Friday, September 15, 2017

The Making of a Fun Family Game, Part 3

We're sorry for the delay in bringing you the last installment of the Rooster Race journey. We hit a big road block in another project that put a kink into all the works. Anyway we're back and ready to share some more creation fun.
Rooster Race a High Low Game of Fowl Fun from Roosterfin Games designed and illustrated by Imagine That! Design

Putting It All Together

In the last two installments, we talked about creating the characters, the logo, and the game assets. This brings us to the all important…. packaging. After all, you need something to put it all into.

The initial rough we wanted to have a fun barnyard feel to reinforce the rooster concept.We roughed in our idea with the logo, fun characters and other necessary elements like copy, logos, UPC, item numbers, contents, etc.

Rooster Race packaging rough by Imagine That! Design

This early concept which at the time was being shown to big retailers and had to change constantly to satisfy the particulars of each one of them. Here’s a few examples of criticisms: too much illustration, character getting in the way of the logo, too much background, logo needs to be bigger, vertical to horizontal to vertical again.

Rooster Race horizontal version of the package front by Imagine That! Design
Rooster Race Package Front Horizontal
Rooster Race horizontal version of the package back by Imagine That! Design
Rooster Race Package Back Horizontal

Rooster Race vertical version of the package back by Imagine That! Design
Rooster Race Package Back Vertical
Rooster Race vertical version of the package front by Imagine That! Design
Rooster Race Package Back Vertical

The final decision was made to go vertical, but the logo needed to be much bigger to stand out on the shelves. So, in the end after all the back and forth, we ended up with this:

Final package back of Rooster Race game by Roosterfin Games designed and illustrated by Imagine That! DesignFinal package front of Rooster Race game by Roosterfin Games designed and illustrated by Imagine That! Design
Oh… let’s not forget instructions. An area of game development that is often left to the end. A mistake. The graphic layout and the actual verbiage of instructions are so important they really need to be developed alongside the game and the game mechanics. i.e. it’s easy to understand where a discard goes when you see an image, but if I just say discard, you may end up with the game in the trash. We added  little bit of fun to otherwise basic instructions by adding some characters in the background in a light gray.

Instruction front page for Roosteer Race by Roosterfin Games designed by Kurt Keller at Imagine That! DesignInstructions for Roosteer Race by Roosterfin Games designed by Kurt Keller at Imagine That! Design

We design our games based on the giggle meter. If while designing sketches or laying out packaging and game assets, giggles erupt in the studio, we know we're on the right track. We hope you've got a giggle out of this making of series. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes posts.

Find out more and see a fun video of how to play the game with Joe Roosterfin over at Roosterfin Games.

Rooster Race Game layed out in a fan shape designed and illustrated by Imagine That! Design

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Making of a Fun Family Game, Part 2

The Rooster Race Journey

continues with giggle worthy character development of the racing roosters

Last week we started the rooster race journey and ended with a sneak peek at the fun rooster characters that make up the game. 

We spent a good deal of time refining the overall character looks as well as individual personalities of the characters since so much of the game play depends on the characters.
We had a ton of fun creating this waky racing characters, and we hope you enjoy our character development journey. 
Here's the character line up.
Rooster characters created by Imagine That! Design

 Ready! Set! Go!

Sketch until there’s a giggle:

We start with rough pencil sketches and designs exploring the looks and personalities of the characters. With these guys we wanted to make sure they're cute, but also wacky and, of course, racing and capturing some of the frantic feel of a racer. Once we get a giggle going, we know we’re onto something. The last page is the page of the best of all the pages of sketches to show the client.
Imagein That! Design rooster sketches developing characters for Rooster Race Game
© Imagine That! Design
Imagine That! Design rooster characger development sketches for the game Rooster Race
© Imagine That! Design

characgter development rooster sketches by Imagine That! Design for Roosterfin Games
© Imagine That! Design

The fun folks at Roosterfin Games giggled. Good, we were on the right track. Next we took any suggestions and thoughts from the client and ran with the roosters they picked and took them to the next stage.

Refined rooster sketches by Imagine That! Design for the fun family game Rooster Race
© Imagine That! Design
Rooster Character color options created by Imagine That! Design for Rooster Race by Roosterfin Games 
With the general look of the characters defined, we finalized a couple finished illustrated looks of one of the characters to send to the client to establish the end result which will be applied to all the characters. Option C was the final choice.
During all this we’re also defining and refining the graphic design of the cards. No point in designing a character that doesn’t fit. We offered the client a couple options for the look of the cards.
Card options for Rooster Race by ITD
At the finish line, this is what we ended up with for the Rooster Racing cards. Giggle worthy, right?
Rooster Race card back designed by Imagine That! Design for Roosterfin Games

RoosterfinGames Rooster Race cards designed and illustrated by Imagine That! Design
Game Assets
This game concept also needed some 3D parts. This was a bit of a new adventure for us. The client asked for corn, we gave them corn. We created this in Cinema 4D a 3D program. They created the corn on 3D printer.
3D Corn created by Kurt Keller at Imagine That! Design with Cinema 4D3D Corn created by Kurt Keller at Imagine That! Design with Cinema 4D

3D corn printed on 3D printed by Roosterfin Games from ITD 3D drawings
3D printed corn by Roosterfin Games
We have come to the end of the journey for this week. We hope our cute rooster characters brought a giggle or two.

Do you know of a giggle game? Any game where you look at the packaging, read the cards, read the instructions and have an uncontrollable giggles. We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!

Be sure to come back next week for the conclusion of the rooster's journey with all the important packaging and instructions, where you'll see us putting it all together. Until next time, you can buy your own copy of this fun family game here
The fun family game Rooster Race
All images ©Imagine That! Design, all rights reserved

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Making of a Fun Family Game, Part 1

The Rooster Race Journey

The sun rises over the farm. Here comes the roosters. And boy are they hungry!
Cute farm and chick illustration by Imagine That! Design
©2015 Imagine That! Design

Rooster Race, The High Low Game of Fowl Fun was one of the first games we helped bring to life with Roosterfin Games. 


 2017 Seal of Excellence Award by Creative Child Magazine.
A fun family game, Rooster Race, designed and illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner and Kurt Keller

The Beginning:

This is how it all. We got an initial verbal brief from the Joe Roosterfin with a description of the game and basic imagery. Then he sent us a rough instruction sheet outlining the game play and cards with basic clip art. 

Client Brief Instructions for new game, Rooster Race, for ITD to develop
Initial Instructions
Imagine That! Design gets an initial brief for developing a new family game, Rooster Race
Initial Cards

Logo Development:
One of the first things we do with a new concept is create a logo. We start by researching other similar products, colors for the overall game, fonts, image and illustration styles, and overall looks to help us figure out where we're going and which direction we should take, i.e. character vs. straight type logo design. Then we explore the concept and various directions with rough sketches. Starting with very loose sketches to more detailed choices which we send to the client.

Logo Sketch Options for the family game Rooster Race by Roosterfin Games
Rough Sketch Options
Logo warm up and exploration sketches by Imagine That! Design
Rough Sketches

Final Rooster Race logo sketches  created by Imagine That! Design for client approval
Final Logo Sketch Options
Upon approval of a direction from the client, we then dive in to refining the design, breaking it down into parts, color, character, font, tag line, etc. and start debating its pieces and parts until we are happy with the overall look and story it tells.
Rooster Race Logo Development by Imagine That! Design
Rooster Race Logo Development
The logo for this game begged to be a heavy character concept reflecting the cute characters on cards. And the client loved it!
Rooster Race Final Logo
Rooser Race logo on black background by Imagine That! DesignRooster Race black and white logo for instructions by Imagine That! Design
Character Development:
We spent a good deal of time refining the overall character looks as well as individual personalities of the characters. Here's a sneak peek of the character line up.
Rooster Race characters designed and illustrated by Imagine That! Design
Come back next week to continue the rooster's journey, starting with giggle worthy character development. Until next time, you can buy your own copy of this fun family game here.
Cute baby rooster character from Rooster Race, a game developed by Imagine That! Design for Rosterfin Games

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Making of The Mermaid's Gift

In celebration of Mermay, we're sharing a post original posted on my illustration blog Celebrate the Little Things sharing my illustration process for The Mermaid’s Gift written by Claudia Cangilla McAdams, illustrated by me - Traci Van Wagoner, and published by Pelican Publishing.
 A version of this post can be found on Dani Duck: Artist Obsure as part of Smart Dummies.

After illustrating eight picture books and creating five dummies for my own manuscripts, each a bit of an experiment, I’m happy to say that I finally feel like I have a pretty good system worked out.

Quick read through — This quick read through opens my mind to the world of the story. I then let my imagination explore the possibilities without any limitations to specific pages or scenes. The process from first contact to contract takes a long time, so this story had a long time to percolate.

Reference researchPinterest is a ton of fun for this. I set up folders for each project and collect images for reference and inspiration. In this case, colorful Burano, Italy (look it up on Google. If you’re feeling blue, this place will perk you right up); lace, lots and lots of lace research; historical photos of Burano and the lace museum there. I even used Google Earth to walk around the island.

Character sketches — I work out clothes, hair styles, facial features, culture, and age. I sketch the main characters from a variety of angles, different facial expressions, moods, emotions, keeping mind the need to keep the main characters consistent throughout with the same clothes, hairstyle, facial features, eye colors, etc.

Text Dummy
— I print out the manuscript and break it up into 16 sections. I fold 9 sheets of legal or ledger paper in half and staple them in the middle with a special stapler I bought years ago for this purpose. I cut up the text and tape each section in its spread roughly where I think it might go, telling the story with the text — one chunk for the entire spread, or broken up with some on the left and some on the right. Since Mermaid is a retelling and set in the 1800s, I decided to go with a classic feel, keeping the text in blocks, but incorporating them into the illustrations. I played around with borders and copy blocks, but dropped that in the final sketch stage.

Brainstorm Scenes — blue sky thinking with my husband bouncing around ideas about the overall look, world, setting, perspectives, angles, pov, lighting. Playing with the best way to illustrate each scene adding to the story in unique ways. For this book I really wanted drama, which I achieved with lighting, angles, and unique perspectives.

“I love your boldness in composing the pages. Many illustrators are timid about the interplay between form and function, and your work is like a breath of fresh air.” ~ Johanna Rotondo-McCord, Artist.

More reference research — this stage is pretty much ongoing and so much easier now days. I remember the days of having to go up to the reference library on 42nd street to get images. For this project, I did a lot of lace research — patterns, tutorials, various types of lace, designs, styles, materials, etc. I think that all paid off since I have had many people ask how I created the lace, and have complimented me on the beauty and realistic feel of the lace.

Thumbnails — With sketchbook and ballpoint pen, I roughly block out the scenes I have bubbling in my imagination after the brainstorming session. With this project, I established a sort of zig-zag pattern through the spreads, leading the eye through the story with a variety of spots, full spreads and text placement that would keep the eye moving how I wanted.

Sketch Dummy — Sketch and explore scenes building on initial rough thumbnails. My ink sketches are rough at this stage. I scan those, clean them up a bit and print each spread as close to actual size as I can. With marker paper, several good ol’ #2 pencils, and a kneaded eraser, I set to work creating the final detailed pencil sketches. Marker paper is see-through without needing a light box, but not as smeary as tracing paper. I scanned those sketches and put them together back in their spreads. I cleaned them up, made pngs which I made into a pdf and emailed it to the AD. He came back to me with only a few revisions.

Value and Color Thumbnails — I made a contact sheet in Photoshop of the sketches on an 11x17 document. I added a layer with my paper in a gray tone, creating an overall stormy feel. A second layer for value, establishing mood, and a third layer for color studies. I created a limited palette, keeping in mind the stormy feel of the story and moving to a light and happy feeling in the end.

“You have perfectly captured the moods of the various scenes, giving the story "life" in your depictions of the throwing of the fishing net, the ferociousness of the storm at sea, the mermaid's creation of the lace, and so on.” ~ Claudia Cangilla McAdam

Final Painting Begins
— I paint in Photoshop with my own brushes, textured papers, and color palettes, plus a ton of layers. I could do a whole-nother post about the ups and downs of finishing a full book. There were days I thought I was brilliant, and days when I felt like a total fraud with no right to get to draw and paint for a living. Every book has this stage no matter how much I’ve learned and grown and figured out what I’m doing.


Finish the Dang Thing Already — And then comes the finishing. This may be the hardest of all stages for me. I have a resistance to finishing things. I don’t know why. That’s just the crazy way I am. One night my husband told me to sit and finish one at a time. I had the final highlights and finishing touches and fixes and whatnots to do. When I finished one I’d shout it out. I was reward with a DING-DING-DING and a compliment of some encouraging sort. Then it was back to the next one.

I finally finished them and sent them off to the Art Director. The end result: A love fest with my art, and an offer for another book. Cody and Grandpa’s Christmas Tradition written by Gary Metivier. You can read a guest post with Gary here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions on my process. Or feel free to share how you work. Thanks for your visit.


Live, laugh, and learn!

Book Trailer

Get your own copy of The Mermaid's at:
Barnes and Noble
Pelican Publishing

Monday, May 8, 2017

New Games for Family Game Night

It's game time!
We're so happy to be able to share with you several new games that are perfect for your next family game night. We helped develop these games with the fun folks at Roosterfin Games. In addition to helping create the game mechanics and do a bunch of play testing, we designed the games, created the fun and wacky characters, designed and illustrated all the game parts, instructions, and the packaging as well. We also created 3D images to be used for promotion and for the backs of the game boxes.

We love playing and creating games, and we hope you enjoy these new additions to the game world. These fun tabletop games are available at Roosterfin Games as well as on Amazon.

Please contact us if you're interested in working with us to develop a new game. Have some fun today and play a game or two

Imagine That! Design

Designed and Illustrated by Imagine That! Design

Designed and Illustrated by Imagine That! Design

Designed and Illustrated by Imagine That! Design

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Creation of Booker T. Bear's Hometown, Juneberry Square

Booker T. Bear's hometown, Juneberry Square illustrated by Kurt Keller and Traci Van Wagoner
Booker T. Bear's Home Town, Juneberry Square
The adventure of Booker T. Bear and his friend Dahlya Dragonfly all began in their hometown, Juneberry Square. Why the name and the pretty trees with white blossoms? In her original research for the series, the author, Jen Jellyfish, M.M., wanted to find a unique berry that's not commonly known. With delight she found there's a real berry called a juneberry. This discovery brought her such surprise and joy because her mom's middle name is June, which is the name she goes by, and the middle name of her daughter. The town's name, Juneberry Square, is a tribute to them.

Before sketching began, we received detailed notes for the illustrations for the series and for the first book. These are the notes for the first page of book 1.

Author notes for the illustration of Juneberry Square:
• Quaint but brightly colored town square that’s round; readers’ view facing into the square at street level, able to see shop fronts. So, only a horseshoe-shaped section of the shops will be visible, but the park in the middle will show the full-circle shape.
• Round grassy park as the center of the town square—full circle visible; park includes: fountain in the center, brick stroll path(s) leading to fountain, full-blossomed Juneberry trees, shading the park
flowers and grasses, the standard park benches, trash containers, birds, squirrels, etc . . .
• A roundabout road separates the park from the shops—a horseshoe roundabout since the view of the whole square is as though the viewer is standing on the street looking into the square from one end—stores on the other three sides of the roundabout. Make sense? 
• Fun, kid-inviting shops facing the park, lining the roundabout.
• DAHLYA’S DINER is the square’s main attraction—THE hangout—clearly identifiable among the other shops it’s nestled between The Bee-Nutty shop which is the secondary main shop of attraction
Booker-Dahlya, Grandpop, and Grandmop – on storyline page 1 – should appear, each posed at a different location in the square. For example, Grandpop cleaning the Bee-Nutty Shop window front? Grandmop seen from inside shop window? Booker and Dahlya at the diner front?

Booker always wears a brightly-colored, plain T-shirt. At various times he wears a matching ball cap. 
T-shirts and caps have no graphics or lettering.

We started the project with this knowledge and with the established character of Booker T. Bear from The Library Store, and the basic look for Dahlya Dragonfly.

Booker T. Bear reference image

The sketching began all loose and messy as we tried to get a feel for the town. Pages and pages of sketches later, we had a rough sketch we were happy with. We scanned that mess into the computer and cleaned it up in Photoshop. This is the sketch we sent to the client (Jen and The Library Story) for approval.

Juneberry Square cleaned up sketch by Imagine That! Design
Booker T. Bear, Juneberry Square cleaned up sketch

Booker T. Bear Juneberry Square rough sketch by Traci Van Wagoner at Imagine That! Design
Booker T. Bear, Juneberry Square rough sketch

Jen was thrilled with our vision for Juneberry Square, so we moved to finalizing the illustration. For the first step, we created a black line using Manga. We exported that to Photoshop and colored it in with bright fun colors and our signature texture. And there you have Booker T. Bear and Dahlya Dragonfly's hometown, Juneberry Square.
Booker T. Bear Juneberry Square Illustration by Kurt Keller and Traci Van Wagoner, Imagine That! Design
Booker T. Bear, Juneberry Square Final
Booker T. Bear Juneberry Square black line illustration by Kurt Keller and Traci Van Wagoner atImagine That! Design
Booker T. Bear, Juneberry Square black line

After we had completed the first four books in the series, Booker needed a website in order to share his adventures with the world. Jen enjoyed the toy store on the right, so she and the folks at The Library Store asked us to create a full toy and book store for the website.
Bee Nutty interior illustration by Imagine That! Design
Inside Bee Nutty Shop

Here's a little peek inside the Bee Nutty Shop. To interact with all the fun things inside and to see Dahlya's Diner and The Toy & Book Shop check out Booker T. Bear's website www. Don't forget to buy a book or two while there and share in the fun with Booker and Dahlya on their adventures across the globe. 

updated 9/6/17

All images ©2016 Kurt Keller and Traci Van Wagoner, Imagine That! Design