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Color and Texture
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

T ime for the next Essence of D&D question . . . or questions.

In the past, I asked what color the D&D logo should be, but I think I missed the boat on that article. Rather than focusing on the logo color, I should have been chatting with you about the colors and textures that speak to you.

I recently started writing up a challenge that we’ll be taking here in the office, and I decided that you all might want to play along as well. It’s pretty simple, and it goes right back to my reoccurring discussion on the essence of D&D.

D&D Essence Challenge

Create a 3-inch by 3-inch swatch of either a color or texture that captures the essence of Dungeons & Dragons for you.

In the office, I’m going to add to that list the ability to show letterforms as well. Since I know a lot of folks don’t have the ability to play in that game, I’ll make that an optional component of the challenge.

So, what am I talking about here? I’m not talking about picking a color or texture that you think belongs in D&D, but rather what captures the essence of the brand. For instance, I might say that adventure is a key concept that I think is essential to D&D. When I think of the term “adventure,” what colors and textures come to mind? Heroic and imagination are two more key concepts that leap to mind when I think about D&D. With just those three words, I can play for hours pulling together colors and textures . . . and letterforms for those adventurous souls taking on the optional challenge.

Now, why didn’t I just ask for a list of colors and textures? Simple: The world of visuals doesn’t really play well with the world of words. Let’s take the term “flower” for instance. A simple word, right? Everyone knows what a flower is, but if I ask you to describe a flower . . .

And what if I start talking about color? You tell me you think blue is a great color, and I go off and paint your house blue. Exactly which blue did you mean, by the way?

The examples above help illuminate why I want pictures. That way there is no chance of miscommunication or misunderstanding. I’m not filtering your input through my personal visual filter. You’re not going to end up with a baby blue house rather than navy blue, and we’ll remain on speaking terms.

How about a few real-world examples?

Here’s an obvious one. Chain mail is one of those low-hanging fruits for textures for me. It talks to all three words I associate with D&D: heroic, adventure, and imagination. It brings to mind the sights and smells of battle (in a time gone by). I can hear the clink as someone walks down a long dark hallway. I can see in my mind the blackened heap of mail on the floor and I wonder what ill befell the wearer.

This one isn’t as obvious. A highly polished metal texture takes the idea of metal up a notch and really hits at the heroic aspect for me. There’s dirty and dingy metal, and then there’s well-maintained and polished metal. This texture makes me think of knights and kings. I ponder the time and energy it would take a knight’s squire to keep the metal so clean and polished. I wonder what secrets might have been shared while the armored knight was attending the king, and what honors were bestowed on the wearer of the armor.

How about a color or two . . .

Red is another low-hanging fruit. Red has been part of D&D almost since the beginning. I want to shift the direction a bit, though, and go for something a little darker—like old, drying blood, so dark red. That says adventure to me. A dark red also taps into a more sinister feel—one I equate with evil and mad wizards or kings. Red is a luxurious color and really talks to the idea of nobility. Red is also a sign of warning—though the dark red is less so.

Gold is just the perfect D&D color to me. It talks to me of adventure and imagination in a big way. I can see treasures, rich cities, merchants, and lovely golden light on the horizon as the day comes to a close.

And now for the optional category: letterforms.

I was playing with an “A” in a number of typefaces, and these guys jumped out at me. Can you guess why they talk to the essence of D&D for me?

So, do you get the idea? Go ahead and give it a try. Maybe your samples will remind you of specific sights or smells in the world. Maybe your samples will tell tales about adventures and high jinks you’ve been part of. Maybe your samples will speak to the friendships that you have built around your gaming tables. Whatever you choose, and for whatever reasons, the samples you provide will help inform and educate me as we start working up the look and feel of D&D Next. So don’t hold back.

Oh, and Emi thinks that D&D should look like this:

What do you say to that?

(Just kidding . . . kind of.)

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at
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