My first love was the cinema, and so it's probably no surprise that I have a great deal of affection for, and draw a great deal of inspiration from, great movie posters. I'm a big fan of the Polish school, but my favorites, hands-down, are the work of the legendary Saul Bass.

Bass is a hugely influential designer-- so much so that there are lots of posters that are so "Bass-like" that you might think Bass did them. Take, for example, the poster that Jouineau Bourduge did for Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

Really, almost everything I try to do in my own box cover designs is informed by Bass's work: the limited color palette, the emphasis on typography, the stark imagery with an emphasis on energy and geometric simplicity. I generally fall well short of the mark-- after all, Saul Bass was a special kind of genius, and a visionary, and I'm neither of those things, and further I can't be, since I'm consciously aping his far superior work. But generally I can live with my pale, pale, pale imitations of the master.

When it came time to do the cover for my Agricola, Master of Britain, the influence of Mr. Bass was even more overt than usual, in that I was drawing from one poster in particular: Spartacus.

My first version of the Agricola cover even used a variation of Bass's color scheme, but I dropped that after about two minutes, because it was a little too on the nose, and too similar to what I had done for The Scheldt Campaign. I switched it up to a muted gray background, while keeping black for my predominant visual element:

I wanted the game's title to mimic the very angular title that Bass used for Spartacus, without getting into the frayed edges. Since there was no font or typeface that would give me the desired effect, I needed to "construct" my letters one stroke at a time. I don't have one of those newfangled styluses, so each "stroke" was created by drawing an appropriately thick line in Photoshop  with my mouse. I kept the Agricola in black, while using imperial purple for the Master of Britain. This also gave me my third color, and the one I would use for the Hollandspiele logo.

There was still something missing, though. My first instinct was to plop a stylized map of Britain in the middle there, but that looked terrible. So did a bust of the man himself. Since I was simultaneously working on a stylized aquila for use on the counters, which in some ways mimicked the figure in Bass's Spartacus, I decided to use a larger, purpler version of that. My first instinct was to go deliberately off-kilter, having the eagle coming in from the lower-right, throwing off the balance to help upset the oppressive geometry of the pillars.

That's the way it stood for a few weeks, but it didn't feel quite right. Something about it just nagged at me. I decided to go with an even bigger eagle, centered between the two pillars. I used one of Photoshop's handy-dandy filters to give it a more naive feel, and to provide a stronger contrast between it and the "cut-out" pillars.

There were of course a few finishing touches to add, such as the credits, which I had always intended to place on the stair steps in white text. I also decided to explicitly identify it as a solitaire game, as that's one of the game's prime selling points. By the time I was done with that, I decided to put one of the eagle's wings forward. And that brings us to the final cover:




  • I’m looking forward to this game and I love the cover design. It’s funny you mention the Barry Lyndon poster in connection with Bass. In my office, I have Bass’ One Two Three poster right next to that Barry Lyndon and I would have sworn it was by Bass too until one day I finally looked closer at it . . . Oh, well—it’s still great.

    Paul Miles

  • Things keep posting twice… why, oh why?

    Brian Train

  • Hum!
    Looking forward to this one.
    Thought you might make it an even more direct allusion and call the game “Agricola: The Man With the Golden Farm” with a poster to match… (snicker)

    Brian Train

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