Pilatch Card Games

Graphic Design Contest

Upon realizing I had a serious game on my hands, I started thinking about artwork. I talked to a draftsperson I know well. My mom.

Suit icons by the_adam

We experimented with the suit symbols. Scissors is the most universal. My paper was a scroll with an "S" shape. But rock is challenging. Different rocks might bear no resemblance to each other: river stones, boulders, gems, pebbles, gravel, metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary. Convert one of those into an immediately recognizable symbol embodying the vague notion of "rock," and you get... poop.

Go on. Try it. Design an icon representing all rocks everywhere. You'll draw a turd.

original rock, paper, and scissors suit icons
My first attempt at suit icons. Thanks Mom!

My mother suggested lapis lazuli for the odd angles of its unrefined crystalline structure. Our original version did look like a rock if you thought about it. Then again it looked like a crumpled ball of paper.

Thomas Design jack of scissors submission
Jack of Scissors by Thomas Design

The face cards presented a significantly greater challenge. I wanted something new yet reminiscent of poker cards. Depictions of royalty. But on most poker decks they're a bunch of armed snobs, pasty and detached. Not what I was interested in recreating, even with a Roshambo twist.

My mother and I tried to design a King. We copied a random photograph of Jerome Bettis and stuck his face in an ornate headdress, then traced it with AutoCad. It was silly, and did not represent a suit. The Bus wasn't taking us anywhere.

Thank goodness I had the sense to outsource. That's where the Pilatch 99designs.com project came from.

At the time of that project, Pilatch still had an "e" at the end of it, which I would later discover made it unlikely to be pronounced as intended. The design contest lasted a week and required my intense attention. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) was intensely unhappy with me as a result. I was affixed to the contest page hitting the refresh button as if it were dispensing narcotics.

It was a matter of reviewing designers' submissions, rating them, making suggestions, updating the design brief, and answering lots of questions. With only a couple of days left before the end of the project it became clear that I was unsatisfied with all of the submissions, and that I might be forced to scrap the contest or move forward with the best design I could get.

design contest entrants' rock suit icons that look like turds

Like I mentioned earlier, the contest entrants produced their fair share of turds. Oh look, a post-constipation log jam. Ah yes a cobalt butt nugget. A kinked colon clogger! How lovely. My favorite, the tidy stack of Smurf scat. No I'm not making this up. Somebody actually submitted that last one too.

Xyther's king of rock 99designs submission
Xyther's King of Rock submission

Many designers had difficulty getting the message of the suit icons across. Others had trouble with the face cards. Eventually I concluded that the number one goal of this design competition was to get high quality face-card artwork.

So I farmed the lists of designers on 99designs, skimming over two-hundred portfolios. Any artist who could artistically portray humanoids I invited to my contest. I contacted about seventy-five designers this way.

Then ArmorNavy burst forth like a chorus of angels, banishing the methane clouds that had risen from so many unwanted feces-stones. The Jack of Rock was her first submission.

armornavy original jack of rock

I was floored. This is exactly what I wanted, responding with,

"Brilliant. I am thoroughly amazed. The use of culture, the look on her face, the angle of the sling to suggest motion. All perfect. I'm very excited about your entry into this contest. You just raised the bar."

Unlike many other entrants, ArmorNavy was able to create a decent rock on her first pass. However, this polished river stone can be mystifying if viewed without context. So ArmorNavy's Jack of Rock is especially important at cluing what that strange blue blob is, because it gives us a sense of weight as it twirls in the warrior's sling.

I wanted to end the contest right there and then, and give ArmorNavy the prize, but I had to vet her abilities by asking for basic rank cards, and a card back. Finally I had to make sure she was producing original artwork, so I asked for another face card to see if she was up to the task. When she delivered the Queen of Scissors she was obviously the artist for the job.

Graphic Design