Chris Quilliams is the resident illustrator at Plan B Games. Many fans will recognize his iconic illustrations for many popular titles, such as the Pandemic series, Flick 'em Up! series, and many others. We sat down to discuss his role in illustrating Azul.
Mike – Hi Chris, the last time we chatted you discussed Flick 'em Up! Dead of Winter, now we're talking about something that's very different thematically and artistically – Azul! How was working on this different than previous projects?
Chris – It was very different! Originally the cover and art was going to be more illustrative, something I'm very comfortable with. However, that initial direction was changed. The focus became illustrating the embellished tiles. Being an illustrator, this was a huge challenge for me, both in terms of design and getting out of my own comfort zone.
Mike – I bet, I'm used to associating you with very detailed covers like the Flick 'em Up series and the Pandemic series. While beautiful, Azul feels different than your previous illustrations. How'd you start the process for this project?
Chris – Like with any new project, I always research the game subject first. Early in the illustration process, Sophie (President) shared with me the history of Azulejos tiles. It was after that conversation that I became fascinated with the evolution of the tiles. If you didn't know, the tile patterns began very simple and over time the patterns became more ornate and beautiful. We really wanted to portray that on the cover – to show the simplicity of the original tiles and contrast them with the newer, more detailed tiles.
Mike – Is this the same reasoning behind the selection of what tiles have embellishments and others don't?
Chris – Yes, exactly! Part of it is the aesthetic of design – when you have patterns that are very detailed, you want to break them up. When I first started the composition for the cover, I had a crazy amount of detail in each tile and it just didn't work. There was nowhere for your eye to go. I knew I had to break the pattern up. Understanding that, I used the simplicity of plain tiles next to the more detailed tiles. This actually improved the image significantly. Now your eyes don't get strained while you look at it.
Mike – Based on your research, are the tiles in Azul exact replicas or did you use similar patterns?
Chris - I drew the tiles based on the research, but they aren't exactly the same. In fact, I drew about 20 to 30 of these. Phil (Art Director) and I would look them over and picked the best ones – including the colors. Many were busier – they were too detailed, a little garish. "Less detail," he'd tell me over and over. The tiles really needed to be simple while still attractive.
Mike – What about the choice of color palette? The logo is bright, however the tiles in the background are slightly washed.
Chris – We wanted an aged look, so we started with brown and sephia tones. However, after we looked at it, we decided it would be best to work with more colors. I also wanted to contrast the logo with the tiles in the background so I used brighter colors to help define the cover and center the eye. Same with the game board, I was trying to balance the cools and warms.
Mike – I have to admit, the final product is absolutely stunning. Any concluding thoughts?
Chris – I've never illustrated a game like this. Also, I've never seen a game like this in terms of design illustration, but I think it worked out really well. It's very unique in its look and I hope it will attract a lot of attention.
You can pre-order Azul now from the Plan B Games webstore - if you order before October 1st, you'll recieve the Joker Tiles promo for free!
Click here to pre-order Azul