Inside Look: Our Visual Design Process

BY Brandon Pittser
Every now and again we like to give you a peek into our processes for developing learning games - something we’ve been doing almost exclusively for 12 years! It’s a chance for us to reflect on how we approach the act of making, and a chance for you to get to know the inner workings of a leading learning game studio. Pretty cool! Today we’re going to talk about our visual design process.

The most important thing to know is that our visual design process is structured around crafting playful, engaging user experiences that augment the product’s subject matter. This focus is reflected in the makeup and dynamic of our visual design teams. Throughout the design process, our User Experience (UX) Designers work closely with our Game Designers to rapidly iterate upon and test information design and interaction models. The team incorporates user feedback into comprehensive wireframes and style mockups.

At the same time, our in-house Game Artists explore visual styles via extensive research, mood boards, concept art, and animatics. We test our visual design assumptions early and often, which includes holding dialogue both with our clients and our prospective users. It’s a labor-intensive process, but it’s worth it - this is the best way to ensure a successful outcome to the project.

During the early phases of production, the team builds a selection of key assets for implementation into the game engine. Interacting with “live” art assets as early as possible allows our artists to identify any blind spots in the visual design while our technical art team tests and solidifies the art pipeline. As production progresses, veteran staff from every discipline regularly review builds to ensure that the game meets our rigorous quality standards.

Sometimes we need to apply our skills to building games and experiences around existing assets and precisely following pre-established style guidelines - we can do that, too! We work across many genres and demographic audiences, and have a wide breadth of artistic sensibilities.

In addition, we recognize the importance of staying in tune with prevailing stylistic trends. To appeal to users familiar with these conventions, we build upon established, platform-consistent interaction metaphors. Highly responsive interactions and generously animated gameplay elements are hallmarks of exceptional user experiences, and we pay special attention to these areas.

Our artists immerse themselves in the game subject through extensive visual research, and take into account core learning objectives to ensure key topics and objects are depicted not only beautifully, but accurately and in a manner conducive to learning efficacy. Most importantly, we treat every project as a new path to forge - each game deserves its own style, tone, and aesthetic. To learn more about our approach to art, check out some of the related blogs below!

Concept Art in Games
Art Hacks: Shading Made Easy
Speed Sketch! Meet the Filament Dogs
How to Make a Simple Project Shine