Thursday, August 30, 2007

Best Cover Art--An Early Look

I'm an absolute art fiend, so when it comes to categories like Best Cover Art, you think I'd be in good shape, right? Well, the problem is, so many book have rawkin' cover art. One measure of a piece of cover art's effectiveness is, "what does it convey of the setting? Does it make me want to explore this game further by effectively presenting an intriguing suggestion of the contents therein?".

The second measure, of course, is, "does it make me throw up the horns?":

This, I feel, is well-served by many entries in the RPG world.

Here's just a few of the pieces for products we've seen entered thus far this year:

Necromancer's City of Brass:

Palladium's Hades:

PCI's Witch Hunter (wish I had a bigger pic of it):

Aaand the Cover Art to Battletech's Introductory Boxed Set:

This will be a fun category.


szilard said...

I think I've become so picky about cover art that I tend to ignore it in order to maintain my own sanity.

szilard said...

Also, welcome back to the world of blogging, Zach. When you told me you were thinking of starting the blog back up, I didn't expect it this soon...

Jeff Rients said...

That Catapult has the twistedest torso I've ever seen in a Btech illo!

Witch Hunters does a fabulous job combining the fake tome look with the logo and cover pick. Solomon Kane is gonna shank that batwinged fool!

While I like the City of Brass cover, aren't we over the skimpily clad babe in peril nowadays? Seriously.

Hades for the win, though.

Zachary The First said...

I don't know that I'm picky; I just really tend to enjoy evocative pieces or pieces where there's either a strong mood or a lot going on.

And thanks, szilard! Good to be back!

@jeff: I know!!! Crazy, huh? Still a great scene, though!

S. John said...

Interesting stuff. I have two questions; feel free to ignore 'em if answering them would cross any ethical boundaries. They're just idle curiosity.

Question One: Let's imagine I'm a theoretical ennies judge for a moment. I think the Hades cover art displays the most skill and effort (the font-choice deserves a slap, but that isn't the painter's fault). I think the City of Brass one displays the most character and chutzpah (winning points with me for its old-school charm and knowing wink to the audience). I personally tend to value these traits equally ... As an imaginary ennies judge, am I given guidelines as to what traits the ennies most want to celebrate (in this case, professionalism vs. spirit), or is it left entirely up to my imaginary discretion to decide which qualities determine my imaginary vote?

The Witch-Hunter cover raises my second question: is cover-art judged soley by the [painting/drawing/3d model/etc], or is the overall graphic design considered? Because in the case of the witch-hunter, the graphic designer - NOT the painter - is the person who determined most of the look of that cover, for better or worse. The painting/drawing is a very small portion of the overall presentation. (or, again, is this something that isn't covered in any guidelines? Do covers that lack paintings or drawings qualify for this category on the strength of graphic design alone)?

Zachary The First said...

s. john:

Thanks, and I think I can answer:

1: I think each judge values different aspects in each category, but a lot of commonalities, too. There is no set directive on what to vote for as what values we're looking for, except that of overall quality. So my love of old-school awesomeness might make me lean towards City of Brass (this is hypothetical, mind), whereas another judge might be turned on by the overall graphic design of Witch Hunter. Your imaginary vote remains free, in this case. :)

#2, Yes, Cover Art is not just an illo, but overall graphic design as well. The "whole piece" is weighed.

I would be interested to see a smoothly-designed cover without a major illo, and see the reception it gets from everyone.

Wow, thanks for the questions! Hope I answered 'em!

S. John said...

#2, Yes, Cover Art is not just an illo, but overall graphic design as well. The "whole piece" is weighed.

Ah, in that case my imaginary vote would go to City of Brass, not because I suddenly value spirit above professionalism, but because I should now be considering the font-choice on Hades instead of just admiring the painting the font-choice defaces. The graphic designer on Hades would break the tie for me ...

But then again, I haven't yet seen the full cover for City of Brass, so I guess my imaginary vote would have to wait to see if THEIR graphic designer does even more damage :)

Having worked as both an art director and a graphic designer, it feels awkward to me that my imaginary vote would have to simultaneously compare apple-orange and orange-apple pieces, creating an odd kind of war of the fruit salad, but such is imaginary life.

I would be interested to see a smoothly-designed cover without a major illo, and see the reception it gets from everyone.

Many of my favorite covers from all stages of the hobby's history have been that sort ...

S. John said...

I guess a third question is: Do you personally feel that calling the category "Best Cover Art" instead of "Best Cover" is likely to skew both what is submitted for consideration and how the covers are likely to be judged?

Simply by asking the question, I'm already telling you my own feelings on the matter ;)

Zachary The First said...

Man, you know, that's something I hadn't considered. I had always thought of "Cover Art" as the overall piece, but I can see where you're coming from. Actually, I think I'll bring that up in the ENnies discussion.

Perhaps they didn't want to go with "Best Cover" because they wanted to avoid misunderstanding, and didn't want Ryan Dancey sending in a video of his personal rendition of "RocketMan". :)

Eric Wiener said...


Pat Laboyko, the cover illustrator, also designed the trade dress as a whole, so the same guy is responsible for the old-tome look and the artwork