Design takes practice. That goes for all types of design. I have a great deal of practice designing game systems but I am a relative beginner at graphic design. I love to draw… I’ve been doodling for as long as I can remember… but graphic design isn’t drawing. Graphic design is more about composition. It is similar, but not the same thing.
Look around the board game industry (or any productivity industry for that matter) and find the successful games. For the sake of this point, we’ll call successful anything that has sold at least 500 copies. You would be very hard-pressed to find even a single game that was conceptualized, tested, and brought to market by a single individual.
There’s a reason for this… your ideas aren’t as good as you think they are.
Taking an idea from conception to production requires a team. It requires the focus of many individuals to ensure that the end result lives up to expectations. You could spend inordinate amounts of time on your idea and fully believe that you’ve designed the next great thing only to find out when you put it in front of others that they just don’t get it. Having a team to bounce those ideas off of can shave hours if not days or weeks off of your development cycle.
You are my team.
I often get comments about my open-design policy. Some people love it and some people question it. Some people are scared of sharing ideas. Some people are impressed that I’m able to embarrass myself. The truth is, however, that I share this stuff for me. I share everything because I need criticism. I share because I like having as many people as possible going over my work and telling me what stinks. Just like you, I become attached to my ideas… and it can be hard to let go. Thanks to you, I get a daily dose of critical help that allows me to deliver quality.
Yesterday was all about Pull! I designed the logo weeks ago and I’m satisfied with it. It represents the game well and is attractive. No need to mess with that. When it came to designing the backs of the cards, however, I was a total loss. I thought long and hard about putting some sort of skeet shooting scene… or a treeline… or a table with clays and shotgun shells… or grass… or flannel…
The thing is, these cards will have nearly zero art on them. They are abstract in design and I didn’t really want the backs of the cards to outshine the fronts. So, I decided I may just mimic a sort of generic playing card back. I liked the idea, so I ran with it.
I didn’t mind this design at first… but then the criticism started rolling in. It wasn’t immediately apparent that the design was stacked shotgun shells. It didn’t look right with an attractive logo on a weird background. The criticism was right. I was being lazy. I threw this together as a test and, well, it failed! I love failing. It allows me to learn.
I don’t consider myself a professional graphic designer… yet… but thankfully, many of my followers and friends are professional graphic designers and they are more than willing to help me become better. For the next hour or two, we tried all sorts of different things…
With suggestions of many Twitterers, we tried different patterns, different shading on the shells, different spacing, with and without the detail lines, and different colored backgrounds. Some of these changes seemed like improvements, some seemed like lateral adjustments. I honestly just tried to honor everyone’s suggestions (within reason) to make sure we had a large sample-size to choose from. Many people suggested more detailed or realistic [read: artistic] backgrounds, but I tried to dance around those ideas because I really don’t want to go in that direction. I appreciate the ideas, I just don’t feel they fit what I’m going for here. A simple pattern like this is perfect. Some people were upset at the removal of the logo… I just don’t like the sideways logo on this deck, and I tried mirroring it. It doesn’t work. There is a second deck of cards which the players will not be holding in their hands and it’s a perfect place to show off the awesome logo.
I haven’t yet picked a favorite. There are a few combinations of things I like. I enjoy the darker blue color for the backgrounds. I like the detail lines on the shells. I enjoy the extra shading. I have no idea what pattern I like. I prefer to keep it simple. I like the larger shells over the smaller because they are more obvious.
This is a whole load of effort for a non-essential piece of what will ultimately be a print and play and print on demand game. But, you know what… I like to do it right the first time. This is also why if you look through the credits for your favorite board games, chances are, there is an art director(aka Graphic Designer) listed that is not the same thing as the artist. Art and design are two completely different things. Just like game design, it’s important to get multiple people’s opinions.
So, I’m asking you, the community, to be my art director. What’s your favorite combination of the things shown above? Is there another pattern you’d like me to try? I really want to stick with a simple, repetitive back for this deck… I’ll let the community decide which. Leave a comment. Tweet me. Email me. Ask me on Something From Nothing. Whichever method you prefer.