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  • Jered Eder

The Importance of Graphic Design in Video Games

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

The first time I considered graphic design in video games, I was watching a friend play The Outer Worlds. On the loading screen there was an in-universe advertisement poster; it suddenly struck me that someone had to design that poster. And as I pursued classes in graphic design, I learned just how much it applies to game development.

One of the clearest connections between graphic design and game development is user-interface (UI). UI can make or break a game for some players. If every edge of the screen is full of menus and text it can be more confusing than informative. This is when knowing the audience you are marketing to is important, as some players want every bit of information on screen like in massively multiplayer online games, but in a single-player game one might prefer little to no UI for a more immersive or cinematic experience. The goal as a graphic designer in UI is to simplify everything and relay information to the player in the easiest way possible to avoid overwhelming and turning them away.

Along with designing UI, designers must keep in mind user-experience (UX). Game menus can be annoying to navigate, like if a game is made with one particular control set in mind. For example, Dragon Age: Origins was intended to be played with keyboard and mouse, but it is also ported to console. Because of this, to use one ability you simply click the icon in the corner on a computer; but on a console, players have a limited amount of buttons on a controller so they have to go through three menus every time to turn the ability on and off.

However, probably the most obvious way graphic design is used in game development is in marketing. Every game needs a logo which helps establish its brand for promotional material and launch screens. Advertisements and store pages need simple and effective imagery to attract customers, as no one will read a game description’s wall of text unless they are already interested. Such as, having one or two colors associated with the game gives solid direction for not only print materials and social media but also for the UI.

As I continue work on my senior capstone project, I find myself applying the rules of graphic design to my own game demo. The driving force of my asset design is maintaining clear differences between colors, making sure my protagonist’s colors do not get lost in the floor color, making important objects clearly different but not unfitting colors so they stand out to the player. Before MSUM I never realized how important graphic design is in game development. UI is not as obvious of design work as a character model, but it is still something players judge subconsciously or not and affects their opinion of a game. In short, graphic design goes largely unnoticed unless it is done badly. A poorly constructed layout can frustrate consumers and lead to them not appreciating the rest of an otherwise well-made game.

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