Outland Entertainment recently announced the release of The Barry Blair Library of comics and I was fortunate enough to get to design a logo for the launch.
You can read all about it here:
The main thing I needed to consider before I started was how the BBL logo would be incorporated with the current line of OE comic book properties and what that treatment would look like since we had already come up with a layout for the OE line.
Here’s a recent cover for MARS 2577 with the OE footer treatment.
We wanted the BBL logo to balance out with the Outland Entertainment logo, so I decided to go with circular layout. I chose a font similar to the font used in the OE logo to keep a consistent look across the brand, but I also needed to come up with something uniquely it‘s own to reflect the uniqueness of the books and wholly set the logo apart. The fonts I used are ITC Franklin Gothic Heavy and Acropolis. I liked the idea of the using the letter “B” back-to-back to represent the “Barry Blair” in the logo. I tried this with a bunch of dierent fonts and settled on Acropolis because I felt it formed a unique looking letter form. A sigil that lead me to think it represented a unique language all of it’s own, much like Barry and the catalog of comics he created.
Here are couple of the final looks I came up with.
I submitted these for approval and the final logo was approved.
Here‘s what the cover treatment looks like on the newly announced ELFLORD title.
Read all about ELFLORD here: https://outlandentertainment.com/project/elflord/
Until next time…keep on, keepin’ on.
So, recently I had the pleasure of doing some design work for Goodman Games on a couple of different Dungeons & Dragons 5E game modules: Glitterdoom, The Fey Sisters Fate, War-Lock, and The Pillars of Pelagia.
I had to come up with a cover dress and interior page layout. For the cover dress a title, sub-title, and 5E icon were needed. When working, I always start with font selection to try and nail down the right feel for everything. In this case I was going for a classic “fantasy” feel. I used a mix of font families: Mason, Adobe Garamond, and ITC Franklin Gothic, so I could have all of bases covered when it came time to do the interior page layout. I recommend using a font family that has multiple font options: regular, book, italic, semi-bold, bold, heavy etc. This helps in keeping a consistent professional look throughout the work.
After fonts were finalized, I chose colors and fooled around with some different layer effects in Photoshop to come up with the final layout for the cover. Once the first layout was approved, I set up a layer template in Adobe Illustrator with all of the elements in place making it easy to do a simple edit and replace with each of the cover art pieces and then editing the copy on the title text, module number, level, and author name. I exported each cover from their individual layers and sent them out for edits/approval.
The interior page layout was a little different in that I didn’t have any actual content, but had to cover all of the various instances where a different font style would be used. I used a two column format, looked at examples of existing modules, and created a header and footer for the page. Look at the fonts used on the page layout image to see all of the options I provided.
All in all it was pretty straight forward cover and page layout. If you have any questions about my process or design in general, feel free to send me a message. I would be more than happy to lend a hand.
Until next time…keep on, keepin’ on.
You probably know his name from games such Dungeons & Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Or maybe, if you are a Cypher System fan, you recognize him as a contributor to the Numenera Character Options and Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera.
The fact is he has years of experience working on the roleplaying game industry. So let’s try to get a brief insight into his work.
Robert , you have worked as a writer, game designer and developer in the RPG industry. Do you have a favorite role?
I have indeed worn many hats over the last ten years or so. When I started in this business, I had thought I would pursue a writing career, but I found that my love for roleplaying games offered opportunities for me to create worlds in a way that helped others tell stories through the settings, characters, locations, and mechanics I produced. Not long after I got started, I landed a job as a developer for Green Ronin Publishing. As a developer, my job was to work with design to make the rules and story even better and to ensure that the mechanics worked within the larger game system and setting. I started with d20 system products and eventually took on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Since then, I’ve written a novel, designed a few game systems, and created and developed story and mechanical content for a slew of games including three editions of D&D, one edition WFRP, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplay, Witch Hunter: The Invisible World, and more. A favorite role? I don’t have one. Not really. If I do a lot of story design, my appetite for numbers grows and vice versa.
Do they complement each other?
They do, but it’s hard to be good at all three. Many people have just one strong area. A person might be a genius with story but workmanlike when it comes to producing the nuts and bolts of the mechanics. Another might have an eye for broken tech and know how to fix it, but be hard pressed to produce new tech from scratch. I’ve been fortunate in that I have had many opportunities to learn the various aspects of game design, development, and story creation. Each opportunity gives me a chance to test my limits and push past them. And, what I learn as a story creator inspires my mechanical design, which in turn makes me a better developer.
You have written a series of magazine articles on the D&D universe. Were you always a fan of this particular I.P?
I’ve loved Dungeons & Dragons for as long as I have been playing RPGs. I started with D&D and it has been my primary game for most of my gaming experience. Producing content for 3rd Edition and 4th Edition was a great, but being part of the various design teams of the 5th Edition rules was really the high point in my career.
Where you a gamer growing up?
Oh yes and at times to my detriment. Minutes into my first game session, I was hooked. Keep on the Borderlands will remain one of my all time favorite adventures. Playing D&D was just the start, though. It opened the doors onto a whole universe of roleplaying games.
What were you favorite roleplaying games?
When I was young, I had a huge appetite for roleplaying games. We played a lot of D&D, but it was the 80s and my family was not immune to the fear that some dark and sinister force was going to drag me to hell as a result of me using my imagination and sharpening my math skills. Once it was decided that D&D was bad for my eternal soul, I turned to other roleplaying games to scratch my gamer itch. My favorite was Marvel Super Heroes (the FASERIP system), Twilight: 2000, Top Secret, Rolemaster & MERP, and, of course, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (which was a far darker game than D&D ever was).
When did you first decide to work in the gaming universe?
Honestly, it was about five years after I started working in the business. I stumbled into game design. I had finished college after a second go and discovered there was no long list of employers hot to grab an English-Philosophy major in his mid to late-20s. So I worked two jobs. I sold flooring—carpet, hardwood, tile, vinyl, but I was not very good at it as I knew nothing about flooring and had to learn as I went. I also sold liquor, which I did, in fact, know something about. A few months later, I responded to an open call for d20 system sourcebooks and sent in a stack of proposals. The company bought one and then bought another. I began scouring websites for submission information, pestered everyone in the industry for work, and finally built up enough of a resume that I could get steady work, as a freelancer, as a staff developer and designer, and then as a contract designer.
What about references? Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?
You bet. When I was much younger and much more deluded about my talents, I thought I would pursue art as a career. Though I never did chase that fantasy down, I remain interested in it and am always excited to see how people interpret the game worlds, stories, and characters in paintings and illustrations. Some of my favorites include Russ Nicholson (his illustrations set the tone for so many of my D&D games), John Blanche (his work is quintessential Warhammer), and Ralph Horsley for the astonishing detail he put into the covers of Tome of Corruption and Tome of Salvation. Two artists I have recently worked with have also impressed the hell out of me. Ivan Dixon did a few interiors for Shadow of the Demon Lord. I’ll be sharing these pieces soon. Also, Svetoslav Petrov knocked the cover out of the park. I knew I wanted to use him when I saw the cover for Green Ronin’s new Advanced Bestiary.
How does it feel to create gaming experiences for such well-known brands such as Dungeons & Dragons and A Song of Ice and Fire RPG? Is there a different pressure?
Working on established brands is tricky and, yes, there’s tons of pressure. But the stress you feel working on D&D is a lot different from the stress experienced working with a literary source such as Game of Thrones, Thieves’ World or The Black Company. Hell, there are huge differences in adding content to an existing game and re-interpreting a game for a new edition.
Adaptations are a lot like coloring books. You can make the pictures whatever color you want but you have to stay inside the lines. A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying could have used any engine and could have focused on any part of the world of Westeros. That’s coloring in the lines. The game could not, however, invent new lands, alter the history by injecting characters of our own creation into the timeline, feature space ships, mutants, or lightsabers. All those things are well outside the lines.
The pressure from building a new edition of D&D was infinitely worse. When you buy a copy of a Game of Thrones, you may own the physical copy of the book and own your experience reading it, but that’s it. You don’t own the world. You don’t decide what the characters do. And you don’t determine what happens next. When it comes to RPGs, the audience takes ownership of the game, much like a person owns a hammer or a blender or a set of paints. They use the game as a creative tool. When you monkey with the game’s tools, whether those tools are established bits of story or how the mechanics work, people get upset. For this reason, it’s wise to be conservative in your design and yet the audience also expects something new. After all, they’ve bought D&D already. Probably several times. They want something new but not something radically different. You can introduce something sexy, but it has to fit. On seeing it, a readers should feel like the thing has always been there or, if hasn’t, that it should have been. We know what happens when a design team forgets this: we get an edition war.
From all the projects you’ve been a part of is there one that stood out for some reason?
D&D for sure. It was such a huge undertaking, so massive in scope, and so fraught with perils that I’m still recovering. This isn’t to say that the experience was bad. It was hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve done. Until my new game, that is.
You have won several awards over the last 10 years. What was the most gratifying one?
Gosh. I am gratified by any and all recognition. I was especially proud when Grimm, a supplement for the d20 system, won an ENnie. It was my first big award and it validated my work in a big way.
Earlier this year, you founded Schwalb Entertainment, LLC. What led you to take that step?
For me, it was the next logical step in my career. By the end of 2013, it was clear D&D work for me was winding down. I could dive back into freelancing or carve out a place for myself. Since I’ve already paid my dues in the freelancing trenches, I figured it was time to strike out on my own. It’s a terrifying place to be in, but if it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing it.
You are now preparing to launch your own RPG: Shadow of the Demon Lord, an all-new horror fantasy roleplaying game, that will be launching its Kickstarter campaign in the spring of 2015.
When did you first come up with the idea for this game?
I’ve had elements of the design in my head for years and years, some going all the way back to when I was much, much younger. The older I get, the less time I have to prepare or play. I love RPGs, but I just can’t commit to a 2-year campaign let alone a 5-year campaign. If my gaming group meets once a month, I want this to be ok. If I miss a week, I don’t want to ruin the story because my character wasn’t there. I suspect lots of people are in the same situation. These desires that drove the design and I decided to go for it, for real, to scrape the ideas out of my head and put them in a book, early this year.
What do you think gamers will love most about it?
Two things. The game’s tone is distinctly mine—disturbing, a little offensive, and a little funny (just a little). The other is the low barrier to entry. I wanted to create a game anyone could play without having to do much in the way of hard work. This game delivers that experience. You could play Demon Lord with your grandma, if you want to play a game that’s chock full of demons, dark magic, and madness.
How about you? What are most looking forward to?
Three things. Pushing the button to send the final files to the printer, cracking open the first box and pulling out a final book, and running an actual game rather than running a play test. Four years of play testing, between Demon Lord and D&D, I’m overdue for a regular game.
You will be collaborating with us here at Outland Entertainment, to help integrate the Cypher System seamlessly with The Shotguns and Sorcery RPG setting.
What attracted you most about the project?
Matt Forbeck and I have been friends for years and I’ve always wanted to collaborate with him on a project. This was my chance. Plus, I know the Cypher System. It’s flexible enough to accommodate just about any kind of story.
What are you most looking forward to delving into?
I really enjoy the process of realizing story through the game mechanics. I want to help fans of the Shotguns & Sorcery novels and stories create their own compelling characters and expand the world Matt created around their tables. I can’t wait to dive into the guts of the world and pull out the glistening bits of awesome that will come to life in the book’s pages. Monsters, cyphers and artifacts, cool stories and neat locations, and so much more.
Thank you Robert for shedding some light on your work.
You’re very welcome!
You might know Ed Lavallee from his work as a graphic designer, but he’s also a published author working on numerous comic projects. Let’s pick his brain, shall we?
Ed, what came first: graphic design or comics?
Comics all the way. Comics have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started out pretty young just looking at the pictures, then reading, then collecting. Comics have always inspired and amazed me. Definitely influenced me in making my decision to study art and design in college. It was during my time at Stephen F. Austin State that I started writing comics. I guess for me the two have always gone hand in hand. Kind of a no brainier really.
Would you ever choose only one or do they somehow complement each other?
The two have always complemented each other. The design side of things is actually what got me my first pro comic gig as a letterer. I lettered “PARADIGM” and an issue of “EXPATRIATE” from Image. If I could make a living just writing comics I would, but design provides me with the glamorous lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to.
As a kid and teenager what was your favorite activity?
As a kid I was always outside playing in the woods by my house, building forts, riding bikes. I had a very active imagination. Loved to be outside adventuring.
Did you begin to show your artistic talents early?
I don’t know if it would be considered talent, but I always loved to draw and create when I was young. Whether it’s comics, animation, drawing, film, Art has always been there for me in some form or fashion.
What was the first project that made you realize you wanted to be part of this graphic world?
Not sure I can pinpoint a single project that led me on my path into graphics specifically. It was more out of a need to make a decent living doing something I enjoyed. I was originally a sculpture major in college, but I could never see myself making a living as a fine art sculptor. I changed my major to graphic design in my junior year and finished college with enough credit hours to have a double major. Been working in design ever since, publishing mostly. The rest is history.
What about references? Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?
Da Vinci and the artists of the Italian Renaissance. Mike Mignola… I’m a huge fan of the Hellboy Universe he has created. Frank Frazetta. Quentin Tarantino. Martin Scorsese.
Is there a project that touched you in a deeper way?
“REVERE: Revolution in Silver” will always be my baby. It was my first professionally published work as a writer.
How does it feel to create a brand image, a logo, like the new one for the “Shotguns and SorceryRPG”?
Working on the S&S logo has been fun and exciting. It’s pretty cool to think that the work I did on the logo will be on all future S&S products. I’m looking forward to seeing everything take shape with the upcoming KS launch for the S&S RPG.
Is the process of finding the right logo for a brand straightforward or is it too subjective?
I try and use the same approach every time. Sometimes it is pretty straight forward, other times it is more of a creative evolution. Each step adding a little something in the process to get you to the final finished version.
What is your method: meticulous research or diving right into experimental sketches?
I think all projects are unique in their own way. For some, the lightbulb goes off right away and I can jump right in. In other instances it’s lots of research, sketching, and asking questions of the team/client involved.
What can we expect to see from you in the near future: graphic design projects or comics?
Well, I have an active hand in the majority of the projects set up here at Outland. We just finished up the S&S logo, and an RPG supplement. The S&S Kickstarter is launching soon. So a lot is happening on the design front. I have a few different comic projects as well, “REVERE vol. 2″, “POPSTAR ASSASSIN”, and “BLACKLANDS” are all in the works as we speak. Exciting times are on the horizon, stay tuned!
Thanks Ed for shedding some light on your work!
I recently had the pleasure of working on re-branding the logo for Matt Forbeck’s epic Noir/Fantasy setting SHOTGUNS & SORCERY. We initially had a solid direction that incorporated a crossed magic wand and shotgun with letters wrapping above and below. (see below)
But, after a few attempts we realized it just wasn’t working for us. The Outland team bounced ideas back and forth for a bit and decided we needed a logo that really captured the essence of the NOIR elements of the setting, and still have that FANTASY feel. I tried a bunch of different noir and fantasy fonts combined with some graphic elements, but we still felt the logo wasn’t quite there. I went back and forth for a while trying different fonts, different layouts and effects. Here are a couple of looks that we came up with in the middle of this concepting phase. (see below)
When I am designing a logo the first thing I like to do is really get a handle on the look and feel of the letters/font to use. Once we had decided on the letters and how they were laid out, (in this instance it was a toss up between stacked or inline) we added multiple outlines, fills, and stroke weights to move the logo one step closer to finished. We went with an inline design as we felt it would be a bit more versatile for layout and design purposes. The final step was to tweak the curls of the S in sorcery to really pull everything together. So without further ado, Outland Entertainment is proud to present to you the new SHOTGUNS & SORCERY logo. We hope you dig it, as much as we do.
Until next time, stay frosty.
Hello and welcome to my first EVER blog post. Bare with me as we figure this out together. So, I’m going to talk about design and my design process to start. In future posts we will cover in detail a variety of design topics from logos, to lettering, to page layout, but if there is something specific any of you have in mind, feel free to let us know. We will do our best to accommodate.
Recently, Outland partnered on a very cool comic book project titled BLEEDBACK (feel free to check it out here: www.embreate.com). After talking to the creator and getting all of the technical details sorted out, we determined he needed a logo and layouts for 5 pages. Before getting into the nitty gritty of starting the actual design work it is usually a good idea to get the technical details nailed down first. By technical details I mean: page sizes, bleed/no bleed, full color/black & white, file types, due dates, printer, etc. Once all of that is sorted out the real fun begins, design! When starting a new project I find it best to talk to the client to get as much detailed information about what they are looking for going in. This helps me find what I like to call the “design vibe” of the project. I like to think that all projects have them, some are harder to find than others.
For BLEEDBACK, the client had a few different fonts picked out for the logo, a full-color cover and 4 finished pages for me to pull inspiration from. In addition, he provided a concept sheet of setting and story to really give me insight into what BLEEDBACK is all about.
The images below are some of the font choices provided to me for logo creation.
The logo design was straightforward since the client had a clear vision of what he was looking for. I started with the font choice provided “FIRE DOOMSDAY”and went from there. Using Adobe Illustrator I typed BLEEDBACK, adjusted the kerning (that’s the space between the letters), converted fonts to outline, and used the pathfinder tool to slice everything up, and shift individual pieces of the letters to give it some“motion distortion”. There’s a bit more that goes into it, but for now lets stick to the nuts and bolts.
Below are a couple of initial looks with color and effects before we settled on the final design as seen on the cover to issue 1.
Here is a closeup of the final logo on black for detail.
One technical aspect I will comment on is the difference between designing in Illustrator vs. Photoshop – Illustrator is a vector-based program which uses a series of points and mathematical equations to create objects. Photoshop is a raster-based program, it uses pixels. The benefit of using vector vs. raster is scaleability. When you create a logo in Illustrator you can make it as large as you want with no degradation of quality. In Photoshop, you will start to lose image quality when scaling up more than 150% of actual size. I am sure most of you have seen an image or logo with a jagged edge, that jagged edge is pixelation and should be avoided if possible, unless the design calls for it. Low resolution images or logos are detrimental to the look and quality of any project.
As I mentioned before I like to determine a “design vibe” for all of the projects I work on. BLEEDBACK has a definitive look and feel that jumped out at me when reviewing the source material – futuristic/tech. The theme I picked up on right away was the “bright blue” color running throughout the work. I used that as my base direction to start page layouts. First, I set up a page template to the actual trim size of the book, plus bleed. Making sure you have everything set up to the correct page size before starting will save you a lot of headache on the backend. Searching online, I found a few different futuristic, vector-based backgrounds, sampled a bunch of fonts that I felt fit the look I was going for – I chose the font “EUROSTILE”, placed the backgrounds in the page template, copy and pasted all of the text provided for the page, then formatted it all to fit. Once everything was to my liking I sent a couple of versions to the client for a first look to get feedback, suggestions, and to see if the design was heading in the right direction.
Here are 2 initial layouts for the Inside Front Cover that were sent to the client.
Final Inside Front Cover Spread – Note the bright blue color in the artwork for Page 1.
Again, this is just a quick nuts and bolts overview of my design process and how I work, not a “be all end all” to design. I hope it was helpful. Remember, if there is a topic you would like to see covered in a future post or if you have questions leave us a message.
Thanks for reading.