Art of Asmodee: Space Cowboys’ François Doucet on delving into comics, video games and children’s books to find new artists for its board games

François Doucet, Space Cowboys
Our Art of Asmodee series looks at how the various studios within Asmodee tackle art direction for their games.

This week, we’re catching up with Space Cowboys, the studio behind a raft of popular tabletop titles including Splendor, Time Stories and the Unlock! series of escape room games.

We caught up with Space Cowboys’ François Doucet to find out more about why the studio enjoys working with new artists, and what went into the art direction for its popular series of Unlock! games.

François Doucet, Space Cowboys
How did you get started in the tabletop space?

We launched Splendor in 2014, but the majority of people in the studio had a lot of previous experience in board games; they were actually the founders of Asmodee.

How important would you say the art is to the success of a game?
It’s key, but not only for obvious marketing and aesthetic reasons. The theme of a game is mostly expressed through the art and design, and even mechanisms can be “promoted” or explained with a piece of art.

It’s a vital part of the development and commercial success. Even when we play-test a game, the initial art we choose matters, even if we change everything later on.

What guides your approach to working with artists? Do you often have someone in mind for projects, or is it a case that artists can pitch for the work?
We usually have our project managers searching everywhere; previous contacts, new artists, propositions on our Facebook page or website. We like to work with both new artists and experienced ones; we call back guys we worked with a long time ago and have artists work on their very first game with us. All of this has happened already!

Sometimes, we even create art teams with a few artists working separately on the same game. We did this with Elysium, Hit Z Road and Time Stories.

François Doucet, Space Cowboys
Brilliant – it’s great that you work with new artists, but where do you look to find them?

Our project managers are very attentive and keep their eyes open in many fields; comic books, video games, children’s books. We have no preconceived ideas about the kind of artists we want to work with.

Is there any attempt to create a ‘Space Cowboys’ style that spans all your games? Or it the art direction done on a purely a game-by-game basis?
Totally game-by-game. It’s very, very important to us. We don’t care about the brand; only the game matters!

François Doucet, Space Cowboys
Looking at the Unlock! series, how key is the artwork to the success of each scenario? And as each scenario has its own look, have these games been a great means of helping you unearth brilliant new artistic talent that you can work with on other games?

Each Unlock! scenario is different; we treat it as a new game and so, we want each scenario to have its own art direction.

We actually worked with many artists before, and some of these “old hands” have been part of the Unlock! adventure. But we also discovered many new artists for sure, and we now have a great pool of experienced Unlock! artists, and of course, we still try to find new people!

François Doucet, Space Cowboys
For any artists or illustrators reading this and thinking ‘I’d love to work with these guys!’, what would you say is key to creating artwork for your studio?
Be prepared for a lot of changes, a lot of attention to details, and weird stories!

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