Graphic Design for Games Designers and Animators – Why you should know this stuff!

This is a three fold look at Graphics/Graphic Design and its relationship with Games Design and Animation for the student, giving reasons why it is important for game designers to look at this seemingly off-topic alternative design discipline.

Session content (including mini-briefs) should include:

(the notional course materials submitted as outlines for student briefs are being developed in collaboration with my colleague D. Eccles, pertinent additions may be made at a later date)

So, first up.

1 – A rough guide to the history of Graphics and Graphic Design.

This is important because:

a – A well-rounded and design educated art director may expect a designer in his stable to react to a very simple set of instructions.

“Right, I need you to populate your environment design for this part of the level with a range of totalitarian/fascist state information posters/graphics and offset it with some revolutionary fly-posting and graffiti.”

Without even a basic grounding in a number of disciplines young designers might struggle to respond without a costly phase of up-skilling and research.

Even I would expect a young designer working with me to be able to differentiate between 60’s graphics/60’s influenced graphics and say turn of the last (1900CE) century graphics, 30’s product design versus contemporary product design as well as to be able to use appropriate typefaces across a range of situations, whether working in print, marketing, theme-park design or Games and Animation design.

Combinations of ideas and aesthetics to create a mini-brief could be easily generated using a simple “lists & dice” method similar to THIS.

b – Typography and Image in conjunction have ever been used to instil/draw out specific responses from an audience. Knowing how this works in the real world, and being able parse that into a world/universe of your making is only going to put you at an advantage. Take a still image of a game or animation (particularly those set in a contemporary setting) and count the number of individual pieces of graphic design in that one shot.

Hey, take a real world photograph of a street in your town and do the same.

Go on make a list… we like lists, David Perry likes lists and if its good enough for him its good enough for you.

Meanwhile here’s a booklist – it’s not mine, but I own some of the books on it. If you are short on funds you could do worse than simply going with Heller and Vienne’s 100 Ideas that changed Graphic Design.

(…of course some of the same arguments made for learning a little about Graphic Design above could be made for other subject areas: Fine Art, History, Geography, Psychology, General Science, Music, Fashion/Costume, Film Studies, etc.)

2 – aThe creation of a Personal Brand for a character/avatar for use in a game or animation.

Are they a mechanic working in a garage? Do their overalls and colour choices on there vehicles and logo for their pick up reflect the job they do?

Are they a police officer? What does their badge on their uniform tell us about the authority they work for? What colours and typeface appear on their flack-jacket and riot van?


Are they a surf-rental dude, wearing the brand T-shirt of the store? What does that look like?

Many of us are pressed into the service of the marketing arms of the institutions and operations we work for, your various characters (imitating life) are just the same, and will be found on occasion to be flaunting the corporate logo or brands on their person.

bThe creation of a personal brand for themselves

Lets face it our public facing business selves are avatars of sorts… This will tie in with your inevitable need to self-promote in the latter part of your course. Along with a portfolio/showreel, you will need an array of self-promotional materials, business cards, web presence, logos etc. Thinking about who you want your future clients to see or how you wish to be seen is a good exercise in learning the value of a little Visual Language and Graphic Design knowledge.

3 – The development of believable diegetic graphics and internal aesthetics.

The understanding that if we are to suspend disbelief and accept “the diegetic reality” of a given universe whether in-game or of an animation we must accept that many different professions beyond that of our protagonists and antagonists would be at work. Using a Games scenario as an example, for a corner cafe to exist in Grand Theft Auto, we can by extension agree that waitresses and chefs might also exist.

Then, if we consider that in the same game, perhaps even in the same game level we have a high end restaurant (perhaps where the lead villain hosts his meetings), that again by extension there will be other waitresses and chefs who might be qualified to a higher level, or be more proficient than those that work in the corner cafe.

So, at least two chefs, who produce different quality food. Accepted yeah? And a range of waitresses and staff all at differing skill levels.

So, could we not also accept that within this universe, whether a game or animation, that there exist Graphic Designers of different quality, as well as people who are unqualified in graphic design who still just go ahead and make posters and shop signs etc.

This section will deal with that concept.

Specifically that – a – As a Games Designer and Animator who Art Directs his own films you need to be able to understand the value of knowing that good and bad design, particularly Graphics can exist (often overlapping) in the same space or scene.


b – Unless a specific remit/art direction exists, that it should not look like some omniscient, omnipresent graphic designer has produced ALL the graphics in a particular product, that just doesn’t happen, not even in shopping malls and themeparks.

These therefore are some of the basic Graphic Design oriented concerns of the creative/designer/visualiser for Games and Animation (and other forms of Design for Entertainment Media).

~ by hesir on June 24, 2013.

One Response to “Graphic Design for Games Designers and Animators – Why you should know this stuff!”

  1. […] Specific briefs could be set for Students using the linked material/structure HERE. […]

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