Handbook Exclusive Preview!
Look of D&D: From the Proposal to the Printer
youve got to redesign the look of the most popular
books in roleplaying from scratch, where do you start?
Wizards of the Coast started with art director Dawn
Murin and graphic designer Sean Glenn. Although now
Sean spends most of his waking hours working as art
director for the new line of Star Wars roleplaying
game products, just a couple short months ago he was
creating the page design for the new D&D
core rulebooks -- shaping the way gamers will "see"
D&D for years to come.
dug into his overflowing file cabinets to share with
us a firsthand view of the process that led to the hot
new look of the Players Handbook and Dungeon
Masters Guide. Reproduced here are snapshots
of the different page designs considered for the new
editions. Accompanying each are Seans designer
notes, which point out what each version contributed
to the final look of the books youll hold in your
hands very soon.
is one of the earliest designs -- we first presented
it to the D&D brand team in December 1999.
The leather texture and gold edging gives the design
the look of an old handmade book, which is the direction
we wanted right from the start.
the end, this idea was dismissed as looking too much
like a day planner. However, several elements did carry
over into the final design: the use of side tabs and
the right-aligned headline treatment, to name a couple.
knew we were going to have to pack a lot of text in,
so we couldnt do a really wacky layout. We selected
the Celestia Antiqua font from Adobe -- the text here
shows a bit of a rough edge, to convey the feel of an
archaic printing press.
other thing everyone liked from this design was the
incunabula style horizontal lines shaded
back behind the text. Scribes commonly marked out writing
guides like this in the days before the printing press,
prior to 1501. We decided to adopt this element to firmly
root the core books as objects from a medieval-feeling
(Leather is Better?
- Image Gallery)
Those Pages Carefully
about the same time, we offered the team a little bit
different direction with this design. We were going
for an old book feel again here, but instead
of the scribe idea we were trying to create the impression
of an ancient tome, a very old edition, in which the
pages are starting to yellow. It was decided, though,
that this produced too open a look.
had pretty much nailed down the type treatment by then,
although here were experimenting with the Minion
font. What really changed from this version, though,
was the way the folios [running footers displaying the
page number and chapter title] are treated.
the way, that image on the chapter start page is from
a Time-Life book on pirates. Since we were working on
these designs before the final art was completed, we
pulled in temporary images like that one to suggest
a certain feel. In this case, we used an illustration
showing a single character that offered an expansive
and moody feel. The intention was to create one image
that represented what the chapter was about. Due to
the nature of the book, however, this proved to be impossible
-- the content of this book is more rules and stats
and less "story" narration. How do you compose
a moody picture that illustrates "Gear"? It
just wasnt working how we imagined it would. So,
we went away from the single image direction, and instead
opted for DaVinci-esque type schematical drawings. Illustrated
by Arnie Swekel, these drawings worked much better,
while still reinforcing the feeling of a medieval tome.
also pulled the image from a Dragonlance book
cover to illustrate how we wanted to present the interior
art: large full-color floating images with text wraparounds.
The image is actually a part of the page -- you can
see the shadow the figure casts onto the pages
border. Although we dropped the shadows (too difficult
to implement over 288 pages), we kept the floating artwork."
Those Pages Carefully... - Image Gallery)
design, proposed in January of this year, is almost
final. The colors are a bit more brown than we actually
went with, and the gold is not as shiny, but this concept
really communicated the feel of the new edition of D&D.
liked the aggressive shapes in the page borders. These
shapes, and the colors in this design, were very strongly
inspired by the concept art, and
Planescape too, believe it or not! Here also you get
your first look at the use of the wrought-iron hardware
elements that later we reproduced for the D&D
a couple things did change from this design. The running
guide words at the top of each column were changed to
a single running guide word, on the outside edge of
the page. This is a nod to the original 1st Edition
D&D books. In addition, the captions and
page numbers look a little different from what you see
case youre wondering, the place-holding illustrations
in this version we picked up from the Greyhawk
internal style guide.
the time this design was accepted, the Players
Handbook was still in editing. We spent that period
building other pieces of the layout -- tables, chapter
starts, and so on. The edited text was turned over to
us little by little between February and April, so we
had to make some minor changes as we went along to accommodate
new graphic needs. During this time, the final cover
for the Players Handbook came in as well,
and we made some changes to the page design based on
how it turned out. For instance, we pulled in some of
its colors, and we lifted gemstones off the cover and
placed the page numbers in them."
(Almost There... - Image
finished the page design in April and sent the Players
Handbook to typesetting; the typeset text files
then went to the printer in May.
Actually, the first sample signature [16-page section]
of the Players Handbook came in from the
printer this week [late May] and it looked great!
whole process has felt like a real collaboration between
me and Dawn [Murin], who was art directing me the whole
time, and Sherry Floyd, the other graphic designer on
the project. So it felt really good for all of us to
see it finally come to life!
ahead, the color of the page design may change a bit
in the Dungeon Masters Guide. However,
fundamentally its the same look. Meanwhile, were
hard at work on the new Monster Manual. . . . "
(The Real Thing - Image