Have I overstepped the bounds of good taste?
To see what I’m talking about in context, please visit the 6d6 RPG store. Pay attention to the image for the One-Shots section and then come back and vote before reading the rest of this article. [NOTE: The image is work safe, containing no nudity, violence or swearing].
Have you looked? Have you voted? Good, then read on.
The Art of 6d6
I knew when I chose the One-Shots image that some people would not like it. A fact confirmed within our own play-test group where reaction was decidedly mixed. Then, in response, to 6d6 newsletter promoting the store I got this response.
Your graphic logo for the One Shot Adventures section is a condom? Seriously!? Sheesh…
My response was.
And your problem is …?
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a reply or at least a coherent reply. However, I had underestimated the intelligence of my readers and was pleasantly surprised by this.
No problem. But I can’t understand why you’d chose it as a graphic. The website itself is informative and visually pleasing, but then there’s a condom in the middle of the page. Sorry, but I’m afraid it put me off wanting to find out more about 6d6prg. Just my tuppence worth, of course.
Why Choose It As A Graphic?
I have strong opinions about graphic design and art in RPGs. I think most companies are crap at it, making bad layout choices and using poor artwork. A lot of this comes down to small publishers not having the resources but there are plenty of products from big players that also fail.
As well as poor execution in RPG graphics, there is a remarkable lack of imagination. You could swap the art from Pathfinder with 4e and no one would notice. As long as you stay within the same genre, most RPG art is inter-changable between products. It is also consistently poor at representing women and any skin tone other than European pink.
This approach to graphic design and artwork creates two problems for the RPG publisher.
- Your product is not distinctive so people are less likely to remember it.
- Your product will only appeal to exactly the same people who are buying similar looking products.
These shortcomings will kill a product from any RPG publisher who wants to stand out or reach beyond existing hard core gamers.
The 6d6 Approach
When it comes to artwork within our rule sets and adventures, we completely opt-out. We do not have the resources to do it well so we choose not to do it at all. Our layout is plain and simple with a focus on readability and usability. However, we cannot opt-out of cover artwork or artwork for our website. For this, we took a different approach.
Our aim is to develop a very strong visual style to our products so that everyone recognises a 6d6 product even before they see the logo. This is not an easy task when you have no resources and need artwork that can be released under the Creative Commons.
This is why our artwork is abstract in nature and unlike any other in the RPG business. We focus on finding a distinctive image that, in some tangential way, fits with the title. FlickR is a god-send for this with thousands of high quality CC images available. When I start looking for a piece of artwork I start with a search on something fairly literal and work outwards until I find an image that works. This can involve a day or more looking through Flickr but sometimes it takes just a few minutes.
A Single Session of Fun
The original idea was for a shot glass but I failed to find any images that clicked with me. So then I started thinking about other single use items that where associated with fun. When I saw this image of the condom, I instantly knew I had found my illustration.
It is distinctive, memorable, recognisable and perfectly encapsulates the single session of fun concept behind the One-Shot series of adventures. The fact that it triggers an emotional response ranging from laughter to distaste is an added bonus because emotional reactions build strong memories.
The Cost / Benefit Analysis of Distinctiveness
When we set down the road of using distinctive artwork, we knew that there would be a cost. A certain section of the existing RPG buyers would be put off by our non-traditional approach and consequently we would lose sales. The flip-side is that more people will be aware of the brand and our fans will have a stronger connection to us. Both of which increase sales.
6d6 is about innovation and doing things differently. Our artwork reflects this and we are unapologetic about it.