13 January 2013
Regardless of the type of project, art and design can make or break a campaign. The vast majority of projects on Kickstarter aren’t made by professionals, so backers understand that your project isn’t going to look professional grade (especially if you’re raising money to make it look professional grade). But the art and design of your project page make a huge impression on potential backers, so you want the project and the project page to look as polished as possible.
As I just mentioned, there’s a good chance that part of the reason that you’re raising funds on Kickstarter is to afford great art and design. Thus what you’re looking for while creating your Kickstarter campaign isn’t an artist to do all of the art for the game–just some of it. Enough to give your backers a taste of what will come.
Art vs. Design
Before I continue, I need to distinguish between art and design. The art is comprised of raw pictures and illustrations. If you’re creating a board game, the art should be created digitally, most likely by someone painting in Photoshop. The design (graphic design) is everything that happens after the raw art is made–creating frames for the art, incorporating icons and symbols, fonts, sizing everything, creating the printer-ready files, etc.
For example, you look at the Mars Needs Mechanics Kickstarter campaign. Scroll down to the Backer Levels section (also see partial screenshot at the bottom of this post). The image on the game board mockup was created by an artist. That art was then incorporated into a 3D frame to create the “box” you see here. The designer also created or selected the various fonts you see here.
The Mars Needs Mechanics project page gives you a good idea of the type of art and design you’ll need before a project. If you’re making a board game, you’ll want the art for the box, the board, and a few cards. The designer can mock up some 3D components for you as well. Those will give people an idea of what the final product will look like.
Finding an Artist and Designer
So how do you find an artist and a designer? For both, I would first look to friends, with two caveats: One, look for friends who really know what they’re doing–you should be 100% confident in their work. Your project is worth a great artist/designer, so don’t go with someone simply because they won’t charge as much as a stranger. Two, pay them. Don’t try to get anyone to work for free. No matter how good of friends you are, you’re not going to get the quality or the priority if you’re asking them to work for free. Also, if they’re offering you their expertise, they deserve to get paid. That’s how artists and designers make a living. One middle ground strategy you could go with is to offer them a base rate and 1% of your total Kickstarter earnings. That way they’re getting paid even if the project isn’t successful, and they have a vested interest in the project.
I found my non-friend artists for Viticulture through two different sources: This extremely informative blog post and ConceptArt (also see DeviantArt and DrawCrowd). The blog post mentions the use of Twitter to find artists. ConceptArt is more focused–you post what you’re looking for and how much you’re looking to pay, and artists respond with examples from their portfolio. Also, if you’re a game designer, reach out to artists of other games (see BoardGameGeek) to see if they have an opening in their schedule. This is my favorite way to find and connect with artists.
There are plenty of websites out there to help you find graphic designers. But in all likelihood you know a friend who does graphic design. Just like with the artists, don’t go for the cheapest possible option. Go for the person with whom you have the utmost confidence. An amazing graphic designer can end up saving you a ton of time and money on the back end, especially if they’re preparing printer files for you.
One other factor to consider when you’re choosing between artists and designers is communication. Do you want the artist who takes 5 days to respond to your e-mails, or the one who always gets back to you right away? That time adds up when you’re working with someone for months at a time. I’d rather pay more for the responsive artist or designer than the one you hardly ever hear from.
How much can you expect to pay for art? It really varies quite a bit. Two key factors are size and color. You can probably get small black and white concept sketches for about $10, but bigger color images for things like the box or the board will cost several hundred dollars at minimum. The investment is absolutely worth it. You’ll need a PayPal account set up to pay your artist (I’d recommend opening an account just for Kickstarter, not your personal account).
Last, when you get to the point that you’re designing the look and feel of your project page, I would recommend that you have your designer send you the files in a format that you have the ability to edit. That way if you want to tweak the wording of something, you don’t have to go back and forth with the designer for a tiny change. I tinkered with my stretch goals a lot during the campaign, and there were times that I felt that I didn’t have a second to spare. Most likely the file format will be InDesign, which is expensive, but if you happen to have it or can get a student discount, it’s very helpful.
I’m curious to hear what artists and designers have to say about this post, as well as other project creators who have worked with artists and designers. Do you have anything to add that will help other project creators?