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Subject: How to make great graphic design with little skills rss

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Eric Pietrocupo
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I am always impressed by the graphic design and artwork of most Fantasy flight games. What I want to talk about is not artwork, but rather the graphic design of the components which are not artwork.

I want to see if I could make up rules or a generic guide line that could help me and other people make great looking graphic design without necessarily having drawing skills.

Here is an example:



Ignore the lady picture in the center. Take a look at the border that surround her. There is a huge load of details in there. There are various studs spread all around. There are relief borders on the edge of the border. There are some pointy shapes on the bottom right with some spheres.

If you think about it, most of these shapes are basic shapes with a texture and bevel effect on it. So I imagine that with no drawing skills you could simply create various shape, apply the right color/texture and bevel effect and get similar results.

Same thing for this:



The top section is made of relief borders and studs. In the bottom section, most shapes could probably be easily made with various intersection functions except the 2 small dragons that would require drawing skill. So again, it could be very easy to do.

The problem is:

How do you know that you should place this sequence of shapes in order for the result to be beautiful. For example, I should I know in the picture above that I should have a shape made of steel with 2 curves that are bordered by studs.

This is what I am trying to find out. Can there be an easy way to do this since that seems the most complex part of the design because the rest consist in placing and creating a repetition of basic shape.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

I am currently reading "the nature of order" by Christopher Alexander which is an architect that found that there are 15 properties that makes things beautiful or well designed.

I first tried to see if I could apply this to board game design. I found various ways that it could be applied to mechanics and I wrote and article on my website about it.

Anyways, what I am thinking now is to use Christopher Alexander's theory to graphic design. That could be the guide lines needed to make good graphic design. For example, if you look at the picture of the card above, the following properties could be present:

1- Level of scale: There are large and small dots.
2- Strong Center: The 4000 circle makes the strong center of the bottom part.
3- Borders: There is a border around the 4000, and above and below the card text.
6-Good Shape: All circles are basic shapes. The curves are is in fact a rectangle with the difference of a circle.
7-Local Symmetry: All the details on the left and right side of the card are symmetric.
9-Constrast: There is some sort of color contrast with the central gold 4000 and surrounding steel.
12-Echoes: The are a lot of circular shape, the center, the locks, the studs, the curves, etc.

For more information about the properties, here is a quick link that has pictures:

http://www.livingneighborhoods.org/ht-0/fifteen.htm

So I thought that using some of these properties could be the key to make great graphic design for our games even without drawing skills because it consist of using and repeating basic shapes or creating shapes out of basic shapes.

Do you think it could make graphic design accessible to almost everybody?

Else do you have other ideas of guide line that could be used to easily make the graphic design of the components?


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Nate K
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I don't think there's a way to do GREAT graphic design without the aid of a trained and/or skilled graphic designer. That's what they're paid to do, after all. But it looks like you at least have a handle on how to do GOOD or ADEQUATE graphic design.
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Lacombe
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larienna wrote:
How do you know that you should place this sequence of shapes in order for the result to be beautiful.


You become a graphic designer.

You're asking an impossible question.

Nearly all music ever composed consists of twelve basic tones placed in a particular sequence.

Every piece of literature that has ever or can ever be written is merely 26 characters put in the right order.

The entire secret to life, the universe, and everything can be coded on a computer as a particular series of 0s and 1s.

Designing graphics, composing music, writing literature, or answering philosophical questions is nothing more than the art of knowing what patterns are beautiful.

You are asking how to get an infinity of monkeys to produce Shakespeare. The answer is either "wait a long time" or "replace the monkeys with something smarter".
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Paul DeStefano
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NateStraight wrote:
larienna wrote:
How do you know that you should place this sequence of shapes in order for the result to be beautiful.


You become a graphic designer.

You're asking an impossible question.

Nearly all music ever composed consists of twelve basic tones placed in a particular sequence.


The two left shapes are each created by stacking all eight shapes on the right. Each element appears once in each left shape.



I created all of the circles at the same size. They are all transparent, and simply contain different fills. The lock directly on top of each other, so positioning does not matter. Let's not go into knowing how to shade and highlight each circle.

In the correctly layered order, I get a nifty purple marble that might be something like a health globe in a game, a background for a number, whatever.

The identical shapes in a different order give me the bottom left circle. Absolutely usable for something. But its not a neat little purple marble.

How do you know? Some art, some science, some experience. It is not a question easily answered. That's why people study it for years, go to school for it, hone their craft.

Its not something everyone is capable of. Which is why good graphics guys don't come cheap.


Edit: I see my red swirl refill generated a slightly different red swirl when copied out in the layers. It's still the same object, but the position of the texture map looks different.
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Ed G.
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Answering the question posed in the subject of the thread: Either hire a professional to make it, or spend time and money trying on your own and ending up hiring a professional anyway. It's just a matter of how much you want to spend.
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Clive Lovett
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If you are making a prototype then use whatever skills you have but if making a game for publication (through self publication) then hire a professional. There is a reason they are called professionals.

I know enough to be dangerous in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (with the help of actions ). I can make some cool images but they are still not great...an example of what I have done in Photoshop is below but I would never use art of this quality for a published game.





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Nate K
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That's still way beyond what I can do, Clive.
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Paul DeStefano
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Clive65 wrote:
I can make some cool images...


Total aside - if that's a card to be held in someone's hand, the symbols should be on the side where they are viewable in a fan. If not, then that's fine.
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Alex Weldon
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As everyone else has said, it's impossible to teach someone how to do great graphic design in a single forum post. It takes schooling and then years of experience; if it didn't, I'd be out of a job. And it's somewhat insulting that you seem to think it is something that can be done "without skills" if you're just told how, or you have the right software... but of course anyone working in the biz hears this attitude all the time, so whatever.

Anyway, all that said, graphic design 101 is a combination of "keep it simple" (don't add anything "just because," and always be looking for things you can take away), and the unfortunately-acronymed "CRAP" principle: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity.

Contrast: If you're going to make two things different (different color, different size, etc.), make them VERY different. Things that are just slightly different look thoughtless or like mistakes.

Repetition: To connect things in different areas of your design, reuse things as much as possible. Use the same font everywhere (except when you need a different one to create contrast). Repeat colors. If you've got a box with a double-stroked outline, use double strokes elsewhere. Etc.

Alignment: Edges of things, especially rectangular things, should line up as much as possible. Aligning things in physically separate areas of your design effectively creates an invisible line attaching them together, and holds your design as a whole together.

Proximity: Don't just space everything out equally in your design. Put things that are logically connected closer together, and keep things that are separate, separate.
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J C Lawrence
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Geosphere wrote:
Total aside - if that's a card to be held in someone's hand, the symbols should be on the side where they are viewable in a fan. If not, then that's fine.


Different players fan their cards to the right and left.
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clearclaw wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Total aside - if that's a card to be held in someone's hand, the symbols should be on the side where they are viewable in a fan. If not, then that's fine.


Different players fan their cards to the right and left.


But indexing to the upper left is considered standard due to Poker Playing cards.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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larienna wrote:
I am always impressed by the graphic design and artwork of most Fantasy flight games. What I want to talk about is not artwork, but rather the graphic design of the components which are not artwork.

I want to see if I could make up rules or a generic guide line that could help me and other people make great looking graphic design without necessarily having drawing skills.

Here is an example...


I know you find FFG materials beautiful. But I know folks with a background in art (and I am not including myself in this statement) who don't like Fantasy Flight's design aesthetic. The very things you like in FFG's design, others find overly complex, muddled, and baroque. Both camps have good, valid reasons for liking and disliking that particular style of art and design.

You could make up general rules or guides for a style you find attractive and apply it, cookiecutter-style, to every piece of design you do. But good design is more than just applying a particular style to make something attractive.

As another poster said, you pose a very complex question. My suggestion is to continue your search by reading books about the fundamentals of good design and maybe taking some classes (through a community college or continuing education course) about basic graphic design and typography. You sound like someone with a willingness to learn and the best thing to do is to get with the people who teach it and do it for a living as soon as you can!

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Joe McDaid
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Sometimes, skills in other areas help a little bit, and what your hobbies tend to be. I'm not a graphic artist, but I am a Video editor, so a lot of the same skills translate. [Sort of, I do get heckled at a lot for using After Effects rather than Photoshop for images.] And since I tend to love space art and focus my games on that, it's easy to make planets like so.



However, ask me to do some kinda lion insignia for a medieval game, and you might as well have asked me to paint the Mona Lisa for what I'd actaully be able to produce.

So it's not impossible to be able to do nice things without actaully being a graphic artist. However, the skill set will be very limited, while someone who gets payed to do graphics would have a much wider skill set and would be able to follow direction much better to suit what you might be looking for in graphics.
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Paul DeStefano
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BradyLS wrote:
overly complex, muddled, and baroque


You know, baroque is an exceptionally good word to describe FFGs Terrinoth look.
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
The two left shapes are each created by stacking all eight shapes on the right. Each element appears once in each left shape.


It true that you can get interesting results by stacking textures. This is what I have used for texture design.

Quote:
And it's somewhat insulting that you seem to think it is something that can be done "without skills"


OK, maybe I should have said "Without drawing skills". I never intend common people to make work as good as a professional. But rather be able to make a work good enough to be self published. The idea is to use the power of computer technology to make a decent work by yourself.

The problem is that some publisher are asking now for the designers to supply their artwork. So be able to design a game without doing the graphics could be considered a luxury in the times to come.

This is why I was looking for guideline on how to do graphic design with little drawing skills. I am already working on an idea for artwork by using impressionist art and speed painting.

Quote:
Anyway, all that said, graphic design 101 is a combination of "keep it simple" (don't add anything "just because," and always be looking for things you can take away), and the unfortunately-acronymed "CRAP" principle: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity.

Contrast: If you're going to make two things different (different color, different size, etc.), make them VERY different. Things that are just slightly different look thoughtless or like mistakes.

Repetition: To connect things in different areas of your design, reuse things as much as possible. Use the same font everywhere (except when you need a different one to create contrast). Repeat colors. If you've got a box with a double-stroked outline, use double strokes elsewhere. Etc.

Alignment: Edges of things, especially rectangular things, should line up as much as possible. Aligning things in physically separate areas of your design effectively creates an invisible line attaching them together, and holds your design as a whole together.

Proximity: Don't just space everything out equally in your design. Put things that are logically connected closer together, and keep things that are separate, separate.


I like that, this is the kind of guide lines I am looking for.
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Paul DeStefano
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larienna wrote:

The problem is that some publisher are asking now for the designers to supply their artwork.


Who?
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Caleb
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Geosphere wrote:
BradyLS wrote:
overly complex, muddled, and baroque


You know, baroque is an exceptionally good word to describe FFGs Terrinoth look.


Baroque is an exceptionally good term to characterize FFG's theory of game design.

Edit: or maybe 'byzantine'.
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Filip W.
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Geosphere wrote:
larienna wrote:

The problem is that some publisher are asking now for the designers to supply their artwork.


Who?


I've encountered this as well (won't name names, not my game) with games that were graphics intensive. It's apparently too expensive to commission an artist so the publisher asked the designer to provide their own artwork (i.e. tap their friend network for artists willing to work for free) as a condition for publishing.
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Ron Parker
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filwi wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
larienna wrote:

The problem is that some publisher are asking now for the designers to supply their artwork.


Who?


I've encountered this as well (won't name names, not my game) with games that were graphics intensive. It's apparently too expensive to commission an artist so the publisher asked the designer to provide their own artwork (i.e. tap their friend network for artists willing to work for free) as a condition for publishing.


That seems like the sort of publisher who'd cut corners on other stuff, too.
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Jeffery Bass
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Ahhh....the siren song of the algorithm that "makes good design just by following these simple steps....".

Eventually, we can all enjoy the much anticipated feature on Adobe products: Click Here To Reduce Design Crappiness By 10% In All Layers.
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Clive Lovett
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kurthl33t wrote:
That's still way beyond what I can do, Clive.


I cheated, I used a Photoshop tutorial. Just followed the steps and then experimented. You would be amazed how easy it is to do something like this planet. The hardest part is being able to afford Photoshop.
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Clive Lovett
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Geosphere wrote:
Clive65 wrote:
I can make some cool images...


Total aside - if that's a card to be held in someone's hand, the symbols should be on the side where they are viewable in a fan. If not, then that's fine.


Good point. I told you I was good enough to be dangerous. That is why I would get a professional if publishing a game (and now keep that in mind when I make more prototypes).
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Clive65 wrote:
kurthl33t wrote:
That's still way beyond what I can do, Clive.


I cheated, I used a Photoshop tutorial. Just followed the steps and then experimented. You would be amazed how easy it is to do something like this planet. The hardest part is being able to afford Photoshop.


$50 subscription per month if you lock into a year long contract.

More per month if you want it 'every so often' but want the option to 'not pay for it for a month or two' because your usage pattern is sporadic.
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Paul DeStefano
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Clive65 wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Clive65 wrote:
I can make some cool images...


Total aside - if that's a card to be held in someone's hand, the symbols should be on the side where they are viewable in a fan. If not, then that's fine.


Good point. I told you I was good enough to be dangerous. That is why I would get a professional if publishing a game (and now keep that in mind when I make more prototypes).


Can you also combine those icons for the little spaceship and triangle, or do they need to be separate so tokens go on them or something?
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Clive65 wrote:
I can make some cool images but they are still not great...an example of what I have done in Photoshop is below but I would never use art of this quality for a published game.


Well, for a start, you could use a more readable font. Am i correct that this reads "Drachen" (german for "dragons")?

Edit: No, now i see it in a smaller size, i think it reads "Draehen" or "Draeken".
Edit: Or maybe "Draexen"?
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