quite a lot to transfer the file into a vector format. Next time I know better! If you intend to do a similar job you’d better ask the sign company what kind of file format they accept. The shape of the treble clef was found on the Internet but “squeezed” a little and formed to the required size.
I’m not much in favour of these tiny little pilots in the canopy, but I printed some kind of instrument panel on stiff paper, which was later glued to the canopy bottom ( N ).

I have tried home made decals for a fun airplane before, so I knew this method can have some shortcomings. In this case, however, I had a white base colour which avoids most of the problems, and I just wanted to know whether these decals can be used for a serious attempt. I needed my national licence number at the required size, two emblems for the fin, a small treble clef emblem, some hatch imitations ( just to see how it looks ), and a big emblem for the wing bottom. First I looked for an elegant font for the licence number. I used Corel for this work, but other software will do as well; even WORD can do the job. Out of several versions I opted for “Elephant” font with a fine outline, with a black copy put underneath as a shadow . The number is surrounded by a thin frame with rounded corners ( O, P ).
An important side note here: almost all of these motiv elements on the wing panel should run in the SAME DIRECTION ( means parallel ) as the one used for the basic area layout !!! which in this case was the “arrow scheme” as mentioned above. Which means : the letters of the licence number including the thin frame are slanted to the right ( very easy to do with Corel ), but the letters of the name “Serenade” were slanted left; exactly in the direction of the colour bar across the wing ( Q, R ).
Please note that the ink lines need not follow scale patterns. They can run parallel to existing edges, emphasize or weaken visible or imaginary lines, and generally tie together the whole design. I prefer to use a 0,5 mm Rapidograph pen. Thinner lines may give a more elaborate and elegant appearance. But they will not show well on photos - they will just disappear on prints because the resolution of film is not high enough for such fineness. Yes, I consider this as part of the design work, too. After all, our beautiful airplane will be looked at from some distance, too, and pictures will be shot ( at least by ourselves ). Maybe these things are seen as unimportant tiny details. But this is exactly what makes people wonder why one design will stand out from many others which throughout started with a good design concept.
I haven’t talked about fuselage colour design. There’s no need to do - it follows exactly the same principles. We simply try to stay with one main direction ( usually the thrust line ), apply repetition ( = parallels ), being chary with other directions, and repeat elements from the wing design.
With all this preparation work done it’s time to draw the final exact sketches ( S, T ). Then I make full size drawings for the wing design. These are only line drawings for the colour areas. But I need them to control the exact position of the areas. I measure the distance ( of the edges of the colour areas ) from the flap hinge gap; this is my reference line. Small marks with a soft pencil help to place the masking tape. This is the moment where those masking shapes come into play. They are cut from the templates as mentioned above ( image J ).
Compared to this whole design process the final spray work is a trifle ! The homemade decals worked out just fine - you have to look very close to detect the edges. Since I’m rather the opposite of a pedant I can fully accept this method of decorating our precious crafts.
  After having built and finished our airplane we usually stand back, look at it with well deserved pride, and take a deep breath. If you have stayed with me until now you will realize that design work is not exactly a simple and quick task. But by applying some basic rules we can avoid disappointment about a less successful final outcome.
I have to admit that I'm not 100 %satisfied with some details of this design. There are a few details I'm not fully content with and which I wouldn't do if I had to do it again. But this is the normal ( ? ) reaction of a fastidious mind and our never ending challenge. After all - Nobody's perfect !