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Rory Muldoon (Let me illustrate)
Posted On 14 October 2020
Rory Muldoon is a graphic designer and games designer from the south-east of the UK. After going freelance in 2016 he began working on is own game, Skora, which has recently been published by Inside the Box Board Games. Alongside his own projects, he has created artwork and graphic design for tabletop games such as Solar Storm and Tinderblox.
“My name is Rory Muldoon. I’ve been a board game artist since 2018. I became a board game artist because I’m a graphic designer by trade and when I first discovered modern tabletop gaming I was immediately excited by this whole new world of visual information. I knew I wanted to be involved in it somehow, so I started up an Instagram account and on there, I experimented with rethemes and redesigns of existing games and game elements. After that, I took the plunge in designing my own game and from there I went on to work with other designers and publishers on a range of board game and tabletop projects.
“The art style I’m best known for is probably clean graphical illustration. I try and bring graphic design principles to everything I do whether that’s illustration, typography, rulebook layout or game logos. I feel like game artwork can contribute immensely to how playable the game is and I hope I can bring a bit of that user experience thinking to the fore.
“The first board game I was an artist for was my own game, Skora, which I created the artwork and graphic design for, at the same time as designing the game itself. For me this tandem element of visual and mechanical development helped push me forward and I felt like the art and the design started to inform each other as the project rolled on.
“The work I’m most proud of was for the board game Tinderblox from Alley Cat Games, because it was the first board game outside of my own designs where I got to work on every element of it. Alley Cat Games were fantastic to work with, because they really listened to their artists and it really felt like a collaboration.
“I like creating artwork that is simple but evocative. I definitely favour minimalism and I feel like there’s a real magic when you can build a world from that simplicity.
“I get my inspiration from lots of different places. I like book covers and film posters that use interesting layouts that make you look twice or look deeper at an image. I love geometry and symmetry in all forms whether that’s photograph or an illustration or a piece of artwork.
“I think the most important part of making artwork for board games is how it fits with the game mechanics. In an ideal world, the whole game should be working towards a particular feeling, from the complexity of the actions to the athletics to the components. A game should make you feel something and the artwork obviously has a massive steer on that feeling.
“I think the most challenging part of making artwork for board games is building that feeling that the game is striving for. There’s so many spinning plates from typography to colour to form to shape. If one of those things isn’t quite right then you run the risk of the visuals hampering the player’s thematic tie to the game.
“The longest I worked on art for a board game was probably the box art for my own game Skora. The publishers Inside the Box Board Games gave me free reign on nearly every aspect of the art direction which was fantastic. The one thing they did insist on however was the box. The game is part of a series of smaller titles all sharing a common box design and so it was a challenge bringing my preconceived ideas in line with the existing box template. I think all in all I spent about a month off and on getting the design of just of the box right but I’m super proud of how it turned out.
“In my view, more board game artwork should look beyond the boundaries of tabletop. I feel like there’s so many fantastic artists out there who are creating original exciting work that we’ve not seen in tabletop games yet and I for one am really excited to see publishers and designers take those risks in putting games out that are originally different.
“The artist whose style I admire most is probably Josh Emrich for tabletop stuff. His ability to bring graphic design and illustration together is just awesome. Outside of games, I love the graphic design work of Ian Anderson and The Designers Republic. Outside of commercial design, I find the paintings of Canadian artist Tom Thompson just incredibly relaxing to look at.
“My favourite colour is maybe black. That sounds very dour but I create a lot of my artwork in black and white to begin with. I always think if you can get something looking really great in monotone or grayscale then adding colour is only going to push that even further.
“What very few people know about me is I’m quite a messy person. I often present my work very cleanly and very neatly, but I make it in quite a chaotic fashion. I’d like to be one of those super organized artists, but I just can’t quite do it.
“If you wanted to become a board game artist yourself I would tell you to make work that makes you happy. I believe there’s a kind of game for every kind of art style. So it’s a case of doing what you love and then working out how it could apply to board games.
“If you want to get in touch you can reach me on Twitter at wookiebait which is w-o-o-k-i-e-b-a-i-t, or Instagram dot com forward slash roll them bones. I also have a website where you can see some other work outside of the realms of board games and that’s rorymolddoon.com.