July 11, 2022

Card Game Illustration

Over the last few months, I've collaborated with Prof Martin Fitgerald at the University of Bradford, creating illustrations for a card game titled' 'Capturing the Sun'.

Game illustration
Mock-up of box design

The game is designed to help with cognitive restructuring (a term used in CBT) and is aimed at people with long-term psychiatric conditions. Based on the Mouri folk tale of Maui, the Polynesian Demi-god who captures the sun with powerful ropes to make the day last longer. As described in the games manual;

"This game is designed to help people who experience serious mental illness to make their own powerful ropes so they can capture the skills, knowledge and understandings required for recovery, so they too, can live in the light."

It's been a fascinating project to work on as an illustrator, and I've always wanted to illustrate games.

Martin's a fan of monochrome linocut illustration and liked my work, so I leaned into that for these card game illustrations.

Deck cards depicted the terms used in cognitive restructuring, the challenge was then finding the right visual metaphor to describe the term. Some were straightforward, such as 'fortune telling' being depicted by a crystal ball.

Others needed more revisions to get right. We were exploring visual ideas that aren't too prescriptive - or lead to incorrectly interpreting the meaning. In the case of 'Generalizations', the concept sketch began as a fog cloud, which was fine but not very, then an image of different hats, labelled 'hats' to signify the general. This had the opposite effect, being visually interesting but a little confusing for the term it was trying to encapsulate. We settled on a signpost with vague directions like 'here' and 'there', which was a good balance of communication design.

The question cards needed faces. Heads of people from a diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities. As each card poses a dilemma, these folks expressions should be deep in thought, pondering their situation. In early drafts it was easy to push a little too far, drawing folks who looked very stressed out, so expressions were pulled back a little for a more subtle look. A raised eyebrow here or slight pout there was enough to capture what was needed without the character leaning into what could be perceived as negative.

The game also needed a box cover and logo. The logo was based on Mau the sun god and the general feel was simple, using the clarity and monochrome lino-cut aesthetic to give the game it's style. Here's a mock-up of the final cover design of the sun god.

Card game illustration

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    Early sketches, exploring ideas for the box and cards.

    Links:

    Manchester based freelance web design and graphic design agency with worldwide clients.
    john@johncooperdesign.co.uk
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