Friday, September 22, 2017

How We Got Started in Graphic Novels

Nelson Beats the Odds series designed and illustrationed by Traci Van Wagoner and Kurt Keller

Creative Medicine LogoNelson Beats the Odds was the first in a series of graphic novels we've designed and illustrated for Ronnie Sidney II at Creative Medicine.

In the spring of 2015, Ronnie came to us with a story that had really clear descriptive scenes for practically every sentence which made it difficult for us to do a standard picture book spread. It was shouting out for a graphic novel approach. Not something we'd done before or quoted for. Boy, are they a lot of work. We suggested this to the client, and he loved the idea. Since he was going to be presenting and showing to a grade school and older audience, he thought the graphic novel would go over well with them. So what began as 32 pages with 16 spread illustrations turned into 32 pages with approximately 170 - 180 illustrations.

Style Research

Since this was a new style and genre for us, it required research. Research and more research. We researched, and read, and googled, and studied, and sketched, and researched some more looking at graphic novels, comic books, styles, themes, directions, applications, etc. You can see some of the reference that provided inspiration on Traci's Pinterest page.

Character Design

Character design working with photos provided by the client. Nelson and his friends which are based on Ronnie, his friends, and his teachers.
Character Design sketches for NBTO by Imagine That! Design

Text Dummy and Symbolism

After getting some characters establishing, a text dummy is created where we break the text up into spreads and loosely sketch out the scenes.

Work begins with a text dummy for Nelson Beats the Odds, Imagine That DesignCharacter and scenes sketches for Nelson Beats the Odds, Imagine That Design

Creating the Cells, Scenes, and Factoids

After doing a series of sketches and designs, we created the cells in InDesign, knowing that the cells themselves were going to add to the creative design and message of the book. We outputted those as pngs and placed them as masks in Photoshop for our first round of sketches.

Nelson Beats the Odds cell design and layout by Kurt Keller at Imagine That! DesignSince this story is about the struggle of overcoming learning disabilities, the client wanted to have the theme of mountains in the imagery demonstrating the struggle of overcoming the odds. So we set about trying to integrate this element into the design. We created shapes and cells to help bring in this feel as a vehicle of communication.

Nelson Beats the Odds interior cell desgin and layout by Kurt Keller at Imagine That Design
Ronnie also wanted to capture the feeling of sneaking into the special education classroom so his friends wouldn't see him. So, we created a ninja feel with Nelson sneaking to class not being seen.

This is where Nelson finds a teacher who understands and helps him to grow and gain confidence.

We had the additional challenge of getting so much copy into the book. Not only did we have a story line, but since Ronnie would be using this book as an instructional tool, he wanted to include other information, question/answers, facts to back up Nelson's story. We decided to create new call out sections in yellow for Notes / Facts / Quotes.
Nelson Beats the Odds interior design by Kurt Keller at Imagine That Design

Getting the work done

Since we were also the book designers this gave us the ability to control both ends of the whole book making progress, working the illustrations and design together which gave it much more of a cohesive feel and made the project flow smoothly.

With the basics established, it was time to get into the nitty-gritty of completing the book. Here's a working screen shot from Photoshop showing several spreads in various stages of progress.
Nelson Beats the Odds work in progress by Imagine That! Design

Ronnie was very happy with the end result, so much so that he wrote another book and another so we now have a series of graphic novels. Tameka's New Dress with a colorful patterned dress as the vehicle for Tameka's confidence to stand up to bullies, and Rest in Peace RaShawn where we worked only in black and white with highlight colors to pack an emotional punch. This was an emotionally intense book to illustrate -- and that's another story. And speaking of another story, we have a new book for this series in the works. We'll share more about that later. 

For more behind the scenes information about the Nelson Beats the Odds, check out this post on Traci Van Wagoner's illustration blog, Celebrate the Little Things, Hard Lessons Learned.

Nelson Beats the Odds cover art by Traci Van Wagoner, designed by Kurt Keller, Imagine That! Design

About Nelson Beats the Odds:

Nelson use to think school was all about playing around and talking with his friends. When he learns that he’s been placed in special education, he fears being teased so he keeps his learning disability and ADHD diagnosis a secret. With the encouragement of his parents and assistance from Mrs. T., his special education teacher, Nelson pushes the boundaries and discovers his potential. His hard work pays off when he graduates from college with his social work degree.

Nelson Beats the Odds is an inspiring story that celebrates friendship, resilience and empowerment. The striking illustrations give life to Nelson Beats The Odds while the author’s story is perfect for students diagnosed with learning disabilities or mental health disorders. Imagine That! Design provided the illustration, layout & design and formatting services. The company is located in New York City.

This book and the others in the series are available at Creative Medicine :
Or on Amazon
Check out Ronnie's Amazon page for links to all the books

 All images @Imagine That! Design

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