Process: Haunted House: Mind Map and Composition Layout Planning

Imagine that Atari was bringing back the classic 2600 console, with a retro format (cartridges) but enhanced graphics and gameplay. That’s the premise for a project I assigned to my Concept Art and Design class this quarter. Each student was randomly assigned one of 18 classic Atari 2600 games. I opted to participate in this activity with my students, selecting Haunted House from the draw.

First off, here is the original box art. As was the practice that time, the cover art was a very broad design meant to evoke what the game *should* have been like. Given the limited graphics of the Atari 2600, the cover art usually oversold the game. In many cases, the cover art was very general and didn’t really add any additional information about game play. Like Haunted House.


I began this project by doing as much research into the game as possible. My first stop was tracking down and reading the Haunted House users manual that accompanied the game. From the manual, I gleaned several details that gave me some additional insight into the premise of the game.

After reading the manual, I jotted down several keywords that describe the game. These key words would be the basis for my mind map.

Whenever I tackle a new creative project, I create a mind map. A mind map is a useful tool to organize your thoughts and brainstorm effectively. I used the web-based Mind MUp mind mapping application to create the mind map below.


Using words from my mind map, I developed my first take, focusing on three elements: composition, shape and focal point. To focus on layout without the distraction of line and multiple colors, I gave myself an added constraint: the colors I could use would be restricted to black, white, and one additional color. (Shades of that color were included in that constraint.)


With each concept, I also tested contrast by converting the image to grayscale.


Below is the second concept. Personally, I like to have at least three concepts in place before moving towards a more finalized illustration. Time is the limiting factor, so two will have to suffice for now. In any event, I feel that it’s important to keep oneself open to additional design possibilities, instead of limiting efforts on only one design.


Here is the grayscale image test for the second composition.


In the image below, arrows are shown to indicate how the eyes would move through the composition:


I’m leaning more towards developing the second composition because it captures the spirit of the game more closely. Thoughts?