An Ode to Visual Aesthetics

It’s not often that I actually get to use the materials I purchase on Dungeon Masters Guild.  Hnestly, there’s a lot of stuff there, but not stuff that I can actually use without completely rebuilding the campaign I currently run.  I don’t have the time to completely build a campaign from the ground up, so I use the commercially available pre-written campaigns that Wizards of the Coast publish–I’ve run parts of Horde of the Dragon Queen, all of Princes of the Apocalypse, and currently my group is playing through Curse of Strahd.  We skipped Rage of Demons because it took us that long to get through PotA, and I’m willing to bet we may skip the upcoming Storm King’s Thunder as well.

full20example1_zpsblk8fitmBut I purchased RoD anyway.  And I’ll probably purchase SKT, too.  Even though I’ll probably never DM them.

They offer great inspiration (albeit my capacity to integrate it is limited) and I like reading them.  But that’s all they are–reading material.  They are, at a very basic level, sort of like a play to me–they include all the “lines” but it’s very different when you actually act it out.  I let my imagination run wild and contemplate what it would be like to actually experience the adventure’s situational contexts.

But that’s all I’m going to get out of them, and part of how I appreciate them is to enjoy their physical appearance and artwork.

So…  to the point: If you aren’t using the material, shouldn’t you enjoy the process of reading it?  Shouldn’t it, aesthetically, be a book where the process of reading it is fun?

I think that’s an important part of the quality of a product.  And thus I feel that the appearance of a product is important.  And I enjoy reading things that look pretty more than I enjoy reading things that have simple bare-bones generic packaging.

So to thatfullexample4_zpszxwvtwpf end, I’m trying to create artwork and other materials that can help enhance the appearance of a product on Dungeon Masters Guild.  Because I’m pretty sure that most of the material purchased through that site probably doesn’t get used in its entirety.  So if you’re gonna plunk down a buck or two, why not expect it to be an enjoyable read?  And it’s a medium that has the capacity to be visual beyond the rudimentary text.  Why not expect it to be visually stimulating?

My favorite products on the One Book Shelf family of RPG product sites are always the ones where it is obvious the creators have acknowledged the visually component of the product.  Illustration goes a long way to address this–pictures and artwork that visually support the text by literally showing what the text is addressing.  Is there a picture of an NPC?  A specific location?  A magic item?  I love those products.  It helps me understand what I’m reading, and I comprehend it on a deeper level.

But purchasing illustrations and art is expensive and time consuming.  It’s an investment.  What if you simply can’t afford it, but want your work to look better than a dictionary or Wikipedia article?

2example4sm_zpsmuqplvaeThat’s where you insert backgrounds and design elements that make your work at least one step above the ordinary.  Products that have a graphic design beyond the freely available template tend to stand out.  They’re appreciated in a different light, and the ideas presented are communicated and respected differently.  A carefully contemplated graphic design can be the difference between coming off as someone throwing something at the wall to see what sticks and a serious creative.

Regardless of how much you address the visual component of your product, and what product you use to do so, know that your attention to it (or lack thereof) can sometimes speak volumes about your capacity to express yourself and ultimately how much you are invested in your material.  Don’t let a lack of know-how undermine your work.  Explore your options.  Become inspired!  Ask questions!

In the end, your work will not only be useful, but the experience of reading it will be a pleasurable one.  And your consumers will thank you!