Game Design

Why great art & graphic design are so important for your Kickstarter campaign

I’ve been talking a lot about the different methods I’ve used and continue to use to bring more attention to Relics of Rajavihara.

I hope you’re beginning to understand that there is no one magical silver bullet. There are many different things that you will need to try to get eyeballs on your campaign.

No one technique is the be all and end all solution. It is a combination of many different approaches plus a lot of hard work that will lead to getting your game funded.

Today, I’m going to talk about something that is crucial though: what your game looks like.

People DO judge a book by its cover

Whether a potential backer continues to scroll down your campaign page once they discover it or move on to the next game quite often depends on whether they like the look of your game. This all comes down to the art and graphic design.

Your game has to be eye-catching. People need to stop when they see the art and say “wow, that looks cool!”, then continue to look over your page to find out what your game is all about.

That’s not to say that beautiful art can save a bad game. Your game absolutely has to play well. But then again, you already knew that. 😊

The first step, of course, is to make a game that plays really well and people enjoy. Players should be asking if they can play your game again or where they can buy your game. These are the signs you’re looking for.

But a player won’t necessarily be able to tell that they like your game if they haven’t played it before. That’s where beautiful art and clean graphic design can get people’s attention. Then you can show them how cool your gameplay is!

How much should I spend on art?

This is a question that I’ve been asked a lot lately. It’s a great question but also one that is very hard to answer.

So much depends on how many individual pieces of art you need for your game, how intricate it is, and the artist or artists that you choose to work with.

But the first question I always ask is “are you 100% sure you want to self-publish your game?”

This is an important question to ask, as you should only ever invest in any art or graphic design if you are planning on publishing your game yourself.

If you’re even considering pitching your game to a publisher, you’ll want to leave all the art and graphic design to them. Just make sure that your prototype uses easy to understand language and icons so that a publisher will get a good sense of the gameplay and understand the rules clearly. Any free placeholder art should convey what you’re trying to get across in the theme and gameplay, but will still be subject to change.

It will be the publisher’s choice as to what artist(s) they wish to work with and what art they want to commission. They could also change the theme. So, you can see how your time, money, and effort would be wasted in this situation.

But if you are sure that you want to self-publish your game, you’ll want to have at least a representative sample of the art completed for your game, if not most of it. After a time, I knew for certain that I was going to self-publish Relics of Rajavihara before I approached my illustrator. I also decided to get all of the art done in advance so that I could move quickly from campaign to production.

So, how much should you spend on art for your game?

Again, it depends. Does your game have 100 different cards, each requiring their own piece of art? Is it an 18-card game that will require only a few different changes on each card?

For a simple game with only a few pieces of art. you might be able to get this done for under $1,000. However, bigger projects can easily cost thousands of dollars to complete.

My advice is to start bv finding a few potential artists you’d like to work with. You can do this by looking in Facebook artist groups, looking up the artist who worked on a game you think as well done on Boardgamegeek, checking out Deviant Art, or searching online for board game artists.

Let them know a bit about your project and ask them about their availability and rates. Some artists charge by the hour, whereas others charge by the piece or for the whole project.

Also, make sure to make the distinction between artist and graphic designer. While an artist can make you some beautiful images, they may not understand how to design a card or board to fit manufacturing specs. Likewise, a graphic designer may fully understand bleed lines, iconography, and other design details, but may not be able to create the kind of art you want for your game.

If you can find one of the rare people who is amazing at both art and graphic design (like I was fortunate to find in the incredible Tristam Rossin), then you’re really lucky!

Are you considering running a Kickstarter? What questions do you have?

Hit the comment button below and let me know!

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    Hi Joe – thanks for a great blog. I’ve found that the more I’ve looked at this, the more I’ve appreciated the value of a good illustrator. When I first went looking for custom art, I found it cost more than I was expecting (because of my own incorrect perspective; but every time I’ve commissioned some art and the first ‘draft’ arrives, I’ve always felt like “aahhhh, this is why you pay for illustrations”, because the artist has got inside my head and produced something better than I’d even pictured myself. It’s always money well spent, in my view. It’s also given me a better appreciation for the art in other games – eg the wonderful light game Town Builder Coevorden, which has a beautiful customer painting for every single card. I also think the days have gone when you could rock up on Kickstarter with a hand-drawn prototype and the promise of getting the art done when you fund. Backers expect to see a beautiful product – you can work on tweaking the rules and extras afterwards but you really need the art done in advance. IMHO anyway!

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, some nice art can definitely help give you more direction for your game and make it so much more visually appealing. If you’re planning on pitching your game to publishers though, you have to be willing to completely write this off. But if you’re planning to run a Kickstarter campaign, you absolutely do need to have a lot of great art and design showcased upfront.

    I completely agree that the days are long over where you can put together a simple video and share your idea with the world. It has to look like a finished product. There’s just way too much competition and a lot of big publishers with a lot of money launching projects as well.