Launch & Iterate Tech Talk

Cards, Design, Illustration, Packaging, Presentation, Print

I was invited to Google last week for a really cool Tech Talk presented by the creators of the game Launch & Iterate, that I took part in the graphic design for. It was a really great presentation that gave a detailed explanation of the process of creating the game, from the first email exchange where the notion of making a game was first introduced (a good 2+ years ago now) to where they are now with a final product and lots of positive feedback, with all the lessons learned along the way and the things that went right that they’re most proud of.

Eddie and Jessica walking us through the game’s development

 

Having worked closely with the team on the project from a relatively early stage of the development, it was still enlightening to hear their stories of all the testing and reasons for all the changes they made along the way. I also learned that their target demographic was actually students who were not already familiar with the genre of Euro-style gaming, which for some reason came as a surprise to me (wait, doesn’t everyone play these games now?? Are you saying I live in a board game bubble?).

Hey, they’re talking about me!

 

They were very generous in giving me a shout-out in the presentation as the outside professional they hired to pull the game together. I probably couldn’t talk enough about how great of an experience it was to work on this project, and how much I have enjoyed watching (and participating in) its evolution. It was inspiring, and of course, puts the fire under me to once again have a go at creating my own game again.

Launch & Iterate: a Google Recruiting Card Game

Cards, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Packaging, Print

Launch+Iterate 1 web

I am so pleased to finally be able to post the final product of this project. It took almost a year to finalize, and it was so much fun to work on, so am thrilled to finally share it.

Launch+Iterate 2 web

This is a co-op game with the end goal of launching the most products. Designed as a game to play at recruiting events, it is targeted at programmers and people familiar with programming lingo and/or Google, but no reason why anyone who just loves games couldn’t play it, too.

Launch+Iterate 3 web

The game design and mechanics were already mostly defined by the time the Google team who worked on it decided they were ready to reach out to a designer to create the game’s art. I came in to do a test round with their scratch deck and I was immediately inspired. They had a really good concept for game play, fun and clever ways to incorporate the Google brand and programming job functions into the theme of the game, and also had already compiled most of the details about verbiage, card distribution, game balance, etc. So it was my job to take the pieces and ideas and put them into a cohesive looking deck with fun, bold, Google-esque graphics.

I have played enough card games to understand some of the more practical elements required in making a good deck of cards, such as combining colors with symbols to make identifying types of cards easier (especially for color blind folks), putting at-a-glance info on the sides and corners of cards since they’re typically held fanned out in your hand, and also making sure layouts are consistent, fonts are legible, and type isn’t too small. These basic requirements, along with keeping text and pertinent design elements within the proper margins, were my guides in getting the designs started. I also had the benefit of having a well-defined brand to work with, which uses eye-catching, bold, primary colors (they also have their own font!).

It’s a thrill to see how this project evolved. I commend my contact at Google immensely for being such a great communicator. She was very organized and thoughtful with feedback (both her own and what she compiled and filtered down to me from the rest of the team), and I feel the feedback and changes they suggested really furthered the design immensely. Looking back on some of my round 1 and 2 ideas makes the excellence of their input and insight so clear as you compare it to our final product. I absolutely love when a project comes together in such a way.

So I started with a relatively blank canvas. The scratch deck they had created had a rough card layout with a solid bar of color on the left side with text on the blank space adjacent. It wasn’t a bad starting point, since the majority of the cards would be hand-held, and having that left bar for at-a-glance icons turned out to the basis for the final design of most of the cards in the deck.

Launch+Iterate 13 web

Sample of Tech Cards

So, a brief synopsis, there are Tech Cards, Event Cards, Launch Cards, as well as penalty/bonus cards, in addition to 4 “Tech Stack Base” cards.

Launch+Iterate 14 web

Basic Game Layout, Tech Stack Base cards “F0,” “A0,” “S0,” and “T0” in the center, Tech draw pile on the left, Launch cards below that, Event cards bottom right, and then penalty/bonus cards available as needed.

Tech cards are split into Tech Stack cards (labeled with F, A, S, or T and numbered 1-7) that will get piled on top of one of the 4 coordinating stacks on the game area. Each color is assigned a color and shape (blue/square, red/circle, yellow/4-pointed star or green/triangle).

 

Print

Additionally, there are “One-Shot” Tech cards that do not get stacked on the base piles, but are instead used one time and then discarded and are black with no attached symbol.

Print

Other cards in the deck are not held in-hand such as the Tech Stack Base cards, Penalty/Bonus Cards, Launches, and Events.

Launch+Iterate 12 web

Penalty and Bonus Cards

Penalty Cards will either get placed on top of a Stack, or in front of a Player.

Launch Cards are the basis of how you earn points in the game, by earning Users.

Launch Card Diagram

Launch+Iterate 8 web

Launch Cards

All the Launch cards were cleverly designed as one of Google’s April Fool jokes (aka, products that were not real and were also far-fetched and hilarious). Examples such as Scratch and Sniff Google Searches, Locate a nearby kitten, Google Translate for Animals, etc.

Launch+Iterate 10 web

Launch+Iterate 9 web

Launch+Iterate 11 web

I created the art for these based on the graphics or videos that still remain on Google’s April Fool websites and YouTube, keeping it as close to the originals as an Illustrator working with vectors can (only raster images that remain are the Google Maps 8-bit logo and the $20 bill coming out of Google Mobile ATM).
The thing I found most illuminating now that I’ve had a little break from working on the project and can now sit back and see the final product against the many revisions we worked through to get there, are the Event cards.
Print
Launch+Iterate 5 web

Event Cards

These guys really went through some transformations.

Samples Description 1 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 1

 

Samples Description 2 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 2

 

Samples Description 3 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 3

 

Samples Description 4 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 4, with 4 options for layout

 

Samples Description 5 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 5 – getting close, but not quite right.

 

Samples Description 6 events

Event Card Proposed Design, Phase 6 – with 4 options for treatment.

I really enjoy how the eventually turned out, and find the process in getting to that point so valuable and interesting.

This is a culmination of roughly 70 hours of work for me over the course of 10 months including a folded page with instructions (not including the Visually Impaired version we augmented the layout for). I loved every minute and it inspired me to want to design and create the art for my own games (it’s really hard, btw). I really loved brainstorming with a team of super smart people to realize what I believe is a really thoughtfully designed game. I will jump on any chance to do it again.

Launch+Iterate 16 web

For you Board Game Geeks, here’s a link to the game on BGG.

New Series of Watercolor Paintings

New Piece, Painting, Places

Over the summer, I completed a series of watercolors, the second time I’ve done so for the Sereno Group annual calendar. The images are of points of interest in the South San Francisco Bay, Peninsula, and Santa Cruz Coastal areas, and they will be featured in the 2015 calendar.

It was fun, as painting always is. I enjoyed working on the sunset image over the Baylands park, as making smooth gradients in gauche can be tricky but rewarding. I also really enjoyed painting the ship that sits at the dock in Capitola State Beach, as the colors of the rusty ship were really vibrant and contrasted beautifully against the bright teal water. I also haven’t played much with painting waves, and was happy with how they turned out.

I’d be happy to pass along any extra copies of the calendar that I get if you’d like a copy. Send me an email or leave a note in the comments if you would.

Originals are also for sale. Final sizes are roughly 8-1/2×11 inches.

Companies I like

About Me

I enjoy living in Silicon Valley for many reasons. Variety of places to eat is pretty high on the list, weather a close second, but both are quickly followed by the social climate of the area. You don’t have to look far to find an entrepreneur or tech geek. Even the business people are interested in the new companies that pop up (even if only for their IPO values). I love being in the know about what people are working on, and what is coming next. I love what technology can do, and while I keep a fair amount of skepticism in my pocket about how far is too far (sci-fi offers a lovely insight into some opinions on this matter) , I really revel in the potential that some tech offers to make this world “a better place.”

There are specifically 3 companies I’d like to call out for their efforts to make things “better,” which in my opinion, includes making things more accessible, which I feel these 3 have in common.

Inkling

Inking creates rich, interactive textbooks for the iPad. Going above and beyond just digitizing standard printed books, these buckets of knowledge are filled with links, references, animations, videos, interactive diagrams, and so much more engaging material than any poor defenseless hardbound paper version could ever hope to offer. It’s so exciting that it makes me want to go back to school just to play around with their software (not that I can’t play around with it on my own, but there’s nothing quite so informative as having to use something in the context it is designed for). The benefits seem so outstanding to make so much material accessible, all in a neat 1.33 lb package (goodbye backpacks). Of course, one could argue that this kind of technology caters to and exacerbates information overload and encourages easily distracted minds (I heard a really cool interview about this topic on NPR last night that kind of dug into that topic). I am optimistic, though, that our brains can adapt to these new inputs and will be better off for having access and the opportunities to gather all the new info.

Square

Square is a company that allows any one with a smart phone to accept credit cards. In this ever increasingly cashless community, it is a welcome opportunity for individuals and small businesses to accept payments. It is a free app, with a free accessory, that charges 2.75% on all transactions, but no additional per transaction fee. For a small business, this makes it incredibly accessible to take credit cards where otherwise the fees of renting credit card terminals and paying monthly maintenance fees were deterring, if not completely cost-ineffective. On top of that, they have rolled out a new service called Card Case  that is designed to be a virtual tab. At certain locations, once your account has been set up, all you need do is order your items and tell the cashier your name and you will be charged and sent an electronic receipt. While security is probably the first thing to jump to any critic’s tongue (and minding

that I’ve never been the victim of identity theft, I can not empathize with that frustration), I know that the company went to great lengths to dot i’s and cross t’s to set this system up securely. Like so many new technologies, they will certainly have hiccups, but will only get better the more people use them and work through issues. I for one am excited for this new cashless future they are enterprising. Also, having a small business that uses this service makes me all the more biased towards how useful it is.

Airbnb

Airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your own home/room/space to travelers, and also allows you to stay in affordable or impossibly awesome locations all over the world. Putting hotels and hostels to shame, Airbnb is opening a whole new world of options to travelers to either meet and stay with cool locals, or just bask in the wonderful residential neighborhoods of cities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in a treehouse? Or on a boat? Options that you would otherwise have to know someone to have that opportunity. On the flip side, you can meet cool travelers coming to your city as you host them in your own place. Or just make some extra cash while you’re out of town anyway. You can rent out anything from an air mattress in the living room to your whole house. It is a wonderful online community of people who are eager to see new things and meet new people, and like most online services, there are ways to rate both renters and stayers so people can get a feel for what kind of person they are before accepting a reservation. Airbnb did have a snafu in July that caused the company to snap into action to step up their security measures: they doubled their support staff and are now offering insurance. I’m sure as they grow, they will continue to figure out new services and new ways to protect the community they’ve been growing since 2008.

Besides providing a form of accessibility to their customers, the other thing about these companies that stands out to me is how the few people I know who work at them are genuinely interested in the products they produce, are enthusiastic when talking about them, and really believe in what they are doing. There is little in life I find more compelling than hearing someone talk about something they are passionate about. It becomes easy to tell who is a salesman just pitching their product versus a person who is actually standing behind what they are creating. Above all else, whether a company succeeds or fails, I think having more people in the world truly interested in what they are doing is what’s making it a better place, regardless of what they’re creating.