Tuesday 30 April 2013

Designing Game Logos: Folk Tale

by Simon Dean, Project Lead

In preparation for releasing Folk Tale on Steam Early Access next month, we needed to re-design the game logo. Pooling my prior marketing experience and Jennifer's artistic abilities, we set to work designing one of the most prominent assets and documenting the process in the hope it might help other indie developers, or simply be of interest to members of the Folk Tale community.

The Brief

Before any visualization work was started, I prepared the creative brief that Jennifer would be working from, splitting design goals into mandatory ( 'must' ) and optional ( 'should' ) including:

  • Must work as a 'rubber stamp' that looks natural when combined with other marketing assets e.g. screenshots, cover art
  • Must reflect the artistic style of the game ( hand painted with high detail )
  • Must communicate the theme of the game ( fantasy medieval theme )
  • Must be reproducible at different scales from large posters to small web banners
  • Should work in black and white for reproduction on fax machines ( mostly legal documents )


With the creative brief in hand, Jennifer set about selecting a number of candidate font faces, and presenting a black and white candidate board for consideration. Typography ( aka 'the font' ) can communicate so much about a product that quite often you'll see game logos made purely from typography without additional artwork. It demands the greatest attention of all elements in a logo, and preparing a simple black and white board helps focus purely on the type. For illustration purposes, here are four fonts that communicate four very different things:

Four fonts communicating very different things

Kerning, line spacing, and weight all needed consideration before arriving at the final font face. We didn't want a lightweight font that was too thin because it would get lost at small scale and not support the 'rubber stamp' goal. The default kerning ( spacing between characters ) was also too broad, so we condensed it.


It should really have been included in the creative brief, but early on we found that Jennifer would require direction on where within the style spectrum the logo should sit. We didn't want pure illustration which is often more aligned with cartoons and products targeting children, nor does the in-game art style focus on realism. Using other games and logos as references, I was able to communicate the desired art style.

Early Theme Concepts

With our selection made from the candidate fonts, Jennifer set about developing rough theme concepts. As all but one would be throw-away work they were quick and dirty, in some cases pulling from in-game textures.

The team ( representing the target audience demographic of gamers aged 18-34 ) really liked the tree rings texture and green for the leaves; the orange leaves were lost against the brown of the tree ring board. The metal color of the font would introduce an additional resource from the game ( wood, iron, stone, food ).

Concept Refinement

Having identified elements from the early theme concepts that we wanted to take forward, we added a few more ideas and Jennifer set about refining the concept.

We tried different alignments, and settled with a broader offset that would allow us to add a prop. The oak tree further compounded the leaves at the edges of the logo, so this was ruled out because it didn't add to either the 'story' being told or visual impact. The rendered in-game ruin was discounted because it didn't feel right. The sword and shield however developed the 'story' by adding a hint of adventure to the theme. It still felt a bit busy, so we dropped the shield from the design.

Key Design Features

With the final elements chosen and checked against the design goals, it was time to add the detail. Throughout development various tweaks were made, including

  • Specular highlights reduced on the leaves to make them less thorn like, reducing the risk of a subconscious emotive response that the game would somehow be painful;
  • Detail was left extra-sharp so that it would be retained during the smoothing that happens when scaling down;
  • Shadows were added to the leaves to add depth;
  • Leaf color variations were added to help the logo blend with various backgrounds such as screenshots. Folk Tale maps have a lot of different ambient zones including snow, lava, green hill, desert, and swamp. The logo needed to blend against all of these without getting lost.
  • A subtle drop shadow was added to the text to help lift it off the brown tree ring board
  • A black outline was added to text to help readability
  • A cyan rim light was added to help color contrast near the shadows
  • Leaves were de-cluttered to prevent obscuring the text
  • Consistent directional lighting was added
  • Bloom was added to enhance the metallic feel of the text
  • The cooling blue hue was added to metallic elements to help differentiate them from the warm natural hues of the leaves and wood


A final round of testing was performed to check for any scaling issues, and to validate the logo would work in nearly all scenarios.  Below is but one of the test slides.

Minor refinements were made during testing, and three weeks after the initial meeting, we had our final logo:

About Folk Tale

Folk Tale is a fantasy city-builder strategy adventure game for PC, Mac and Linux developed by indie studio Games Foundry. For more information, please visit