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Working at unidice: A designer's insight

Hey there, it's Eva again!


 

Today is going to be a bit weird for me because I'm about to introduce myself to you in this blog post. So, hey! My name is Eva, I’m currently studying communication design in Munich and since Winter 2022 I have been a part of the unidice team! You've probably stumbled across my work here and there, but let’s maybe start with what I am actually doing at unidice. Initially, I joined the team primarily to create skins and brainstorm different ways to implement existing game rules on the unidice, such as for Vampire the Masquerade, Bang! The Dice Game, Zombie Dice Game, and more. Since I’m now employed as a working student, my work also focuses on writing texts e.g. for this website, assisting Isabella with various design and branding tasks, and developing a brand guide for us.

 

I am still incredibly grateful to my university professor who encouraged me to attend the SPIEL games convention in Munich two years ago. It was there that I first met Peter, Elke, and Isabella. Afterwards, we connected online for a chat, and that's when I officially joined the team! The next time we met in person was at this year's games fair in Nürnberg, and it was truly amazing! Spending those days together promoting our shared dream was an absolutely thrilling experience for us all!



My favourite skins for the unidice


DnD Skin Set



As a passionate DnD player, creating the skin set for this game was a process I enjoyed a lot! I wanted to capture the magical state we find ourselves in when sitting at a table, all delving into a shared imaginary world. Thus, you'll find a lot of vivid, atmospheric elements resembling the transience and power of a moment in such a universe.






Graveyard Beast


Maybe this is my dark humour talking, but this skin set was a lot of fun! Trying to capture the atmosphere of a haunted graveyard and slapping all those quotes on a tombstone really got me into the Halloween mood. And yes, it might be that I watched Sirius Black transforming into Padfoot for inspiration multiple times.



VTM Skin Set



The base for this skin set was painted with watercolour. Even if the final workpiece shall be digital, you often need to experiment with analogue media to be able to scribble more freely and to discover new ways of interpreting a topic. This is where innovation and excitement kick in the most. Take, for example, the unidice. The first sketches were also made on a piece of paper! Having a pen and paper for illustrating ideas is essential if you tend to get intimidated by a huge blank canvas. Just grab some tool that leaves a trace on paper and "ruin" it with drawing random lines. You’ll see, eventually you’ll find the lines that match your idea, and from that point on, just refine what you like.





Wide & Deep


Now, this is a tactic I follow with most of my work, no matter if it’s illustrations, texts, or other design projects. And actually, it’s pretty simple: At first, go WIDE and brainstorm all the possible topics, tactics, and media you could use, and write down what’s cool about them and what’s not. Get inspiration from other people’s work, music, nature, dialogues, smells, texture libraries, poems, and so on. Arrange them either on a piece of paper, a book, or a digital canvas.


As soon as you’re fed up with collecting these things or your canvas turns out to be cluttered with ideas, take a break and then come back to reevaluate what strikes you most. This can, of course, be more than one approach but shouldn’t overstep three in total. Take these and go DEEP, meaning you start experimenting with them. Try to realize your chosen topic and start a focused session. When the session is over, go WIDE again. Since you are now familiar with your possibilities and have already tried transferring your vision, step back for a moment and look around. Is this approach truly suitable for conveying your idea? Do you enjoy working this way? How would a change of XY influence the final result and the process? Note down whatever you come across and then go DEEP again.


Continue this cycle until you fall in love with a piece you created. In my experience, following this scheme always helped me to end up having an innovative and harmonious output that made me somewhat proud and happy.



Become an expert on visual language!


Both text and visuals are languages and thus need to:


  • be 'spoken' by the author, and

  • be understood by the audience.


So, whatever shall convey a message needs to be translated. Therefore, research is a crucial part of a designer's work. Personally, I like to follow the Wide & Deep technique for this as well, which takes a bit more time but will eventually allow me to speed up my later process where I 'formulate' the communication/content. Interesting fact on the side: This whole concept on 'show don’t tell', which is crucial for a good visual narrative, is completely turned upside down when you take a look at H.P. Lovecraft’s work. Putting the discussion about his character aside, he is an absolutely brilliant worldbuilder! He manages to write stories that no picture can capture at all! To be honest, for us nowadays, his massively complex phrasings are a bit hard to follow. But nonetheless, he is a master of unseen horror just by drawing cryptic brush strokes in our heads. (If you are interested in his work but also a lazy reader: There are some awesome audiobooks about him on Spotify!)



In a nutshell


So, to sum it all up: We obviously don’t like to be incapacitated and good artists know and use that to their advantage. If our fantasy isn’t challenged, we get bored and eventually will lose interest. But also: If a message is encrypted too much, nobody will get it.

Try finding a balance between narrowing down your message to its essence and illustrate this very essence instead of visually explaining every detail. And go crazy on the media you are using! Look at places that have nothing to do with classic drawing techniques and you'll end up with innovative and unforeseen results! Idk, your fridge, flowers, tree bark, buildings,... Or consider using photography! Or printing, lino-cut, ... The possibilities are endless!


If you are interested in seeing more of my work or want to get in contact, use my linktree where you can find my website and Instagram. It's all still under construction, but since university atm is not that overwhelming compared to the previous semesters, I'll probably have some time to update many things! See you in the next post!

Eva




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