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Kate Blacklock- Jagex
Developer Interview #7
Graphic designers are the unsung heroes of the gaming world. From creating promotional art, to logos and brand identities, the graphics teams will shape our early impressions of a game’s visual style. They (probably) say you can’t judge a game by it’s social media presence, but in the era of reactions and rage on Twitter, a tidy looking graphic can really set the tone of how a game is perceived. You only have to look at how the initial Street Fighter 6 logo was derided to see the influence it can have on first impressions.
So this week, as we try to look at the wider roles involved in the gaming industry, we’ve got an interview with Kate Blacklock. Kate is the Lead Designer at Jagex (famous for creating RuneScape), but has also previously worked at Rare Ltd where she worked on creating graphic designs for Sea of Thieves. We love her work, and we’re really grateful she spent time to explain the inner workings of a design team at a game studio, so read on to find out more!
First, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Jagex?
My role as Lead Designer at Jagex is to guide my team of Graphic Designers as we work together to create new brand identities for content updates, maintain legacy branding, pitch logo ideas, and ensure our outward facing appearance is consistent in design, tone and direction.
My day-to-day activities include:
Regular 1-to-1's with my team
Assessing the team's workload and capacity
Assigning tasks to team members based on skills and strengths
Promoting individual growth and learning opportunities for all team members
Collating and delivering concise feedback to my reports and other colleagues
Assisting the Art Director in executing the wider vision
Designing graphics, key art, banners, logos, and other assets to a very high standard
Developing new brand identities
Evolving existing brand identities
Leading conversations about new and on-going projects
Liaising with other departments to assess upcoming work
Reviewing designs, processes, and other opportunities for improvement
Congrats on being a finalist for the Game Dev Heroes 2022 design category, how did that come about?
Thanks so much! So far I’m aware of two different individuals that nominated me for the design category – someone from Jagex, and another from my previous employer at Rare. To be nominated at all by colleagues past and present is amazing – but to be a finalist is unexpected (and welcome!). As to why they nominated me – well hopefully it’s a combination of always trying to do my best, have peoples backs, and producing good, consistent work over the years.
Your design work is amazing, I particularly love the Sea of Thieves Spotify covers. How does a design like that go from an idea to a finished product?
In any creative role, the design process goes through many sets of hands, and goes past several sets of eyes before it is even approved. I can’t ever take 100% credit for any piece of work that makes it out to the public, because there are so many other people involved including Art Directors, and 3D modellers. For that project in particular, I think I ended up creating something like 10 different styles of covers, before that direction was chosen! It can sometimes be a really long process – and often be quite frustrating, especially if you don’t hit the nail on the head first time (or 10th time!)
What software do you use to create your images and how does the process work?
I use Adobe Creative Cloud – mostly Photoshop and Illustrator. My process tends to be quite hectic and messy to begin with. During the ideas phase, I’ll go for quantity over quality, and try to smash out as many unique concepts as possible, before choosing a handful to refine. I’ll then run them past the art director to see whether they think any of the ideas have legs. From there, it’s a process of selecting, refining, rendering and completing the project under the guidance of the Art Director, who is on hand to give feedback at every stage.
What sort of designs do you enjoy creating the most? Is there a particular game you enjoy working on most?
I love creating logos – especially for content updates for games like Old School RuneScape. The low-poly style is really fun and creating logos that reflect the in-game art is really special.
If you could work on any game, outside of those that are part of your studio, what would you go with and why?
I’m a big fan of Bioware games Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Working on those would be incredible. However, I’ve been really into pixel art lately – but have had little time to practice the craft – so being given the opportunity to try my hand at something like that would also be fun. I’ve been obsessed with Kingdom Two Crowns for a while now, and desperately wan’t to have a go at their style.
Finally, do you have any advice for anybody who works as a graphic designer that is looking to break into the gaming industry?
Don’t give up. It took me ten years to break into the games industry – and it only finally happened because I was being made redundant from my corporate job and took a chance by sending a speculative application to Rare. The timing was perfect, as it turns out, because they were about to post a job listing for a designer. Don’t be afraid to send your CV to companies – even if they don’t have a role listed. You never know who might stumble upon you.
Big thanks to Kate for giving us this time and shedding some light on a different aspect to the industry. We really appreciate it! You can follow her and her work on ArtStation, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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