Nerd alert! After rereading this post, I can’t believe how unapologetically nerdy I sound. I put a lot of thought into every project and the subject matter of this just happens to be dorkier than most. You have been warned.
When Diablo first came out for the Mac (alas, I was a PC-less child), I immediately became enveloped in its macabre world. I spent hours in front of the monitor exploring dungeons and running away from frightening monsters with my tail firmly between my legs. When Diablo 2 was in development, I was lucky enough to get into the Beta and unlucky enough to have a PC that was incapable of connecting to the internet. Regardless, upon the game’s release, I spent years dungeon-crawling and building more characters than I can count. So with Diablo III finally being released, I wanted to make something to celebrate it.
I started sketching without much of an idea in mind. Cutting through waves of monsters is a key part to the game, so I just start drawing various demonic skulls. l My sketchbook looked like it belonged to a high school metal head.Once I had a decent range of skull sketches to work with, I tried to nail down what exactly I’d be doing with the them. I wanted to highlight the 3 main fighting styles, of the game - magic, melee and ranged (note: in typical Alex fashion, I decided to make more work for myself and create an illustration for each of the game’s 5 hero classes). I thought it’d be kind of cool to incorporate the respective weaponry for each style of play. Putting said weaponry through a skull did the trick as it a) incorporated a monster b) showed how that monster was slain and c) put an equal emphasis on the hero’s equipment. So, I used the Barbarian’s banner as a jumping off point, and began working in the computer.
Unfortunately, the skull+weapon combo looked dull. It just didn’t have much “oomph”, ya know? So, I went back into research mode. I remembered that, in Diablo III, players can customize their own banners, which appear in game. From here, I made a series of rapid jumps in thought that led me to combine the skull+weapon direction with a banner, which would be hung from the hilt of said weapon.
I also wanted to incorporate some religious symbolism into the pieces, as the game deals heavily with the clashing of heaven and hell. I looked to the ornate halos of medieval paintings, which would work in tandem with the linear approach I wanted to take. I decided to have non representational patterns emanating from the sides of the banners, creating an allusion to the cross. This was a decision I made while working in the computer, so no sketches of it exist.
It was around this time that I also decided to incorporate some texture to a) give the piece a subtle depth and further differentiate elements from one another and b) use the juxtaposition of the texture with the pristine mono weight lines to suggest a demonic presence.
After nailing down the look and feel with the Barbarian piece, I sketched out the other banners, varying their patterns and line quality to be representative of their respective character classes. For example, the Barbarian’s brute strength is communicated through using primarily 90° angles, while his reliance on armor is conveyed through the cool gray of his banner. The emphasis on diagonal lines is symbolic of the Demon Hunter’s agility and speed. The Wizard’s ornateness and use of magic is shown via organic, curved lines. The Monk, a spiritual, fast fighter, called for a combination of 90° angles, diagonals and curves. Finally, the Witch Doctor’s use of magic is once again communicated via curved lines, although this time they are more rooted in more naturally occurring forms.
As with other recent self-initiated projects, I also recorded the entire process of making the Witch Doctor banner, which you may watch below.
If you’ve actually read all of this, you deserve some kind of nerd badge reward. That, or you’re silently judging me. I wouldn’t blame you.