Hey there! My name’s Heather and I’m a Senior UI Artist at King Stockholm where I’ve been working on Crash Bandicoot: On the Run for the past year and a half. I’m originally from the UK and I previously worked in London as a UI/UX Artist for several years. When I’m not doing UI I’m either hanging out with my cat, listening to heavy metal or playing video games.
How did you end up working at King?
My first job was at a Social Casino start up called Plumbee as a Junior Game Artist. I honestly didn’t know what UI or UX was when I joined but we needed a lot of it so I got stuck into it. It turned out to be the perfect balance between Illustration and Graphic Design for me so I learned all I could while I was there and quickly transitioned into a full time UI Artist. After being there for 3 years I started to look for a studio where I’d get to make games I’d play myself. I always loved the UI Art style King was doing and I was even unsuccessful with my first application. But I persevered and tried again and was luckier on my second attempt.
How did you start in the industry?
Like most people in the industry, I’ve always been a keen gamer. Ironically pretty much the first video game I ever saw was Crash Bandicoot 1. I grew up playing Crash Bandicoot,Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Tekken and Pokemon. My teenage years were mostly spent playing Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards until World of Warcraft came along and completely took over my life for a few years up to my University days. During my studies I discovered Adobe Illustrator and Vector art and began agonising over whether I wanted to focus on being an Illustrator or a Graphic Designer. I graduated with a BA in Illustration with a desire to work in the games industry, so I did a few stints in Children’s Illustration and various internships for game studios. I eventually landed an internship that led to a full time position which was the Social Casino Startup I mentioned before.
What are your responsibilities at King?
Currently I’m the go to person for UI on Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! where I work very closely with a Senior UX Designer (Egill Arnarsson), a contractor Senior UI Artist (Robert Malicki) and a freelance Senior 2D Artist (Emily Abeydeera). The past year and a half has been a balance between designing features, defining the UI Art and using Unity properly for the first time in a project. It really takes a mix of talent to get the UI where you want it to be. We certainly owe a lot to the 3D Artists, Animators, Game Designers, Technical Artists, Visual Development Artists and VFX Artists. I feel so privileged to be part of such a multi talented team.
What are a lot of misconceptions about UX and UI?
They often get muddled together, although I think that has improved over the past few years. UX tends to get boiled down to drawing boxes, and the amount of responsibilities a UX Designer can have is huge, from Information Architecture to working with User Research, to visualising Game Design documentation and taking care of UX copy. As for UI, it’s often simplified to making cool icons and pretty buttons, when good layout design, visual design, animation and implementation skills are just as essential, especially in the mobile game industry when you are expected to own quite a few areas of the UI Design pipeline.
What type of disciplines or skill set are good to become a UI Artist?
Definitely a good eye for Graphic Design, layout and readability. A care for consistency and usability goes a long way too, this shows you really understand what you do and why. Some softer skills are being open to feedback, UI Designs can fail to communicate what they intended and this can often only surface in user testing, so you have to learn not to take things to heart and welcome these kinds of findings. Prioritisation is also key, working on a demanding project can leave you with less time for everything you need to deliver, but by keeping focus and trusting that you can make those smaller improvements when the time is right is crucial to your team.
What would be some good advice to follow to become a UI Artist?
Follow the latest trends, research people who have the jobs you want and follow them on Twitter/LinkedIn/Behance. If you have a company you really want to work for, make sure your portfolio reflects that and try to at least have some personal projects that would fit in that studio’s world. When you’re new to the industry, showing the right attitude and passion actually goes a long way, a less “skilled” candidate who genuinely wants to work for you will be a much bigger addition to the studio in the long run than someone with a higher skill-set but doesn’t seem too interested.
Any of your proudest achievements that you’d like to share?
Well, this week we are launching Crash Bandicoot: On the Run so definitely that! It’s been an absolute privilege to work with such a talented team in all disciplines, I’ve learned so much and it’s just been a blast working on a childhood favourite game with a team of people who share the same vision as you. I’m really looking forward to finally seeing the game out there and the hard work paying off. The game has been a first in many ways for me such as leading the UI Art style from the start, working on a runner/resource management, working on an IP from a console, shipping a game in Unity and working remotely.
What is the favorite part of your job and what is the hardest part of your job?
I definitely love the beginning of the UI pipeline when you’re trying to nail down that visual identity that will resonate with the Art Direction and the Gameplay, it’s like a fun balancing act. It’s even more fun when you keep iterating it and slowly seeing what you had in your head all along slowly come to life. The hardest part is always keeping up with those UI rules you have made for yourself and making sure you and the team stay true to it and allow for expansion and iteration at the same time. Nothing is ever truly “done” I guess!
How is it working with one of the most beloved IP like Crash Bandicoot?
It’s great to have a universe you can already use for inspiration, and a very dedicated fanbase that will notice even the smallest Easter Egg the team puts into the game, which makes it feel hugely rewarding. Crash is very unapologetically 90s, so it’s been enjoyable to play on that aspect and be inspired by90s cartoons, stickers, books and toys. Our Creative Director has included some of the less known characters from the franchise which the fans seem to love. The best part is seeing the fans’ reactions online if something like a playtest has happened. One of the funniest moments for me was that I used a silhouette of Crash as a reference for a temporary icon from an older game in a playtest and some fans definitely noticed the version that had been referenced. We now use a more up to date Crash silhouette from our own game.
Where do you get your motivation and inspiration?
In the video games I play, I will often take screenshots and videos of UI when I am playing a game on my Playstation 4 (still need to get my hands on a 5!). I constantly try out new mobile games to observe and learn from them, and to make sure I’m up to date with the latest trends. I actually find board games can be a great source of inspiration, a lot of work goes into making them work with as little text as possible, one of my favourites is called Scythe, I’m not particularly good at it but it’s just so beautiful and well designed.
What do you do when you get creatively blocked or you are having an uninspired day?
I try to refocus myself, write down my tasks I need to tackle and see how I can break them down. If my block is more on the creative side, I will take a step back and try to refresh myself. I’ll play the latest build, look at our existing art and play a few mobile games and take some notes. Sometimes I just need to go for a walk and a fika. Having a cat who needs a lot of playtime can sometimes be a nice distraction. I also decided to try to learn to play the guitar, not really so I can be great at guitar, but just to have a different type of mental/physical problem solving to do other than my work that I can do for just a few minutes. Usually one or two of these things can help me get back on track.
Do you have any advice you wish you’d received before getting started in this industry?
I feel the industry has changed and developed even since when I joined it 8 years ago! But really try to speak to people already in the industry if you can and see what career path could work for you. I feel quite lucky that I fell into UI Art by accident in my first job, but it probably would have helped to know a little more about it beforehand!
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