Star Trek: Insurrection Concept Art (Part 2) - By John Eaves.
On Star Trek: Insurrection, concept artist John Eaves was given the task of designing all of the Son'a ships.

When John Eaves began designing the Son'a vessels seen in Star Trek: Insurrection, he didn't have much to go on. However, as he explains, that's how he likes it: "The script usually just says: 'A giant battleship sweeps across the screen.' The writers know from their point of view that they need a ship, but they usually don't want to influence in any way what the design's going to look like. They know that's kind of our specialty in the art department, so they rely on us to come up with the shapes. If it's something they really like, they can change a script point to fit in with the ship or vice versa. When I get the list I start roughing out shapes, and then I'll turn them over [to the producers]. They usually wait to have something to look at before they say anything - they're more visual than verbal at that end, so they really like to have something in front of them to go by. They'll always refer to the sketches to make decisions on other ideas. Once they get sketches they can break it down and say, 'We like this, we don't like that.' They're not always sure; at points they'll say, 'We don't know what we don't like about it,' and we'll keep going from there. It's a fun way to work, especially as there is so free reign."

Although the writer, producer, and director may not give Eaves strict guidelines to follow, his years of work on Star Trek have taught him that only certain kinds of designs will fit in with the Star Trek universe. "Even though you want to be as different as you can, there are a lot of parameters that they need you to stick by. The more alien, the more absurb, you go, the more they shoot it down. Even though you're dealing with an alien race, they're still humanoid in form, so their design senses kind of follow that too. If you get too extreme, those designs are usually shunned; they still get drawn, they just get dumped! You need the same set of pieces that make up a ship. You need a bridge, and the body of the craft - even though it's as alien as can be - still needs that kind of rigid Star Trek look. It's almost a challenge in a way to be different and yet stick with something familiar. All the Son'a ships are from activity games I found out in the backyard. I wanted to give a whole different kind of look to their architecture, so I kind of went with yard toys - Ru'afo's ship is based on a horseshoe, the battleship is based on a boomerang, the shuttle is a yard dart, and the science vessel ... well, the front of it is sort of a badminton shuttlecock turned inside out."

Eaves didn't stick too rigidly to the yard toys; when it came to adding detail he looked elsewhere for inspiration. "[The ships] also have a kind of an inset detail that looks like a bunch of riblets; I based that on the strings inside a piano. I thought it would be fun to do that - their design is kind of like intricate wiring and framework, which is inset but open so you can see it. That was what I used as their kind of icon of design. It's on all the ships to an extent; you can see it extensively on Ru'afo's ship and the battleship, while the other had it inserted." During the design process there was only one major change to the Son'a ships, and that was the result of an accident. "We had a lot of trouble with Ru'afo's ship. I had drawn it where the more aggressive angle was the open fork at the front; that was the way it was meant to go. When I turned it over to the meeting, they had the impression that it was flying the other way. I guess I made the assumption that I always draw things flying forward and I forgot to indicate that on the drawing. They did all their meetings and plans with it flying the other way, so when I got into the detailed identification of the parts, they said, 'What's the bridge doing in the back?' They understood my point of view, but it was a pretty heavy discussion on which way it was going to fly, and I fought for it pointing the more aggressive way. If you don't know you couldn't tell, but I still feel that it's going backwards!"