LOGO/BRAND + PRINT + EDITORIAL DESIGN | NOTONLYLARP | APRIL 2016
NotOnlyLarp is an association of some friends who make Live Action Role Playing Games (LARPs from now on), which are immersive games in which players act as characters in a fictional world. Sort of like an improv theater in which all spectators are also actors or like a movie that you experience in first person. They’re great guys, but they’re not professional just yet and I wanted to lend them a hand.
What I like the most about them as an organisation is that they’re led by people from the corporate world so they do take their job seriously, build things from the inside out, make proper briefings and design documents and have teams with different tasks who respect the deadlines. So although I did have time constraints because it was a pro bono work, it did feel a lot like working with a company.
(This logo is not mine, by the way; it’s theirs).
They asked me to handle the graphic design for Blue Flame, one of their LARPs. Although I didn’t make every single piece (partly because we wanted some pieces to be made by different authors), I did design the most important parts and settle the bases for the rest.
Since every piece I made is derivative of each other, I’m just going to group them all in the same case study.
00. The briefing
Blue Flame revolves around the rebel base in a dystopian future in which every citizen must by law take a pill that numbs all negative emotions so the government can make all sorts of abuses on the population while not fearing any kind of revolt. This nation is called El Gran MyR (also called Gran Naranja or The Big Orange, which is supposed to be the color of happiness) and the dissidents are called Azul, which means Blue. The dissidents of Azul hide out in camps where they can embrace their emotions and coordinate the resistance.
The Great MyR already had a flag, which had been established in a previous LARP.
All I needed to design had to be:
- Futuristic, it had to take the players away from their everyday life,
- But a bit retro-futuristic too since the setting was based on 1984 and Brave New World,
- Coherent with the Great Myr flag,
- Cheap to print and replicate,
- Clear enough to use as material for a LARP even more so than believable as actual documents of the world,
- But still believable (after all I was going to play a graphic designer who had thought out design solutions for actual problems there).
01. The Azul logo
01.00. The briefing
- Azul is the resistance so this part didn’t necessarily have to feel so futuristic/corporate,
- It ideally had to convey negative emotions such as sadness or anger,
- It was supposed to be a revolutionary icon,
- It had to be a stencil, because the characters would have to go paint it on the streets.
01.01. Research and inspiration
I got a bunch of punk and soviet images and threw them into the cocktail. I wanted it to look urban:
Next morning I woke up and started drawing a bunch of stencils and grafitti, painted them blue on an orange wall and just showed them to the client, just for us all to get a feel for the direction we wanted to head on to.
They happened to like the tear/flame with the A so much that they absolutely wanted to keep it, so much so that they decided to name the larp Blue Flame after it.
Now if this was a company I’d have to double check how this interacts with the market, but it wasn’t, it’s a fantasy setting for a 80 people game who is going to happen once or twice. So since they liked it so much, why not just move forward with it.
I took the rough sketch and turned it into a viable stencil just to have something to show. Some time afterwards I made a second, more refined version with a cleaner look before the final applications.
You can see how in the second version the outer curves are kind of messy, the flame/tear is confusing because it’s too ambiguous and the A doesn’t really take up all the space, so I fixed it and got the chance to make the negative space a bit funnier and more futuristic.
Sometimes the client gets them confused and still uses the second version, which shows the importance of having a centralized identity manual (we really didn’t bother developing one for 1-2 runs of the story but we probably should have).
02. The documents
02.00. The briefing
I needed to make:
- A character profile, which would be the first official contact of any player with his/her character,
- A Dramatis Personae, which would be a summary of all the other characters in the LARP and what each player’s character knew about each of them,
- An ID card that all players had to have hanging during the LARP to identify their characters
Of course they all had to be coherent with each other and believable as in-game documents, although we were not sure wether we were going to actually print all of them.
Both the character profile and the dramatis personae would have to be shareable and editable through Google Docs, which is how we were going to reach all the team collaborators and all the players.
Since we wanted to play with the paranoia in the players’ minds and fitting with the dystopian future setting, we decided to make the documents look corporate too, even though the players are actually part of the resistance, to make them look like there’s a file on them. The point is that the file is not just information, it’s part of the experience.
02.01. Research and inspiration
Because I wanted to make it identifiably scifi, I got inspiration mostly from well known franchises such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica or Alien.
Have you ever wondered why all documents on Battlestar Galactica have chopped corners? I don’t know either, but it’s such a sticky signature!
02.02. The character profile
It’s all pretty simple stuff but I’ll comment some highlights about the design:
- It’s all in monochrome so the printing costs would be reduced in case we decided to print them in blue (not counting the photos which could be translated to monochrome or printed apart and pasted), and it wouldn’t suffer much even in case we decided to print them in black and white.
- The outer frame is supposed to look like a file to contribute to the paranoia theme.
- Also the barcodes, slashes, underscores and at symbols contribute to both the retrofuturistic outlook and the computerized file paranoia feel.
- The different backgrounds indicate the section:
- background about the character’s life in the Great Myr,
- The character’s life in the camp so far,
- a bit about the ideology and interpretation suggestions and finally
- a section about its most important relationships.
- What I did was a Google Docs presentation (sort of like a Powerpoint file), set a .jpg image as background and then placed editable text boxes, so the end result could be shared, viewed, commented and edited on the fly.
- All the fonts are selected from Google Fonts so they’re free and they share automatically with the document.
Intermission. The Icons
Now this was all well and good if you can afford to sit down and read through several pages, but sometimes we wanted some information to communicate as quick as possible so I made some icons to include on the documents. Here they are:
The first six are for the work groups, which is the main occupation of any resident:
- The Great MyR for the newcomers,
- The Guides, which are the psychologists,
- El Dique, which is the paramilitary,
- Contention, who control the food and goods distribution and the vegetable garden,
- Structure, which handles all of the R+D, maintenance, computers and engeneering
- The Voice, which handles all the propaganda and the internal communications of the camp (such as the graphic design for instance).
The next two are for religions, which don’t really exist in the Great MyR and are being reenacted/dug up by the residents of the camp, which are:
- Hospitallers (the icon is the actual historical symbol of the order), which are sort of christians, and
- Reconcilers, which are a mishmash of asian religions with a heavy new age hippy flavor.
The remaining two marked two special statuses for the character:
- Survivor of Igualdad, which is a former camp who had been attacked and had only three survivors, and they were supposed to be famous and revered, and
- Member of The Twelve, which is the organism in play for government and decision making.
In theory all of these icons were not that important for the characters since they were all supposed to be equal (although, again, we wanted to play with paranoia as a factor) but they were extremely important for the players, because all the characters were supposed to have known each other for months (well, depending on which ones) and just taking a quick look at the icons gives anyone a quick summary of who they’re talking to. After having played the larp, I can say they absolutely were a life saver for me as a player.
02.03 Dramatis Personae
Having both the profile and the icons designed, the dramatis personae just fell into place:
It’s just a series of small files with separators to divide by workgroup.
- Each file has some icons for a quick read.
- All the characters are ordered by workgroup first (so you know who you’ll bee seing a lot) and by when they came into the camp second, so you know who was there before and who came after your character (because this tends to affect the social dynamics in companies and the like).
- Again, it’s a presentation with an image for the background, images for the icons and text boxes for everything else.
02.04 Character ID cards
The IDs were an exercise on hierarchy:
- I needed the icons to be huge so anyone could have a quick summary of anyone else without interrupting the scene to stop and read the other person’s ID,
- Note that the first icon is always, only for the special status of Founder or MyR (or blank),
- the second is always for wether or not the character is in The Twelve,
- the third is always for religion and
- the fourth is always for the workgroup.
- It’s important that each space only has one type of icon so everyone knew where to look for an icon or a blank space.
- The languages were also important so you could know who to talk to and in which language (there were a lot of international players in the LARP)
- The next biggest piece of information was the name, the age and when they entered the camp.
- The allergies and health difficulties were for the player, not the character. It was important that everyone had them written just in case because the LARP lasted for almost three days, but it wasn’t important that it was visible from a distance. In fact the only reason why it was written on the front is because that way we could leave all the backs unchanged.
- The back has some reference information which is the schedule, a safety warning and the game’s code words. The four blank spaces were for a specific, non-diegetic game at the beginning to establish some background.
As a note, the IDs are measured to fit into CD plastic envelopes so we had an affordable way to protect them.
(On the left, the man in the jacket has one hanging on his chest. On the right, I have one hanging from the belt).
Also, since I didn’t personally do the legwork of prepairing all the IDs for print because the team wanted to leave some surprises, what I did was I delivered them as prepared and with as clear indications as possible to reduce the margin of error in the layout and the work of setting them up to a minimum.
03. Additional material
I made a couple of simple posters to put around as inner propaganda work:
- On the left, the kind of poster that you’d find on the waiting room of a hospital, explaining the reasons for psychological aid.
- On the right, a generic “yay us!” poster for people to take photos in front of (as I did).
I also made a couple of very simple lettering pieces to use around on design documents and the like and a retrofuturistic/pixelated/interfaced photo of my character’s lost girlfriend back at MyR to carry around:
Apart from this, other people made different pieces, both on image and video. Not all of them are public, but here’s a trailer for the second run, made with images of the one I played:
Blue Flame was an amazing experience that I had a ton of fun with and which made me grow as a person. I’ll always bring a piece of it with me, I’ll admit I even got a bit nostalgic while writing this case study and I’m very happy I got to contribute in it. Unfortunately you’re way too late to get onboard for the second run, but I would definitely recommend that you check out NotOnlyLarp’s website and Facebook page to take a look at their next projects, in which I’m not at the moment but of which I’ve heard about and I can tell they’re going to be amazing as well.